Archive for the ‘bbc’ Category

Shop Demo Software Shenanigans

Saturday, June 9th, 2012

Back in the 1980s, a friend of mine had some serious phun with BBC model B’s in stores that also sold software.

He would take a box of 5.25 inch floppy disks, all but a few of which was labelled “Watford Electronics Compatibility checker”. (Watford Electronics were a third-party supplier of peripherals; they made an improved disk system for the BBC, better than but slightly incompatible with the “official” Acorn upgrade and some software, especially games, would not work with it.)

So my friend would ask to “check” if a game would be “compatible” with his Watford disk system. Inserting the “compatibility checker” disk into the drive of a BBC computer and pressing shift+BREAK produced a fancy screen with a progress indicator; which then asked for the game disk to be inserted, thrashed the drive a bit, then asked for the checker disk again. After a series of such disk swaps came the dreaded announcement that the game was not compatible with the WE DFS. He would return the compatibility checking disk to the back of the box, and ask the shop assistant if he could compatibility-check another game. While the assistant was away fetching it, my friend whipped out the compatibility-checking disk from the front of the box (nobody ever noticed this blatant switch, which was done with no sleight-of-hand) and booted it up.

Again the compatibility-checking process would require several disk swaps, and again it would fail. And my friend would wander off, dejected, before the shop assistant could work out what had just happened right under their nose.

What had happened, of course, was that the “compatibility checker” disk contained a program that loaded itself into RAM, then copied the game disk sector-by-sector first to RAM, then to the “checker” disk (overwriting the original copy of itself into the bargain, but it was already running from RAM, and each of several disks in the box contained a copy of the same software.) As there was only 32KB of RAM and some of that was eaten up by the OS, copying a 100KB disk (yes, you read that right: 102 400 bytes) had to be done in stages.

Robot Scientist Makes New Discovery!

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

From the BBC news site:

Scientists have created an ideal colleague – a robot that performs hundreds of repetitive experiments.

The robot, called Adam, is the first machine to have independently “discovered new scientific knowledge”.

It has already identified the role of several genes in yeast cells, and is able to plan further experiments to test its own hypotheses.


Bend over, here it comes

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

I’ve been saying for years that this was going to happen. Now will you believe me?

A Scottish GP has called for chocolate to be taxed in the same way as alcohol and cigarettes to tackle increasing levels of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

This, dear readers, is the top of a very steep and very slippery slope. Firstly, the food police are one step removed from the thought police: if they can control what you eat, they can control what you think. And secondly, once one class of food is subject to a tax, you know it’s going to creep. It will start out on one “unhealthy” food (chocolate); then, just a budget or two down the line, it will spread to a few other unhealthy foods; then less-unhealthy foods — potatoes for example (because you can make chips out of potatoes), and so on. Eventually, the original stated purpose of the tax (to punish people for buying “unhealthy” foods) will be forgotten, replaced by the real, practical purpose (to raise revenue for the government); and you won’t be able to buy so much as an organic rocket salad with oil-free, egg-free, vinegar-free, salt-free, taste-free dressing without having to pay tax on it.

This is also exactly the sort of measure that, once implemented, no government will ever reverse; strident exhortations from the same press who once brayed their opposition to it will ensure that the tax stays in place, because if it’s repealed then people will get fat and anyone who opposes it wants us all to die from obesity.

Doner Kebabs are bad for you

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Officials from councils sampled nearly 500 Doner kebabs and found that they may contain up to 4.2MJ of energy and “shocking” levels of salt and saturated fat. Link to BBC story

No s#!t, Sherlock.

A Great Day for Freedom!

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that South Yorkshire Police acted illegally in retaining the DNA of two people who were arrested but not charged.

Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights , which is written into UK law as the Human Rights Act 1998, clearly states:

Article 8 Right to respect for private and family life

  1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
  2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Seventeen senior judges decided unanimously that the retention of this information “could not be regarded as ‘necessary in a democratic society’”.

Smith is not taking this lying down, though. She said “The existing law will remain in place while we carefully consider the judgement.” Whisky Tango Foxtrot? Does this mean any defendant, duly pronounced guilty, may now remain at liberty and continue committing further instances of the offence with which they were charged while they “carefully consider the judgement” ?

Read more here [BBC] and here [The Register].

Andrew McClintock: an apology

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

In an earlier post, I called Andrew McClintock — who believed he should not have to obey the Law of the Land because his imaginary friend says so — a homophobic dickhead.

It has been pointed out to me that this choice of wording might tend to diminish McClintock’s standing in the eyes of someone who considers being a dickhead to be somehow less acceptable than being homophobic. (I personally would have expected that believing such things would cause most people’s heads to undergo what mobile phone manufacturers’ lawyers refer to euphemistically as spontaneous rapid disassembly.)

I also realise that there is a world of difference between being a dickhead and merely acting like a dickhead. After all, actors in soap operas who portray characters who perform distasteful acts regularly receive hate mail and death threats from members of the public who conflate television drama with reality, and the imaginary character Deirdre Rachid received more letters of support from a concerned public than any real-life political prisoner. I should not stoop to the level of these people.

Anyway, to return to the subject at hand. Andrew McClintock is not a homophobic dickhead. He is merely a homophobe who sometimes behaves like a dickhead. OK now?

A New Addition to the Blogroll

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

BBC reporter Chris Jeavans is embarking on an ambitious project: to see if she can spend a month without buying any disposable plastic items, including packaging — that’s right, she isn’t even going to buy anything with a plastic over-wrap. Re-usable plastic (e.g. food containers) is O.K. though.

Most of the negative response has been from smart-arses trying to point out that computer keyboards &c. are made of plastic — yes, but you don’t throw a keyboard away after typing one document, do you? (I bet I am going to hear from somebody who does exactly that now.)

I say good luck to her. She’s linked on my Blogroll. You can read the initial story here and the blog here.

Quote Of The Year

Monday, March 17th, 2008

I haven’t broken any law.
I know who I am, and I don’t have to prove that to anyone!

– Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Ezard in The Last Enemy

Bet he doesn’t win

Monday, February 18th, 2008

The National Ambulance Followers’ Federation are out in force again:
How a gambling addict lost £2.1m

The guy obviously begged and pleaded with them to allow him to re-open his account, or gave them some bull$#!t details to create a new one.

Most people know the difference between a bit of fun and a problem. If this idiot wins his case, expect things to get worse for the rest of us.

Andrew McClintock is a homophobic dickhead

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

See this story on the BBC website:
Gay adoption tribunal appeal due
The upshot of it is that a man is complaining because he has to do what the Law of the Land requires, as opposed to what his queer-bashing imaginary friend requires. Well, boo bloody hoo.

I really, really hope this bigoted prick gets shot down in flames. If someone’s religion said that they had to sacrifice thirteen virgins every full moon, we wouldn’t have to umm and aah about allowing them to do that out of some misguided “respect for their religion”. Why on Earth do these christians think that just because their big book of fairy tales tells them that something is wrong with it, they have the right to interfere with a perfectly natural practice?