* Posts by John Styles

447 posts • joined 23 Jul 2007

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First A380 flown in anger to be broken up for parts

John Styles

Re: This underlines one more thing

The government and 52% of the population have come up with a much better way to encourage business to leave London. Not to Birmingham, though.

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John Styles

Re: This underlines one more thing

Stop over in Birmingham... quick trip to Sparkbrook for a balti surely? How could that compare with London?

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A Reg-reading techie, a high street bank, some iffy production code – and a financial crash

John Styles

But in the general case

expression1 = expression2 + expression3

vs

expression1 += expression2

where

expression1 is textually the same as expression2

The second is better because you don't have to eyeball the code to make sure expression1 and expression2 are identical

e.g

badger[cheescake*duck.hamster+womble].goat[stoat+boat]+=banana

vs

badger[cheescake*duck.hamster+womble].goat[stoat+boat]=badger[cheescake*duck.hamster+womble].goat[stoat-boat]+banana

Did I mean stoat-boat or was that a mistake?

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My PC makes ‘negative energy waves’, said user, then demanded fix

John Styles

Re: qotw

Poe's Law applies to this one, I am still not sure myself if it is a parody or not

https://www.jwz.org/blog/2017/04/i-only-use-locally-sourced-gold-plated-memcpy-for-warmth/

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IBMers in TSS: How WILL we support customers after these latest job cuts?

John Styles

I like the idea of near shore. Prison ships just outside territorial waters.

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We sent a vulture to find the relaunched Atari box – and all he got was this lousy baseball cap

John Styles

Re: "It will do 4K video"

If you are interested in how to program them (on emulators primarily obviously) I recommend this book

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01N4DSRIZ/ Making Games for the Atari 2600 by Steven Hugg.

For a more general book about it there is Racing the Beam by Ian Bogost (who you may have heard of) and Nick Montford https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/racing-beam

It is somewhat academic in tone (I mention that not as a pejorative term, but to give an idea as whether it might be for you)

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UK tech whale Micro Focus: Share price halves as CEO quits, sales slide

John Styles

I remember someone thinking that when I said we would (re)develop something in MFC I meant 'MicroFocus COBOL'

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I couldn't give a Greek clock about your IoT fertility tracker

John Styles

Re: In my day

My late (much older) brother had some sort of 'book of facts for boys' dating back to the early 50s. It has a section on camping which had a paragraph beginning 'When attending to the wants of nature...'.

It was only years later I worked out what the hell it was on about.

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Developer mistakenly deleted data - so thoroughly nobody could pin it on him!

John Styles

My favourite accidentally deleting things story, which I'm sure you will agree is the platonic ideal of a dull historic IT anecdote (I have probably told you all this one before, too)...

At some point in the 80s we were using both PCs and some strange things called Sages running CP/M 68K.

The Sages were configured with the hard disk partitioned into 2MB chunks (the limit) with

A = operating system and toold

B = source code

C / D / E etc. = customer data or more copies of the source code

P = floppy drive

(the idea being that the number of had disk partitions depended on the size of the hard disk but P was always the floppy)

So in summary

PC = A: floppy C: system

Sage = P: floppy A: system

Now, a moment's inattention on a Sage, you format the floppy FORMAT A: - bye bye OS and tools.

The other fun property of Sages was hard disks very averse to the computer being dropped.

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Elon Musk invents bus stop, waits for applause, internet LOLs

John Styles

Is there anything to his 'we can tunnel cheaper and quicker' stuff? How much money would that save anyway? Suppose you could magically tunnel between stations for essentially free, but not, obviously fit out the stations, build the escalators, find room for and build the surface parts of the station etc. what percentage of the cost of an underground system would this actually save? Not much I wouldn't have thought.

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Age checks for UK pr0n site visitors on ice as regulator cobbles together some guidance

John Styles

Just as well the government doesn't have to implement 100s of new processes / systems / procedures in a hurry in the next couple of years then.

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10 PRINT "ZX81 at 37" 20 GOTO 10

John Styles

Re: Hmmm - what about the predecessor?

You should watch this fascinating long interview about the MK14 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awlqzippsSc

(and the life of its creator)

A fascinating titbit is that his original plan was to use octal so it could use a Sinclair calculator with its 7 segment displays as the UI (I may have slightly misremembered the detail, but definitely octal)

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IBM gives Services staff until 2019 to get agile

John Styles

Re: Please tell me another.

There is a book by Jerry Kaplan about his experiences as CEO of Go corporation, who tried to do a Pen operating system. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Startup-Silicon-Adventure-Jerry-Kaplan/dp/0140257314

It was very much the classic Silicon Valley start-up before they became fashionable (in that it tore through a ton of money and then tanked) and it is quite well written.

Anyway, at one point ***SPOILER*** they are given a choice by a big customer to go with HP or IBM and choose IBM. This inevitably causes the issues you would expect, but at one point IBM try to shaft Go and to get the customer to use, wait for it, Pen OS/2.

The term 'Pen OS/2' always makes me chuckle every time I remember it.

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Intellisense was off and developer learned you can't code in Canadian

John Styles

Re: Program, program, I'll say potato

I think program for 'things wot run on computers' is more or less agreed on, though I do remember university exams saying 'linear programme'.

But what about dialog or dialogue? My view is that like program for things wot run on computers vs programme for things wot you watch it should be dialog as in 'having a dialogue about dialogs'.

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John Styles

Does the accidentally redefining 0 in a FORTRAN program count here? Because I genuinely did that in real life and spent a while puzzling over it.

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Windows slithers on to Arm, legless?

John Styles

Re: Surface, but...

Better to support hardware whose manufacturer does support Linux.

(Don't get me wrong, some of my best friends spend their time hacking Tesco Value Toasters etc. to run Linux. But).

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John Styles

I bought a very cheap Windows 8 tablet (not RT). It was baffling bad. Like someone had never seen a tablet, but had one explained badly to them when not really listening and then half-heartedly implemented it from that description whilst watching YouTube videos. Or something like that.

The level of group-think required to think this was remotely a good idea beggars all belief.

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A print button? Mmkay. Let's explore WHY you need me to add that

John Styles

Omnomnom Eloi

signed A. Morlock

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IBM declares it's the 'backbone of the world's economy'

John Styles

Is this a cognitive backbone?

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Russian-monitoring Shetlands radar station was nearly sold off

John Styles

School

In the 90s we stayed in a B&B near there (and did have a drive up to what you could see IIRC). The proprietor was an ex-stonemason who had become allergic to chemicals he needed, and his wife was a teacher at the school http://ahistoryofrafsaxavord.blogspot.co.uk/2010/01/haroldswick-school.html (now closed).

When we flew up there from Birmingham the flights were more expensive than ones to New York.

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H-1B visa hopefuls, green card holders are feeling the wrath of 'America first' Trump

John Styles

On holiday in New Mexico we were stopped at a check-point... it went something like this

'I'm sure you're American citizens'

'No, we're here on vacation, we're from England'

He looks confused.

'In that case can I see your....[pauses to think of word]'

'Passport'

'Yes, that's it!'

We hand them over

'Have a nice day'

'Thanks, and you'

and off we went

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Death notice: Moore’s Law. 19 April 1965 – 2 January 2018

John Styles

I have a question. Suppose I am completely uninterested in security as am I essentially using a PC for computation and can apply any security outside the PC, which is unconnected to the big, bad, scary internet, to what extent can I just say 'oh bugger it speculate all you wan't?'

a) on Windows?

b) on Linux (where presumably I can turn off retpolining in GCC)?

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John Styles

Re: so Desperation

I am actually dubious of this, I think inability to write code well in high level languages because of over-fixation on low level details that don't matter' is about as common a failure mode of developers as 'writing tremendously inefficient code because of too limited understanding of what is actually going on'.

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I thought there'd be more Instagram: ICT apprenticeships down 20% in five years

John Styles

It's the Long Island ICT that drives you to drink.

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John Styles

The skills gap is the same as it always has been, of 18 year olds with 5 years experience in technologies that have been round for 3 years who will work 80 hour weeks for peanuts and not answer back.

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IBM UK's pre-Xmas GTS head-chop: THWACK! Is that it?

John Styles

Dear IBM,

Please stop making this irksome usage of 'cognitive' a thing. It is not going to become a thing and you are just embarrassing yourselves by this point.

Signed,

everyone in the world without the defective custom IBM dictionary

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

John Styles

Many years ago

A friend, sadly no-longer with us, had a nervous breakdown whilst doing his degree - as part of his rehabilitation he was given some work in the medical sciences research bit of the nearby hospital (some of you may know a city has the mental hospital adjacent to a medical research campus). He was a bright guy but unfortunately had a compulsion to set knobs to zero, which was unhelpful.

As an attempt to cure him of this a bit of fake equipment was rigged up with a large enticing dial on it [this was in the 70s which explains a lot], set so that when it was zeroed, an enormous capacitor would explode. Apparently he covered the 10 metres to the door in a world record time.

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IBM turns panto villain as The Reg tells readers: 'It's behind you!'

John Styles

Re: arrogant disks?

Decades ago we had someone move into our group who did PC software from one who did IBM midrange software, there was a certain amount of mutual incomprehension as the terms he used for everything were different (library for directory was particularly baffling IIRC)

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We translated Intel's crap attempt to spin its way out of CPU security bug PR nightmare

John Styles

Re: 'how Itanium isn't affected'

I was trying to work this out... on the whole I concluded I didn't understand enough to know but if the compiler generates code that does speculative loads aren't you still screwed (although of course you can't blame the processor, just the compiler). See https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/oldnewthing/20150804-00/?p=91181

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Kernel-memory-leaking Intel processor design flaw forces Linux, Windows redesign

John Styles

Fe fi fo faction

I smell the blood of a f****ing enormous class action

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Merry Xmas, fellow code nerds: Avast open-sources decompiler

John Styles

I wonder how well it does at working out C++ class hierarchies, spotting vtables, turning a bunch of functions back into methods etc. etc.

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IBM to expunge over 500 people in latest redundo round

John Styles

Am I alone in being irked and slightly nonplussed that IBM are using the word 'cognitive' for something completely different from what the word actually means, i.e. they are using it meaning 'our mish-mash of AI related technologies' ?

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John Styles

Re: Serious question

https://www.gov.uk/staff-redundant/redundancy-consultations

See the bit about 'Consult with trade union representatives or elected employee representatives - or with staff directly if there are none.' i.e. you get the staff to elect committees and consult with them.

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Three useless UK.gov 'catapults' put in Last Chance Saloon

John Styles

Yes exactly, that was my point.

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John Styles

I rarely actually get angry about these things but the concept of a transport catapult was an absolute ****ing (can't remember if I am allowed to say ****ing here) disgrace if you recall for example that

a) it takes us decades to tentatively do the experiment of a tram-train for Rotherham when this is established technology in Germany. Why? Maybe Plank's constant is different in the UK for some reason.

b) in my lifetime we have failed to successfully link bits of Watford with other bits of Watford (can't find a good link but basically the faffing has lasted a lifetime, responsibility was pushed back to TfL and the mayor unsurprisingly thought there were better uses for the money than the ludicrously high sum to build one viaduct across a road)(you might well say that this wasn't a terribly sensible project even at non-ludicrous sums of money but in that case best not to waste millions with nothing to show for it)

c) in general as per Edinburgh things cost far more to do in this country than anyone else in Europe

etc.

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Hardware has never been better, but it isn't a licence for code bloat

John Styles

Re: Ah, when I were a lad.....

And you probably could still run it if you wanted to. And it would be fast. But.

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Official: Perl the most hated programming language, say devs

John Styles

The thing I'm surprised no-one else has mentioned (or if they have I've missed it) is the distinction between Perl 4 and Perl 5 (to say nothing of Perl 6).

Where it all went wrong with the objects. What is the phrase from the Perl 5 camel book? 'An object is a reference to a blessed thingy?' Something like that.

When you find yourself writing something like this it is time to have a long hard look at your life choices.

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John Styles

I always felt that for the things awk could do it was better than Perl. Of course the main thing I could do was the sort of stuff you'd use 'find' or similar for, so with awk I would usually end up doing it as a multiple stage process. You could argue that having an awk script write a batch file you could eyeball before letting it loose on the file system was no bad thing.

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John Styles

Re: Lisp

TCL was much more 'Lisp without brackets' I think. Fortunately TCL seems to have faded from popular memory - it was only ever popular because of TK and Expect I think.

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You forgot that you hired me and now you're saying it's my fault?

John Styles

Re: Meeting rooms

I have always fancied a room named after the famous French literary theorist - the Barthes room

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John Styles

Re: Ah, memories.

Oh yes. Hand written presentations on acetates.

Or worse still trying to photocopy things onto acetates since the printer couldn't print them, then inevitably some **** of a manager coming up whilst you were in the middle to demand immediate access to the photocopier. [There must be a book to be written in 'Reminiscences of AT&T Istel - when British Leyland managers tried to run a software company]

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John Styles

My worst torment training was in the early 90s where we had a lovely laptop that you could fold the display back and put it on an overhead projector to use the light and lens of the projector to project onto a screen, before the days of decent portable projectors.

Except...

The LCD thingy obviously was of non-zero thickness therefore what was in focus for slides would be out of focus for this and vice-versa therefore.

Show slides

Fold LCD over projector

adjust focus

Remove LCD thing

put slide on

adjust focus

You are, obviously, wondering why the slides weren't shown by PowerPoint. My recollection is that that was the rules. One of the many times I should have put my foot down but didn't. Sigh.

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The Atari retro games box is real… sort of

John Styles

Tastes may vary but I thought this book on the Atari 2600 'Racing the beam' was very good https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/racing-beam

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Feelin' safe and snug on Linux while the Windows world burns? Stop that

John Styles

Re: about 12 per cent of servers run non-Windows OSs!?

The only people who really know what OSs people run / what they develop in etc. are people who have done expensive market research, and people who have bought their reports, if anyone has actually done that expensive research.

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Drugs, vodka, Volvo: The Scandinavian answer to Britain's future new border

John Styles

Re: Norway is in EFTA and Schengen...

If by 'and this makes border controls easier' you mean 'means that this situation is not in one iota comparable with what we will need so this article is utterly beside the point' I agree.

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It's 30 years ago: IBM's final battle with reality

John Styles

Re: Make sure your driver strategy is in place if you launch a new O/S

Yes, this a thousand times. Most of my experience of OS/2 was in the 1.2 / 1.3 days. The closest I have ever got to throwing a PC out the windows was trying to install the sodding thing on some random bit of hardware. Every time I wiped it and tried something else it somehow got less far. Microsoft were much better at running on random bits of hardware. The IBM approach was equivalent to the self driving car that works fine on clean roads with no pedestrians, fine in theory but useless in practice.

The one message queue was a big mistake though - and IBM were a nightmare to deal with. To be fair I suspect that unless you are the CEO of a Fortune 500 company they are a nightmare to deal with. And I suspect if you are outside the top 100 companies they probably aren't THAT great.

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John Styles

Re: Interesting times

Nah. I started work in 1985 and only really ever worked on PCs (apart from some weird odds and sods), all the development was done on PCs - these were all expensive vertical market applications going for 20K or thereabouts a copy, with teams of 10 to 20 people in a couple of cases. Mostly FORTRAN 77 and C. (Lahey Fortran, Lattice C then the Microsoft ones).

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Indian Business Machines? One-third of Big Blue staff based there and Bangladesh

John Styles

Was I the only person to think 'that few?' ?

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New plastic banknote plans now upsetting environmental campaigners

John Styles

Millenial, I wish. Generation X here. No stupid beards and no enormous houses bought for 10 grand.

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John Styles

Re: "300 football fields of rainforest per hour is cleared"

How can anyone who, since they read the Register presumably has something to do with computing, possibly think that a football pitch is 7 square kilometres?

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