* Posts by Andy Taylor

297 posts • joined 9 Jul 2007


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

Andy Taylor

I had a similar doorstop in the early 90s, not gold but one of the first CD-ROM burners to be released. It was the size of a modern standard desktop PC and wrote at single speed. It became obsolete almost instantly but my boss wouldn't let me throw it out because "it cost 3 grand". So it was relegated to holding the workshop door open.

Andy Taylor

Re: Watch out for geological samples

My dad, who worked at AWE Aldermaston, used to tell the story of the chap who took his dosimeter home to Aberdeen one weekend by mistake.

From Red Planet to deep into the red: Suicidal extrovert magnet Mars One finally implodes

Andy Taylor

What does the B stand for?

I like to think that the B stands for Brexit.

Stage fright or Stage light? Depends how far you dare to open your MacBook Pro's lid

Andy Taylor

"One iMac we needed a hard drive upgrade in. Apple wouldn't do it - they had no option or facility to do so. The only third-party who could do it told us why - he has to smash the screen to pieces, remove all traces of the glass, replace the drive while the computer is open, then re-fit a new screen with special glue and pressure-equipment."

Which model was that? I'm trained to repair Macs and I don't recall any model that required the screen to be damaged to replace the hard drive. The current iMacs require cutting of the special tape that holds the display to the rear housing and the tape needs to be replaced to stick the screen back on again, but there's no need to break anything.

College PRIMOS prankster wreaks havoc with sysadmin manuals

Andy Taylor

Brings back some fond memories of exploiting issues for fun and then reporting them before getting into trouble.

Discovering the lpr flag that (incorrectly) didn't check file permissions so you could print anything that you knew the path to without read access.

Discovering that the brand new Sun workstations and existing unix systems had overlapping userID numbers.


Escalating email auto-reply wars that filled the system storage.

Swapping around the serial cable connectors that were all jumbled up in the corner of the room and making people's sessions jump to a different terminal.

Apple in another dust-up with its fans: iMacs, MacBooks lack filters, choke on grime – lawsuit

Andy Taylor

Re: BullMerde

Bonded != hermetically sealed. Dust apparently still gets in, you just can't remove the glass to clean it.

Andy Taylor

Re: BullMerde

Same for me, an ex Genius. The interior cleanliness of the machines I repaired entirely depended on the environment they had been used in. The range was wide and we could and did refuse service on more than one machine including one that had some insects living inside it.

As for removing the glass to clean it - 2012+ iMacs have the glass bonded to the LCD to allow the machines to be thinner, so the whole assembly needs to be replaced.

NASA has Mars InSight as latest lander due to arrive today

Andy Taylor

Re: Dusty

It's Kryten, a series 4,000 mechanoid who killed his first crew by washing their computer. And the backup computer.

Russian computer failure on ISS is nothing to worry about – they're just going to turn it off and on again

Andy Taylor

Re: "It's running NikitaOS 2.5"

I hope NikitaOS has a voice interface so you can ask it what the temperature is.

Hey Nikita - is it cold?

National Museum of Computing to hold live Enigma code-breaking demo with a Bombe

Andy Taylor

Re: Editorial @ElReg

I can assure you that the Bombe rebuild is currently housed in Block H. There's even evidence here:


Your Twitter app stopped working? Here's why

Andy Taylor

TweetBot or nothing

If I cannot continue using TweetBot, I will simply stop using Twitter. This will probably not be a bad thing.

The official Twitter app does not meet my needs.

Sysadmin cracked military PC’s security by reading the manual

Andy Taylor

Re: Redacted pdfs

This is how we know how much McLaren got fined (and lots of other interesting information) in 2007, the FIA didn't properly redact the documents.

Trainee techie ran away and hid after screwing up a job, literally

Andy Taylor

This is the equivalent to

"I have everything I need in my car." for field engineers.

Incidentally, if anyone has the original BOFH questionnaire for which many of the answers were the above, please let me know.

Cryptography is the Bombe: Britain's Enigma-cracker on display in new home

Andy Taylor

Couple of things

Firstly the Bombe isn't really a computer, it's an electro mechanical Enigma emulator.

Secondly, Block H was built for Colossus machines 5-10, not Bombes.

Bombes were housed in various huts (mainly Hut 11) and later at other locations near to Bletchley.

User spent 20 minutes trying to move mouse cursor, without success

Andy Taylor

The old Apple (Mighty) Mouse scroll wheel was easily clogged with dirt. The "fix" was to hold upside down and rub said wheel on a sheet of paper. Sometimes isopropyl alcohol was required to shift particularly troublesome dirt.

Tech rookie put decimal point in wrong place, cost insurer zillions

Andy Taylor

Re: Old school

Back in the distant past when I worked for a year at Thames Water, we would regularly get duplicated orders from RS. The issue was that the accounts department would insist on sending an order in even if it had been made by telephone and despite us writing "telephoned order" all over the form that went to accounts, they'd invariably process it as a standard order. This was the same accounts department that wouldn't let us buy computers because the computer budget had been used up.

We instead purchased a number of "electronic logging machines".

England's top judge lashes out at 'Science Museum' grade court IT

Andy Taylor

I knew which sketch without even clicking :D

Dixons to shutter 92 UK Carphone Warehouse shops after profit warning

Andy Taylor

Re: Another Maplins in the making.

They're still called the Carphone Warehouse - dedicated car phones became obsolete in the 90s.

Tech support made the news after bomb squad and police showed up to 'defuse' leaky UPS

Andy Taylor

I've just remembered the rest of this story - having read the letter and realised that the package did *not* contain a bomb, the police helped fit the batteries into the torch before they left. :)

Andy Taylor

Back in the early 80s, we went on a family holiday to the Channel Islands.

One day, on a beach on Herm island, we met another family with a little girl called Emily.

Important plot point: Emily had cerebral palsy. Now, being the early 80s and my parents being the type of people who would make friends with random strangers, we stayed in touch.

Back home, my father was thinking about Emily and (I think) her problems operating switches and came up with an idea - he would design a torch that could be switched on without having to operate the switch.

The solution was simple - take 1 classic Ever Ready torch, glue a base to the bottom that would allow it to stand upright and fit a mercury switch - the result being a torch that could sit on a bedside table in the off position and be turned on simply by turning it to point downwards. Perfect for reading in bed and perfect for Emily to operate

Having perfected his design, my father packed the torch up to send to Emily's family. To prevent the torch from coming on whilst in the post, he removed the 2 C size batteries from the torch and taped them to the outside.

He then posted the torch with an explanatory letter, but crucially didn't give them any advance warning.

Emily's mother wasn't expecting a parcel. Emily's mother wasn't expecting to see batteries taped to an unknown object, so Emily's mother called the police.

Police turned up, one of them noticed the letter sticking out of the parcel, so bravely pulled it out as carefully as he could. Luckily for Emily, the package wasn't blown to pieces and she reportedly loved the torch.

Admin needed server fast, skipped factory config … then bricked it

Andy Taylor

I see Watt you did there...

Take-off crash 'n' burn didn't kill the Concorde, it was just too bloody expensive to maintain

Andy Taylor

I grew up in the west of Reading, directly under the flight path and my lessons were regularly interrupted by the sound of Concorde passing over my school in Theale.

As a computing student at Bristol Polytechnic (now UWE), I was extremely fortunate to get the chance to pilot the simulator at Filton. So technically I have "flown" Concorde (although I needed some "help" with the landing*). The simulator sans hydraulics is now at Brooklands where you can pay £199+ to have a go yourself.

*crashes, even in simulators are generally discouraged (but remember that a good landing is one you can walk away from, a great landing is one where the plane can be used again).

Sysadmin’s worst client was … his mother! Until his sister called for help

Andy Taylor

I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but when I was working at the fruit store, I told my mother I was contractually prevented from supporting her PC.

When she finally got a MacBook (just before I left), I made her buy AppleCare and deflected all questions with "but you have AppleCare (that you paid for), you can ask them."

Meanwhile, here's a nice summary of what it's like trying to teach a parent about computers from the brilliant Foil, Arms and Hog.


Batteries are so heavy, said user. If I take it out, will this thing work?

Andy Taylor

One of my favourite cartoons

is of a camera shop where the assistant is saying to the customer:

"Of course sir can't see where to put the film in, sir is holding an electric razor."

Crunch time: Maplin in talks to sell the business

Andy Taylor

Trying to compete with Amazon

So Maplin are now doing "web deals" on Amazon.

Random sample of 1, so YMMV but:

4TB external USB 3.0 hard drive. Amazon price £99 (or less if you buy "used")

Maplin_Webdeals price £119 (other vendors are available and cheaper).

National Museum of Computing rattles the bucket: Help shift war-winning proto-puter

Andy Taylor

GerryMC - guided tours are available for days when the full museum is not otherwise open.

Check the TNMOC website for details and to book your tour.

Home taping revisited: A mic in each hand, pointing at speakers

Andy Taylor

Dial a Disc

I'm surprised there's no mention of Dial a Disc - the speaking clock but for music with that oh so high-fidelity medium of an analogue phone line.

The speaking clock is quite useful for testing emergency number dialling without actually calling 999.

Shopper f-bombed PC shop staff, so they mocked her with too-polite tech tutorial

Andy Taylor

When working in the fruit store, we'd often hear "I've come all the way from <town that is less than 20 miles away>" to which the wrong answer was "that's just one junction on the motorway".

One time we had stock of mains adapters incorrectly packed with Euro plugs/leads instead of UK ones. One customer demanded that we send replacement leads in a taxi to his house, which was a 10 minute walk from the store.

Andy Taylor

Re: The customer is always right....

At the fruit store, ex employees who were let go are often referred to as "promoted to customer".

Dodgy parking firms to be denied access to Brit driver database

Andy Taylor

Not fines, invoices

If you get a PCN in England/Wales, the most important thing to do is not to identify the driver.

The recipient of the notice is the Keeper, the person that parked is the Driver. In law they are separate entities.

Always complain to the store/landowner - many managers have the ability to cancel notices.

Always appeal as Keeper and refuse to ID the driver, even if you were not driving.

Ignore Debt Collector letters, even if they threaten further action - they are powerless.

Do not ignore a Letter Before (County Court) Claim.

Do not ignore a claim form.

Parking Charge Notices are invoices for breaching the contractural terms of parking, they are not fines.

It is no coincidence that Penalty Charge Notices (issued by councils/traffic wardens etc. have the same acronym.

Companies deliberately set drivers up to fail - for example using a 0 instead of an O when entering a number plate into their ticket machines when the official number plate font does not distinguish between them.

There used to be a single trade body, the British Parking Association. Their members sign up to use POPLA as an alternate dispute resolution body, which upholds around 50% of appeals.

POPLA is recognised as being relatively fair, provided the appeal is made on contractural or legal points and not mitigating circumstances (which are pretty much always rejected).

The good news is that a POPLA decision is not binding on the appellant.

A couple of years ago, a firm of solicitors working with some parking companies decided to set up their own alternative trade body, the IPC (originally called Independent Parking Committee, now International Parking Community).

They run the mis-named Independent Appeals Service in-house and guarantee their members that 80% of appeals will be rejected. The IAS fails as an alternative dispute resolution service for a number of reasons, not least the obvious conflict of interest.

Unfortunately, the DVLA seems content to allow IPC members to request keeper details.

Serverless: Should we be scared? Maybe. Is it a silly name? Possibly

Andy Taylor

Serverless = Someone Else's Computer(s)


'The capacitors exploded, showering the lab in flaming confetti'

Andy Taylor

Just remember

Always lick your finger before checking the temperature of an IC with it.

That way, if the IC is getting hot, the boiling of your saliva gives you enough time to remove said finger before it gets burned onto the top of the chip.

France to lend Brexit Britain sore souvenir of Norman yoke – the Bayeux Tapestry

Andy Taylor

We've already got one

It's very nice.

A full sized replica made in the 1880s, is on display in Reading museum (free entry).

Hot chips crashed servers, but were still delicious

Andy Taylor

Re: Power Cables...

RJ-11 plugged into RJ-45 ports (Tech Support get in here NOW!)

That's usually OK provided the other end of the structured wiring connects to a suitable device.

Engineer named Jason told to re-write the calendar

Andy Taylor

Re: Not IT related, but on topic ...

"On my first day at work I was asked to call an air ambulance, but I saw through their game."

Milton Jones

BOFH: The trouble with, er, windows installs

Andy Taylor

Simon's taking inspiration from George R R Martin - introduce a character, get people to like them, kill them off unexpectedly.

Thinking about it, the BOFH probably has a higher body count than GoT.

Boss made dirt list of minions' mistakes, kept his own rampage off it

Andy Taylor

110V power supplies

I'm sure that there can't be a single PC tech of a certain age who hasn't managed to destroy a power supply by not checking the voltage setting switch before powering on.

Thankfully this is pretty much a thing of the past, although I discovered the hard way that TVs produced for the USA market are shipped with single voltage power supplies.

Back when I worked at the fruit store, I was engaged in helping with a new store opening in Germany. One of the window displays was a giant iPad mockup which consisted of a flat screen TV (mounted vertically) with the bottom part of the screen obscured. (Similar to this: http://www.phoenixstudios.co.uk.gridhosted.co.uk/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/giant-ipad.jpg)

The complete display had been shipped from Cupertino and the kit included a step-down transformer.

The kit was assembled, placed in the window of the store and powered on, with the transformer still in its box.

I was impressed that the TV lasted most of the day (>8 hours) before expiring. A replacement TV was shipped overnight from another store (at great expense) so that the opening could go ahead as planned.

Future of Misco UK hangs in the balance – sources

Andy Taylor

Back in the day

certain organisations would have rules about who you could order stuff from due to the beancounters wanting credit accounts and the like. I'm sure Misco etc only survived so long because of this.

World's first dedicated computer centre declared 'irreplaceable' by Historic England

Andy Taylor

Google Maps will show you just how close the modern housing was built to Block H - something that the current conservation officer has said they would not have allowed.

Andy Taylor

Re: Listed status?

Block H is Grade II listed, since December 2004.

Andy Taylor


"Block H was built in September 1944 specifically to house Colossus valve-based cipher-breaking machines, making it the world's first dedicated computer centre."

Sysadmin tells user CSI-style password guessing never w– wait WTF?! It's 'PASSWORD1'!

Andy Taylor

Lorenz break

The actual story is the radio operator broke several rules. First by sending the wheel settings in clear text at the start of the message (HQIBPEXEZMUG), second by resetting back to the same starting position to re-send the message that hadn't been received, third by abbreviating words (the second message was almost 500 letters shorter than the first).

These two messages directly led to the breaking of the Lorenz cipher and the building of the world's first electronic computer.

Andy Taylor

Re: Favourite

My favourite is blank as in "The password is blank".

Andy Taylor

ALWAYS, ALWAYS ALWAYS assist with any issue that affects your salary getting paid on time.

macOS High Sierra more like 'Cry Sierra' for Mac-wielding beta testers

Andy Taylor

Re: Hard locks attract workarounds, workarounds become a honeypot for malware.

Mea culpa, I meant El Capitan. They'll still run El Capitan.

Andy Taylor

Re: Hard locks attract workarounds, workarounds become a honeypot for malware.

Last time I looked, these iMacs would still happily run Sierra.

User worked with wrong app for two weeks, then complained to IT that data had gone missing

Andy Taylor


One of my friends worked for a company that insisted his (Windows NT) machine be switched off each evening and powered back on again the following morning, I forget the reason why.

His daily timesheet had 15 minutes at each end of the working day - 15 minutes for power up and login, another 15 minutes for logout and shutdown. This was not because of some minimum time accounting period, but because that's actually how long the process took.

Sacre bleu! Apple's high price, marginal gain iPhone strategy leaves it stuck in the mud

Andy Taylor

iPhone 8 can do wireless charging.

see the website.

User thanked IT department for fast new server, but it had never left its box

Andy Taylor

Re: Like to play swap out

Cleaning the machine/device as part of the repair is an old tip I picked up from my dad who repaired electronics back when it was still possible.

At the fruit store it's known as polishing the apple (not a euphemism) ;)


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