* Posts by JulieM

416 posts • joined 27 Nov 2014


Oracle: Major ad scam 'DrainerBot' is rinsing Android users of their battery life and data

JulieM Silver badge

Re: Liability ?

Nah, they don't count. Using a computer, see. Totally different!

Advertisements in newspapers that might otherwise be mistaken for editorial content are required to carry the words "ADVERTISEMENT FEATURE", in a font no smaller than the advertisement text. But on the Internet, there is no requirement to mark out advertisements from editorial -- and some Internet companies appear to be actively frustrating attempts to detect unwanted content. Which is not illegal, because it's not a printed publication and therefore not the same thing.

An app store isn't selling you a product; it's selling you a licence to use a product in certain ways and subject to certain conditions. And being completely different from an actual bricks and mortar store that sells product, they have absolutely no duty of care to you. Because everything is completely different if a computer is involved, and altogether different again if the "computer" happens to be pocket-sized. </sarchasm>

Behold… a WinRAR security bug that's older than your child's favorite YouTuber. And yes, you should patch this hole

JulieM Silver badge

Re: ... because we do not have the source code

If I was minister for I.T., that's the first law I would pass, believe me.

Why does that website take forever to load? Clues: Three syllables, starts with a J, rhymes with crock of sh...

JulieM Silver badge

What about ad-blocking at the ISP level?

For some time now, I have been wondering about the viability of setting up a premium ISP business with "transparent" ad-blocking, including half-proxying i.e. fetching the file but never actually delivering it to the browser. Basically I think I'd just need a simple Linux server with some customised Bind zonefiles, and some broadband to re-sell.

I'm sure people would pay extra for no advertisements.

Lenovo ThinkPad P1: Sumptuous pro PC that gets a tad warm

JulieM Silver badge

Re: Lenovo ThinkPad Operating System

I've never had a problem running Debian or Ubuntu on any Lenovo kit. I can't imagine any problems with any other distributions, though I've never tried.

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

JulieM Silver badge

Re: Remember Y2K?

Never mind a Diesel generator; Brexit is more like cancelling your electricity supply contract and living off alkaline batteries from a pound store.

Fujitsu pitched stalker-y AI that can read your social media posts as solution to Irish border, apparently

JulieM Silver badge

Stick around, and they'll probably be selling them for a dollar through the same channel as those water cannon, freshly painted, never used.

JulieM Silver badge

Technological Solutions

Technological solutions to social problems have, historically, been unmitigated disasters; and Laws of Nature have been proposed based on less evidence than there is for "Social problem + tech = bigger problem".

Techie finds himself telling caller there is no safe depth of water for operating computers

JulieM Silver badge

Re: Header pic

The idea of an earthed metal enclosure is, if a live wire comes adrift inside the appliance and then touches the metal case, the fuse will blow.

If you insert a Schuko (earth connection by means of contacts at the edge of the plug) or French / Czech (earth connection by means of a pin protruding from the socket) plug into a non-earthed socket, the metal case of the appliance will not be earthed. Now if a live wire comes adrift inside the appliance and touches the metal case, it will become live.

An RCD measures the difference between current flowing out the line and returning up the neutral -- which should be equal. If they are different, either Kirchoff was mistaken (which is actually not impossible, since verifying either of Kirchoff's Laws or Ohm's Law requires the use of test instruments which rely for their operation on those laws being true in the first place) or some electrons have unilaterally decided to take a different route back to the supply, possibly via you. So the RCD disconnects the supply.

Either a fuse or an RCD will offer protection against a live wire touching an earthed metal housing. (Other faults are available.)

JulieM Silver badge

Re: Header pic

The adaptors that you can buy on the High Street for a couple of quid don't usually have the earth contacts at the edges for Schuko plugs. They will accept the line and neutral pins of the plug, but leave the appliance dangerously un-earthed.

(Earthing might be less important if you have an RCD-protected supply, but I still trust a wire fuse more than I trust a chunk of complicated electronics.)

JulieM Silver badge

Re: Header pic

My school had a chemistry teacher who used to play a trick on next year's intake, visiting from their primary schools. He would place a beaker of concentrated ammonia and a beaker of concentrated hydrochloric acid in each of a pair of old boots; place the boots next to each other behind the front desk, resulting in a nice plume of "smoke" where the two invisible vapours reacted; and strew some broken glass around. Thus creating an illusion of somebody having blown themselves to bits, leaving only the canonical pair of smouldering boots. Then he would hide in the prep room, and watch the looks on the little darlings' faces .....

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

JulieM Silver badge


"Metric tonne" is a tautology. A ton is 2240lb., or about 1016kg; a tonne is 1000kg.

Better question: Why aren't 1000kg. called a megagram?

Techies tinker with toilet-topper to turn it into ticker-tracker

JulieM Silver badge

Toilet Seats

All I want from the toilet seat of tomorrow is improved thermal properties; a low thermal conductivity and a low heat capacity.

Picture the scene. It's a cold Winter's day, and I've been trying to put business off as long as possible; but now there is no way to continue to pretend the situation is anything shy of urgent. Unfortunately, by this time, the quantity involved is now greater than can be disposed of in the time for which my leg muscles can reliably maintain me in a "hover"; thus requiring actual bum-to-seat contact.

Sysadmin's three-line 'annoyance-buster' busts painstakingly crafted, crucial policy

JulieM Silver badge

Re: Great system...

It's probably going to read /etc/myprog/config first, then ~/.config/myprog/config , and ignore the living daylights out of /usr/share/myprog/default/config .

The canonical order is supposed to be to read configuration from /etc/ first, and then from somewhere under the owner's /home/ folder; that way, users' own options override system-wide ones. (But there are always a few exceptions .....) /usr/share/ is not for loading configuration files from; any "configuration file" you find under there should be just an example.

But if in doubt, read the Source Code.

Data hackers are like toilet ninjas. This is not a clean crime, you know

JulieM Silver badge


In my workplace kitchen, there are many "tea" spoons, yet only one of them has a sufficiently stiff handle to withstand actually squeezing a teabag. The others are fine for stirring and measuring, but their handles have the consistency of solder.

Every time I come to make a cup of tea, the decent teabag squeezing spoon is invariably covered in horrible sticky brown blobs of coffee. (I sometimes drink coffee, but I have never managed to make such a mess of the spoon.) And when I place clean, dry spoons in the coffee and sugar canisters, for the purpose of measuring out ingredients without cross-contamination, somebody seems to think they were put there so they could take the spoon out and use it to stir their coffee.

Every. Single. Sodding. Time.

The only thing keeping me from sending an e-mail to all staff is the thought that I will be the one who gets called the whiny b***h.

Should the super-rich pay 70% tax rate above $10m? Here's Michael Dell's hot take for Davos

JulieM Silver badge

Re: Super rich don't pay salaries either

The existing customers of the business, which carries on just fine without the overhead of having to pay a super-rich person.

JulieM Silver badge

They are entirely familiar with the basics of economics. They are just averse to sharing what they think is "their" money with the people who helped them get it.

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

JulieM Silver badge

Re: Shameless repost of an allegedly genuine IBM memo from the 80's...

IBM never called it a "mouse" -- it was always a "pointing device" in IBM documentation.

The BMC in OpenBMC stands for 'Burglarize My Computer' – thanks to irritating security flaw

JulieM Silver badge

"Burglarise" ?

"Burglar" is an agent noun. The verb is "burgle".

Intel applies hobnailed boot to countries where its men and women workers aren't paid the same

JulieM Silver badge

Re: Sure

Surely if you had the same job description, then when she started, she would have been earning the same amount you were already earning by then, aot the amount on which you started years ago when it was worth more?

I used to earn six figures after tax. If you included the pence, anyway .....

Clone your own Prince Phil, says eBay seller hawking debris left over from royal car crash

JulieM Silver badge

Re: The school I went to had loads of Bastards...

Whereas these days, they give engineering degrees away to people who think "bastard files" are something kept in the Child Support Agency offices .....

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

JulieM Silver badge

Nobody Reads Error Messages

The problem with users is, they don't read error messages. Or if they are reading them, they are not paying any mind to them. Also, they somehow expect you to know exactly what is going on, even when you are on the other end of a phone line in a different room.

On several occasions I have asked a user to read an error message to me down the phone, read it back to them verbatim, and then they understood it.

Them: It says Username or Password Incorrect.

Me: Username or password incorrect? That means you've typed either your username or password incorrectly.

Them: Alright, I'll try again ..... Oh, it worked that time!

Me: All sorted then?

Them: Yes, thanks.


Them: It says Load Paper in Tray 1.

Me: Load Paper in Tray 1. That means it wants you to load some paper into tray 1. Is there any paper in tray 1? That's the top one, with a big figure "1" on it. Pull it gently towards you.

Them: I'll go and check (retreating footsteps, pause, approaching footsteps) No, there's no paper!

Me: Ah. OK. Try putting some paper in it.

Them: OK ..... (retreating footsteps, pause, approaching footsteps) The message went away as soon as I closed it, and it's printing!

Me: All sorted then?

Them: Yes! I fixed it all by myself!

Me: At least you know how to deal with Load Pa ..... (dial tone)

Then there are all the weird faults where the error message has disappeared before the user gets a chance to read it; but when you go and stand right next to them hoping to reproduce the error, everything mysteriously Just Works First Time. And that only seems to convince the users that "computers daren't misbehave when she's around".

JulieM Silver badge

Re: Similar but different experience

I once got a telling-off for spending all afternoon writing a program to automate a task that I could have done by hand in half an hour (and which would need to be done rather more than eight times in total).

People were still using that program when I left that company, though.

JulieM Silver badge

Re: I'm not even sure that half the developers read the prompts they are adding

I've made confirmation requesters with nice, helpful messages like "Selected start time is after finish time! Machine will not run at all. Press OK if this is really what you want, or Cancel to leave things as they were".

(I've probably also left the odd button lying around that does nothing but print "WIBBLE" or "BLAH", because that is just something I do as one of my program development stages.)

Come mobile users, gather round and learn how to add up

JulieM Silver badge

Re: Itchy Chin

Only the ones who didn't read the documentation.

The specification for a struct_tm (on which JavaScript data objects are based directly) is well-known, and it says that the year has had 1900 subtracted -- not reduced modulo 100.

JulieM Silver badge

Re: Itchy Chin

In a loosely typed language (like JS, PHP, etc...) how does the computer know if the programmer wants to concatenate of sum two values?
Easy ..... If you use an addition operator between the operands, it should try to add their numeric manifestations; but if you use a concatenation operator, it should try to concatenate their string manifestations.

JulieM Silver badge

Re: Better One Innit

Yes, but a standard 20 or 25cm. slide rule is only accurate to three figures, which cancels out the error.

JulieM Silver badge

Re: Itchy Chin

That still need not be a problem, though:

  • If the programmer is asking the computer to add strings, then treat them like numbers (and either throw an error if they don't look sufficiently numeric, or evaluate as much as you can in a numeric context and silently ignore the rest) and add them.
  • If the programmer is asking the computer to concatenate numbers, treat them like strings and concatenate them.

JulieM Silver badge

Re: Itchy Chin

But strings and numbers are not necessarily incompatible types. You can always convert a number to a string in order to concatenate it with another string, and you can sometimes convert a string to a number -- depending what characters it contains -- in order to add it to a number. There is no reason, besides mean-spiritedness on the part of the programming language designer, for any modern programming language not to do type conversion automatically if it would not cause an error.

The real problem is the misuse of a single operator to perform two distinct operations.

JulieM Silver badge

Re: Itchy Chin

It's not perfectly reasonable because an interpreted language should be smart enough to be able to convert a string that looks sufficiently like a number to a number and then add it to a number; or convert a number to a string and then concatenate it with a string. Perl manages all this just fine (see examples above).

JulieM Silver badge

Better One Innit

If you can find a book of four-figure mathematical tables somewhere, and someone who still knows how to use them, try to multiply 2 * 2 using logs.

This is hardly a new problem.

JulieM Silver badge

Re: Itchy Chin

And why do you suppose someone would prefix the year (which, coming from a Unix timestamp, has had 1900 subtracted from it) with "19" -- which was bound to break come the year 2000 -- as opposed to the obvious and future-proof method of just adding 1900 to it? Might this possibly have had anything to do with the relative difficulty of adding numbers versus concatenating strings?

JulieM Silver badge

Re: Itchy Chin

Not as well as some languages, it doesn't:

$ perl -e 'print 2 + 2;print "\n";' # prints 4

$ php -r 'print 2 + 2;print "\n";' # prints 4

$ perl -e 'print 2 + "2";print "\n";' # prints 4

$ php -r 'print 2 + "2";print "\n";' # prints 4

$ perl -e 'print "2" + 2;print "\n";' # prints 4

$ php -r 'print "2" + 2;print "\n";' # prints 4

$ perl -e 'print "2" + "2";print "\n";' # prints 4

$ php -r 'print "2" + "2";print "\n";' # prints 4

JulieM Silver badge

Itchy Chin

I have a very hard time believing that JavaScript evaluated 2+2 as 4, and not 22.

JavaScript can subtract, multiply and divide, but the + operator performs string concatenation. If you want to add numbers, you have to negate and subtract instead.

US prosecutors: Hey, you know how we said 'net gambling was OK? LMAO, we were wrong

JulieM Silver badge


I mean, speaking as a Briton, the whole idea of a ban on online gambling makes no sense.

Just legalise it and use the tax money for something.

Unexpected final boss for games kit SpatialOS: Unity blasts multiplayer GDK out of the cloud

JulieM Silver badge

I don't get it

Why do people continue to use software with such obnoxious licencing terms?

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

JulieM Silver badge

Re: Bah!

Um. Now that definitely isn't going to cause problems for inebriated festival attendees, is it?

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

JulieM Silver badge

While we're telling sex work jokes.....

Q. What did the famous Belgian impressionist painter René Magritte say when the prostitute to whom he had just paid €50 for a blow job, pulled a knife on him and demanded he hand over the rest of his money?

A. Ceci n'est pas un pipe!

What happens when a Royal Navy warship sees a NATO task force headed straight for it? A crash course in Morse

JulieM Silver badge

Actually, the metre is British -- the French could not agree on a reproducible definition, and had to ask us for help. We let everyone think it was a French invention, in exchange for the right to claim a French invention as our own -- a favour not called in until 1959, with the advent of the Mini, which everyone thought was the first front-wheel-drive car.

Oregon can't stop people from calling themselves engineers, judge rules in Traffic-Light-Math-Gate

JulieM Silver badge

Re: What an engineer does in the UK

My experience of working in an actual UK engineering firm is as follows:

Technician: Somebody who knows at least as much as an engineer, works twice as hard as an engineer and gets paid half as much as an engineer.

Engineering Manager: Somebody who supposedly has an engineering degree despite not knowing a Phillips from a Posidriv, works less than half as hard as an engineer and gets paid more than twice as much as an engineer.

Tech support discovers users who buy the 'sh*ttest PCs known to Man' struggle with basics

JulieM Silver badge

Re: "a mistaken split-second push in the wrong direction"

Probably not an autotransformer (which has only one winding and does not provide any isolation), but a proper safety isolating transformer, tapped 55-0-55 volts with the centre tap earthed.

YouTube fight gets dirty: Kids urged to pester parents over Article 13

JulieM Silver badge

Maybe copyright itself is an idea whose time has been and gone?

Back In The Day, copyright was invented as a way to encourage the creation of material to enrich the Public Domain. Authors were given temporary exclusive control over their work in return for a promise eventually to share it with everyone after the expiry of the exclusive period.

Changes in the meantime have affected the practical difficulty of becoming a publisher.

Is it really too much to suppose that there might actually be another way of rewarding people for sharing their works, besides through a temporary monopoly, that might be more appropriate to today's world?

Take my advice and stop using Rubik's Cubes to prove your intelligence

JulieM Silver badge

Re: 1970s?

You mean they couldn't spot an unsolvable cube just by looking at it?

JulieM Silver badge

Re: 1970s?

No, AD includes "during" as well as "after".

JulieM Silver badge

I'd be impressed to see the man who can solve a Rubik's cube with his teeth .....

JulieM Silver badge

Re: 1970s?

If there was no year zero, then the year 1980 was actually part of the 1970s.

Bright spark dev irons out light interference

JulieM Silver badge

About the baby

If it's a girl, they're going to call it Sigourney, after some actress. If it's a boy, they're going to call it Rodney, after Dave.

Nikola Tesla's greatest challenge: He could measure electricity but not stupidity

JulieM Silver badge

Re: Noted scientists

Since the Bank of England pretty much belongs to the Queen, she could theoretically allow a living person to be portrayed on a banknote just by uttering two words:

"Who's Queen?"

Bomb squad descends on suspicious package to find something much more dangerous – a Journey cassette

JulieM Silver badge

Re: Crimes against music -- the IT angle

The IT angle is that if you were around at the beginning of the UK home computer revolution in the early 1980s, the humble audio cassette most probably was the medium you would have had to use for data storage.

Hmmmm ..... I suppose that makes me officially Old.

Mac users burned after Nuance drops Dragon speech to text software

JulieM Silver badge

Time to change the law

It's time we had a law that any prohibition against reverse-engineering of any software product be lifted, the moment its supplier ceases officially supporting it.

Apple breathes new life into MacBook Air with overhauled 2018 model

JulieM Silver badge


How much does it weigh?


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