* Posts by GlenP

311 posts • joined 25 Apr 2012


How many Reg columnists does it take to turn off a lightbulb?

GlenP Silver badge


When I first bought it with company money it wasn't cheap (still isn't!) but you could save about 50% of the cost by purchasing an old version of another graphics program (I'll remember the name later) and a CorelDraw upgrade, all perfectly legal.

Worst thing they did during the acquisitions phase was take of Ventura DTP from Xerox. It was far superior to PageMaker for producing lengthy manuals but of course they tried to make Ventura more PageMaker like and removed all its USPs.

All good, leave it with you...? Chap is roped into tech support role for clueless customer

GlenP Silver badge

Re: "While you're here, could you just..."

Yes...of course...it has a plug so it MUST be IT's responsibility

Having worked for smallish companies for many years I can attest to that.

I also get to make signs (need one for a meeting room doing today as it happens), sort out CCTV and phone systems, etc.

Packet switching pickle prompts potential pecuniary problems

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Back in my NetWare days

Same herewith ISDN. My then employer decided to hook the small Dutch office onto our system via ISDN lines. I did warn them! After the first period bill arrived they decided they'd bundle everything up and complete it all at once rather than keep checking the system every few minutes.

Buffer overflow flaw in British Airways in-flight entertainment systems will affect other airlines, but why try it in the air?

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Entertainment system pen testing

United transatlantic flight I've been on has had a defective in flight entertainment system

When UA had just got their first planes with individual screens on the seat backs I ended up with one that didn't work. At that time this was considered "unusual" so I was offered a freeby from the Duty Free. The bottle of JW Black Label was much appreciated, more so than the c**p programme offerings would have been.

Sure, we've got a problem but we don't really want to spend any money on the tech guy you're sending to fix it

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Here's my contribution...

Because I'm an international passenger there are laws that will bite the airline hard for leaving me stranded

I was sitting at Chicago airport waiting for my flight when they actually forced an Air France plane to circle and land again immediately after take off as 6 passengers from a connecting flight hadn't boarded. I'm guessing the threatened penalties were higher than the cost of refuelling, etc.

GlenP Silver badge

I once did a day trip to Paris for an employer, essentially just to deliver a laptop. By the time I'd got there, finally managed to find the person collecting me* and got to the office I handed over the laptop**, helped them with a couple of things and they announced it was time for lunch.

We had the "quick" lunch option (so under 2 hours), went back to the office and I got a taxi to the airport. Sadly I was just too late to get an earlier flight than planned, my flight was cancelled - effectively amalgamated with the last flight of the day, so I was very late getting back. A whole day spent just to deliver one computer that could have been sent by courier for a fraction of the price.

*We both thought we knew each other, we didn't!

**The laptop was, I believe, never used as it had a QWERTY keyboard and the person it was intended for had only ever had AZERTY.

No guns or lockpicks needed to nick modern cars if they're fitted with hackable 'smart' alarms

GlenP Silver badge

They seemed to vary with age & model. I'm not even certain the ones on my S3 were original.

GlenP Silver badge

Some of those Landrovers didn't need anything fancy to break in, just a good bang on the passenger door so the catch on the window fell over, slide* open the window, reach in and unlock.

*I still think it was a retrograde step when they fitted winding handles to car windows.

From hard drive to over-heard drive: Boffins convert spinning rust into eavesdropping mic

GlenP Silver badge

Can Anyone Remember...

using a hard disk's read/write head as a crude sounds generator

Does anyone remember the old ACT floppy disk drives that used primitive* RLL (Run Length Limited) technology to maximise storage?

Basically the drives spun faster when the heads were at the outside edges and slower at the inside altering the sound. They were commonly known as "musical disk drives" but I'm not sure if anyone ever exploited this.

*HD implementations would vary the transfer rates at the drive heads to achieve the same effect. A 20MB** drive would store around 32MB, so worthwhile.

**For the younger readers MB is not a mistyping!

Ah, this military GPS system looks shoddy but expensive. Shall we try to break it?

GlenP Silver badge

Re: wasting taxpayers' cash

Even simpler scenario: having to hand back computers to employers when I leave them. One likes to hope they found a new use

All our user laptops are returned to IT when the person leaves. If they can be issued to someone else (e.g. the next person in the role) they are. If they're working but not reissued they'll get reused for odds and ends such as running monitoring tasks.

In the rare event that a director, despite my asking them not to, does agree to a user retaining their laptop as part of exit negotiations it still has to come to IT to be wiped back to the operating system.

Customer: We fancy changing a 25-year-old installation. C'mon, it's just one extra valve... Only wafer thin...

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Valves!?

That's why we park in the driveway and drive on the parkway

All the parkways I know are railway stations

Two nations, separated by a common language!

Why are there never free power sockets when my Y-fronts need charging?

GlenP Silver badge

Power Supplies and Meetings

I had to visit a sister company in Aus, less than 12 hours after landing at Brisbane airport I went into a management meeting to be greeted with, "I've forgotten my laptop PSU!" Good job I packed the universal one* and a socket adapter then wasn't it?

Our main meeting room has tables down the centre separated by a small gap. In the gap is secured a couple of lengths of cable basket with an 8-way power block, the HDMI and VGA cables from the projector, etc.

*Mainly because it would plug into just about any input including 12v airline sockets as mains ones weren't universal then even in Business Class.

GlenP Silver badge

Re: stuff needs electricity simply to exist

You don't think charging these things actually costs them extra money to make the electricity to charge them I hope? They have some big electric generators on the wings (or tail) that need to be used to move you places anyway.

Not strictly true, you can't magically create power so a fraction more fuel will be used, admittedly it's a miniscule amount compared to flying the plane.

This becomes more significant however with non-flying vehicles (boats and motorhomes) charging larger batteries.

OK, team, we've got the big demo tomorrow and we're feeling confident. Let's reboot the servers

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Big demo. Should we test?

Got a video file in your keynote presentation? It worked fine on computer A - we'll never need to test that the codecs are in computer B...

Which is why I've always insisted presentations are made from a single computer and provided at least 24 hours in advance. Of course the more senior the person the less chance of this actually happening.

Oracle sued for $4.5m after ERP system delivery date 'moved from 2015 to 2016, then 2017, then... er, never'

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Hmmmm

Or (and this genuinely happened with a sister company of a former employer)

Act 1: ERP vendor* works with customer to understand the business and provide quote for bespoke ERP solution customized to fit their processes.

Act 2: Customer accepts solution and beats vendor down to a minimum possible price.

Act 3: Costs spiral.

Act 4: Customer outsources continuing implementation to India.

Act 5: Several million pounds later system is just about adequate.

Act 6: Don't know, I'd long left the employer.

Agree that it's probably not as simple as the story presents.

*SAP for the record

What did turbonerds do before the internet? 41 years ago, a load of BBS

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Not dead yet

I agree re. Forums vs. Email, a virtual* boat club I'm a member of decided that forums and Facebook were the way to go instead of the email list that's been running fine for years.

A year or so on and the email list is alive and kicking, the forum is dead and the Facebook group might as well be.

*Virtual since we have no premises and meetings are mainly online.

Techie in need of a doorstop picks up 'chunk of metal' – only to find out it's rather pricey

GlenP Silver badge

Working for an engineering company I wanted a couple of long mooring spikes for my boat. The machinist agreed to make them for me, and commented, "I've got some spare bar the right diameter that's not on inventory for one of them." Having duly paid for 316 Stainless bar for the other spike I discovered the free one was made out of Hastelloy, a very resistant alloy with a cost comparable to mid-grade titanium.

Good job the bosses never found out!

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Have you ever heard a story about something you did told second-hand?

Both pubs are still going strong in Stony Stratford.

Return of the audio format wars and other money-making scams

GlenP Silver badge

We've had plenty of those, down to one that had actually registered a very similar domain name. I'm fairly certain the data is being scraped from LinkedIn for at least some of them, if you can find "MD of XYZ Ltd." and "Accountant at XYZ Ltd." it's not that difficult to craft a suitable message.

We have taken internal security steps however.

Crash, bang, wallop: What a power-down. But what hit the kill switch?

GlenP Silver badge

Not Unique...

Big red kill button, box of paper on floor, operator bends down* to pick up paper and nuts kill switch.

*If he'd had manual handling training of course this wouldn't have happened!

I have also had a Unix server where the power button and CD Drive eject were very close together, that one got a card flap over the power button.

Granddaddy of the DIY repair generation John Haynes has loosened his last nut

GlenP Silver badge

I had a '72 LWB, very early Series III.

Trying to match the parts actually fitted with the manual could be interesting though as Landies weren't so much updated as evolved over time.

GlenP Silver badge

I had the manuals for all my earlier vehicles, and did a lot of the work on them. I gave up once I got a car that was all electronics and decided it was safer to leave things to the professionals with the diagnostic kit.

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Not always helpful

This is true - engine removal was usually recommended!

Reliable system was so reliable, no one noticed its licence had expired... until it was too late

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Soon never seems soon enough

I've been out of the AS/400 environment for 10 years or so but it used to amaze me the value of redundant kit on the S/H market for keeping systems going.

GlenP Silver badge

Remember Y2K?

All that 20 or 30 year old code that had been written on the assumption it would be long gone before two digit years became a problem (including the main ERP software I was running at the time).

Original WWII German message decrypts to go on display at National Museum of Computing

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Valentines Day is coming

Relations are better than they were.

iPhone price cuts are coming, teases Apple CEO. *Bring-bring* Hello, Apple UK? It's El Reg. You free to chat?

GlenP Silver badge

I can confirm...

That I am in Northampton (UK East Midlands) and there's no snow.

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

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Mouse ball sucked up by vaccum cleaner?!

And some, I think IBM, mice had steel balls without the rubber. Mouse mats were mandatory with those.

GlenP Silver badge

Not sure...

...about the first one.

I can recall dismantling a keyboard and scrubbing, literally, the PCB under the tap after a user spilt a sticky orange drink (probably Fanta) on it. Given that a decent keyboard could be over £100 in those days it was worth doing.

The keyboard did recover and continue working, and it probably avoided an embarrassing conversation for the user with his boss.

Sadly the users today are no better, I've had to write off a laptop recently due to Coke (the Cola variety) damage,

Ooh, my machine is SO much faster than yours... Oh, wait, that might be a bit of a problem...

GlenP Silver badge

So a lot of models had a "turbo button"

The "turbo" button was, of course, exactly the opposite, it was a brake! Could never convince users of that though.

Are you sure your disc drive has stopped rotating, or are you just ignoring the messages?

GlenP Silver badge

Re: del *.* confirmation

Working with both Apricot (remember them?) and IBM compatibles was confusing as the former didn't reserve A: and B: as FD drives, so typically the main HD was A:.

I shall admit to occasionally starting to format the HD on customer's machines! Fortunately I'd always notice quite quickly and kept a copy of Norton DiskDoctor handy for Undelete.

GlenP Silver badge

Re: I can believe it!

Just to add, 30 years later the users still don't read the messages on the screen!

GlenP Silver badge

I can believe it!

With one system we stopped using Y to continue as the users would never actually read the messages, sometimes resulting in data loss.

We started using a random character generator instead, with second character confirmations for more "dangerous" tasks, so, for example:

"Do you wish to erase all data? Press L to continue"

"Do you really wish to erase all data? Press T to confirm"

It worked.


Begone, Demon Internet: Vodafone to shutter old-school pioneer ISP

GlenP Silver badge

Also My First...

As with many above they were also my first ISP proper, having previously been on Prestel*. As I was living at Parents' at the time I did most of my browsing late at night to avoid tying up the phone line (and hoped the "ding" from the phone when connecting or disconnecting would go unnoticed).

I moved over to Zetnet for a while as they were cheaper then Freeserve came out and made more financial sense for the relatively limited use as I wasn't at home very often.

*To email a friend in the pre-Internet days I would dial in to work, initiate a PSS connection to JANET (Joint Academic Network) then onto the Northumbrian Universities network to access a MicroVAX in their department. Login to that and send an email!

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

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Pesky microwaves

A friend had a microwave internet link that would fail twice a day, consistently but slightly later each day. The link passed across the bay she lived near and would fail at high tide.

GlenP Silver badge


You're assuming there was an external network connection, and it still wouldn't have cured the problem.

You were told to clean up our systems, not delete 8,000 crucial files

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Like leaving documents on top of the bin

Back in my first, Civil Service, job any document in or on the bin that hadn't been torn through would be returned to your desk. Sensible policy (although it didn't seem to be followed by more senior people from some news reports!)

Error pop-up? Don't worry, let's just get this migration done... BTW it's my day off tomorrow

GlenP Silver badge

Forget professors and lecturers - if you get on the good side of secretaries, security, storesmen and technicians (including syshacks) you can get absolutely anything done and in an amazingly short time.

Being on the right side of a technician obtained us the superuser account for a Unix box to which (for no apparent reason) we only had access during limited hours. The box was standalone in a small lab and only we were using it so it was incredibly frustrating to be kicked out of our opsys project* work for a few hours in the middle of the day. From superuser a quick su would get us into our group accounts and we could carry on working.

*I wonder how many undergrads these days are expected to write a multi-tasking operating system?

50 years ago: NASA blasts off the first humans to experience a lunar close encounter

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Remeber those heady days of the Apollo missions well

I can't remember the Apollo 8 mission (I was 4 at the time) but I remember the lunar landing, we were actually allowed to watch TV (B&W of course) before school.

Ding dong merrily on high. In Berkeley, the bots are singeing: Self-driving college cooler droid goes up in flames

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Theft

Bloody Yanks going about stealing other people’s IP. Mind you a certain brand of British shoe polish started it

Don't blame the Brits, it was the Aussies that started Kiwi polish.

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

GlenP Silver badge

Unless the pricing comes in significantly cheaper than I would pay for a decent beer in bottles I really can't see the point.

I have made my own beer (results variable) and cider* (from both concentrate and apples), it's time consuming and really not worth it most of the time.

*One cider brew wasn't so much uncontrolled strength as close to a controlled explosion! 8.5% alcohol and so dry you had to have another pint to cure the dry mouth, well that was my excuse.

Support whizz 'fixes' screeching laptop with a single click... by closing 'malware-y' browser tab

GlenP Silver badge


Yep, used to often diagnose those over the phone.

User: My computer* is beeping all the time.

Me: Remove the file that's resting on the keyboard.

User: How did you know that?

Me: Years of experience!

*Or terminal, I do go back that far!

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Foodie Friday

I acquired a decent laptop in a similar way. The user had managed to load it with so much malware he just gave up and bought a new one.

Admittedly it wasn't the easiest wipe and reinstall I've ever done (it took a while to get the thing to boot of CD) but a free £1,000+ worth of laptop and extras for a few hours work seemed a reasonable return.

Microsoft sysadmin hired for fake NetWare skills keeps job despite twitchy trigger finger

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Memories ...

Paper documentation is good, and I often still prefer it. But Dec used to take it just a tad too far in my opinion.

In my first job one of my responsibilities was to update the DEC manuals every month*. One bookcase of VAX (which were referred to occasionally) and another with PDP manuals for a system that was never turned on.

*They were ring binders and packs of updates were sent out. I quickly developed the technique of always tearing the old versions out so they couldn't get mixed up with the revised ones. I then had to tear every one of the old ones through before I could bin it as otherwise the cleaners would return it to the desk (Civil Service rules).

Where to implant my employee microchip? I have the ideal location

GlenP Silver badge

he found he could silently slip in and out unnoticed by pushing his unsophisticated old ID card through a gap between the Yale lock and the door frame

I worked in an office where it was generally quicker to open the front door with a credit card rather than the key. The Yale lock was only used at lunchtimes when the front office wasn't always manned (overnight there was a deadbolt) but still not very secure.

Bright spark dev irons out light interference

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.

Junior dev decides to clear space for brewing boss, doesn't know what 'LDF' is, sooo...

GlenP Silver badge


I'm just about to log on to our SQL server as the data drive is a bit full. Those LDF files do take up a lot of space...

My hoard of obsolete hardware might be useful… one day

GlenP Silver badge

Re: True story...

I can believe it.

A lot of years back I managed to sell a stack of obsolete AS/400 kit that we no longer needed to our maintenance provider for a reasonable sum. It was all unobtainable new and they had customers still using it.

GlenP Silver badge

Re: Power adaptors are always useful

I keep any 12v and 5v adapters anyway (and need a 16vAC one so will have to hunt through the boxes) as they come in useful for the model railways, LED lighting, powering RPis, etc.

UK.gov to roll out voter ID trials in 2019 local elections

GlenP Silver badge


Not everyone has a form of acceptable photo ID, I have family who don't drive and have never travelled abroad.


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