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Alistair Dabbs

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Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling IT journalism, editorial training and digital publishing.

Whaddaya mean, NO REFUND? But I paid in Bitcoins! Oh I see...

Don’t tell anyone but I think I might have made an arse of myself again. It’s one thing to show oneself up among one’s peers but another to demonstrate publicly how thick I am front of people who are smarter, sharper, more successful and frankly a damn sight wealthier than me – a sector of society I generally refer to as "other …
Alistair Dabbs, 22 Apr 2014
Life of Brian

Innovation creates instability, you say? BLASPHEMY, you SCUM

“Mobbafer.” I’m sorry? “Mobbafer.” I didn’t quite catch that. “Mobbafer.” So, ah, you mean, hmm… mob-ba-fer? “Mobbafer! Mobbafer!” When dealing with people who have impenetrable accents – and by that I mean any accent different from my own – I don’t get angry, I get embarrassed. As the interlocutor tries harder to be understood …
Alistair Dabbs, 11 Apr 2014

Nothing's as SCARY as an overly aggressive SOFTWARE PIMP

"Fans, players and parents unite against England's 'rip-off' £90 World Cup kit" screamed the Mirror this week. "They think it’s all over... priced." Even after several thousand years of civilisation and organised commerce, it seems humans still don’t understand basic economics. Demand, not cost of manufacture, determines the …
Alistair Dabbs, 04 Apr 2014

Raised £350bn in crowdsourced funding? Tell me about it (not)

His Girl Friday, All The President’s Men, Pravda, Broadcast News... As a journalist, I ought to be thrilled by reading books and watching dramatisations about other journalists being journalists and generally going about doing their journalisming. Yet there are few things in popular media as forlorn as a journalist talking about …
Alistair Dabbs, 28 Mar 2014
BB_PLAYBOOK_RIM_DOWN_TOILET

They want me to install CCTV to see what YOU did in the TOILET

I have just come out of a boardroom presentation in which a fibre network installer bored us all shitless speaking in initials and acronyms for an hour and a half. The one time we woke up was when he used the expression “SLA”, being the only abbreviation that everyone in the room was familiar with – including the accountant. …
Alistair Dabbs, 21 Mar 2014

Amazon wants me to WEAR NAPPIES?! But I'm a 40-something MAN

I am a very lucky man: Amazon is offering me a 20 per cent discount. The cynics among you might try to claim that everything at Amazon is offered at a 20 per cent discount because of its advantageous tax arrangements but that would be the result of confusion. My 20 per cent discount has nothing to do with VAT being 20 per cent …
Alistair Dabbs, 14 Mar 2014

Why can’t I walk past Maplin without buying stuff I don’t need?

Good news – after weeks of slaving over a seemingly interminable office refurb, occupying seven days a week and painstakingly documented in this column ad nauseam, I finally found some time to get some chores done. Time for me! Time that doesn’t involve paying bills or having to apologise for missing deadlines! Time not covered …
Alistair Dabbs, 07 Mar 2014

But... you work in IT... Why aren't we RICH?

“Monetizing is not the goal; growing is.” And with that explanation for his company’s decision to put another £11.5bn of someone else’s money through the shredder, Mark Zuckerberg fired the starting gun for the race to the next dot-com crash. Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp was not ludicrous, however. Nor was it genius, nor …
Alistair Dabbs, 28 Feb 2014
Reput's app: what are your honest feelings about it?

You’re a LIAR and a CHEAT... la-la-la, I can't hear your lawyers

Interactive Lard. Remember the name: one day they will be huge. This is the rock band name that Dabbsy Lite v1.2 came up with as a result of a random word search through a dictionary. I wouldn’t normally recommend this approach: look what flicking randomly through a discarded Atlas on Wimbledon Common did for Bungo Womble. But …
Alistair Dabbs, 21 Feb 2014
South Korean spam

Spam, a lot of it: Bubble tea is the Seoul of wit

Your Spam Manager is holding 4 messages. Oh here we go... Subject: Customer Invoice Payment From an email address beginning "realestatetips"? I think not. Subject: PLEASE Update BANK DetaiLS Gosh yes that looks genuine, must open that later and run the attachment. Subject: Carreer oppurtunity As a literary agent, I suppose …
Alistair Dabbs, 14 Feb 2014
Alistair Dabbs' office

STRIPPED DOWN and EXPOSED: Business kit from the good old days

A staple of radio phone-ins is to invite listeners to share their stories about funny things they found when moving into a new property. There are some tales that everyone can share, such as front doors fitted with a letterbox so small that you’d struggle to fit a postcard through without having to fold it in half. There are …
Alistair Dabbs, 07 Feb 2014
Apple advertises the first Mac

MAC TO THE FUTURE: 30 years of hindsight and smart-arsery

Christian schoolchildren who pay attention during Religious Education classes will at some point independently wonder why there are more Commandments than Deadly Sins. Keep your Commandments – why are there only seven naughty things to do in one’s life? Even by the age of 12, most youngsters could invent plenty more juicy sins …
Alistair Dabbs, 31 Jan 2014
Terminator postal worker

Robots? What a bunch of workers...

Robots have taken over my newsagent. Well, it’s more of a general store than a traditional sweet shop, I suppose. Also, the mecha infiltration so far seems limited to the tiny Post Office counter situated between the beyond-sell-by-date tinned produce and the freezer chest full of Captain’s Table gag-fests. Yet it’s from such …
Alistair Dabbs, 24 Jan 2014
Trainspotting email

My name is Dabbsy and I am an EMAILOHOLIC

I think I have 30 email addresses; I’m not sure. I suspect there may be others. I have them on every computer and even carry some around on my smartphone. At the height of my addiction, I was creating domains and distributing email addresses to my wife and my employees. I even gave some to my kids. Clip from the Father Ted TV …
Alistair Dabbs, 17 Jan 2014
Virtual Valerie

Twitter: It's JUST LIKE Elder Scrolls (no it's not)

Life is a game. This is what I learnt from the swishy-haired man on the TV in the early hours over Christmas. Society has become so saturated with computer gaming conventions that everyday existence is played out across social media apps like so many levels of Pong. Charlie Brooker, for it was he, was delivering the closing …
Alistair Dabbs, 10 Jan 2014
Bitcoins

We MUST be told: How many Bitcoins do I need to kill a melon-head?

Banks. Bastards, all of ’em, yah boo sucks. Of course, not everything to do with banks is hateful. The big metal safe in a bank’s basement isn’t a bastard. Nor are those intrepid customer-facing men and women who are employed at the high street branches to fulfil the thrilling role of holding a clipboard and saying “hello” when …
Alistair Dabbs, 13 Dec 2013
Toilet

When the lights went out: My 'leccy-induced, bog floor crawling HORROR

Feeling old? Clapped out? Weary of the cut and thrust of everyday work? Looking for a role that pays shitloads of dosh while demanding no relevant experience or demonstrable skill, but chairmanship of the Co-Op bank remains tantalisingly out of your league due to your clean living and good character? Tough. Get back to work like …
Alistair Dabbs, 06 Dec 2013
Google Toilet Paper

Shouldn't we have self calibrating Y-fronts and smart bog roll by now?

Regular readers of this column, those of you who have have suspiciously too much time on their hands on a Friday afternoon will be aware that I am a IT fraud. Compooters are kinda fun and my second-favourite idea for a perfect Sunday afternoon might involve a bit of screwdriver surgery on a troublesome device, but I don't really …
Alistair Dabbs, 29 Nov 2013
Citizen Smith

FAT PIPE for ALL: Britain’s new tech firms take it from the telcos

Reeling under the influence of half a bottle of wine and six tots of exclusive Scotch, I’m introduced to a young woman who produces award-winning reality TV programmes involving the over-elaborate and inconceivably incompetent preparation of food by members of the public alongside celebrity chefs who one assumes must no longer …
Alistair Dabbs, 22 Nov 2013

MANUAL STIMULATION: Whack me with some proper documentation

Another day, another app, another incomprehensible user interface. If this was a proper piece of software running on a proper computer rather than a £500 phone, phablet or some similar pharcical phucking phanboi phondleslab, it might be possible to call up a Help menu or leaf through a manual. Instead, I’m left staring at a …
Alistair Dabbs, 15 Nov 2013
BBC Micro coding session

How my batch process nightmare was solved by a Wombat

“I enjoy these night shifts but what I’d really like is a six-day week with a three-day weekend.” Today's pocket sociologist – let's just call him "Seb" to protect his anonymity – might be onto something here. I'd popped into the office on my way home after a long day buzzing from one client premises to another, only to remain …
Alistair Dabbs, 08 Nov 2013
Sticking the boot in on inkjet printer

Have you reinstalled Windows yet? No, I just want to PRINT THIS DAMN PAGE

Unable to print. Well, thanks, but I think I could have guessed that by myself based on the simple evidence that the printer is still in Sleep mode and output tray is ominously empty. Oh well, I have a bit of time spare and I’m in need of a laugh so let’s run the Troubleshooter. Check your network connections. Good advice. Who …
Alistair Dabbs, 01 Nov 2013
id Software Doom

How I BLEW my co-workers' HEADS OFF ... without going to jail

Guns? Check. Ammo? Check. Bloody squibs. Er no. Chainsaw? Oh, yes indeedy. Right, let’s have a jog around the office, maybe waste a few dudes. And do please keep the camera steady, will you? We want to make sure this gets on video. This is not, as you might imagine, a case of going postal at work or happy-slapping taken to its …
Alistair Dabbs, 25 Oct 2013

Alarming tales: What goes on INSIDE Reg hack's hi-tech bedroom

Mrs Dabbsy is threatening to decamp to the spare room. It’s reminiscent of those radioactive weeks just over a year ago when she was a bearer of unstable atoms but the culprit this time is not an overactive thyroid but my choice of alarm clock. Sleeper Sleep sound, Dabbsy’s not around Source: Wiros Like many professional …
Alistair Dabbs, 18 Oct 2013
Fujistu palm-vein scanning mouse

Double-click? Oh how conventional of you, darling!

Click and wait. Now click again. OK, that didn’t work. Let’s try again. Click and let go of the mouse button... and wait... and click a second time. No, I don’t want you to double-click. I need you to click twice, yes, but with a gap in between. Look, you have to click and leave that mouse button alone for a second or two …
Alistair Dabbs, 11 Oct 2013
self-service checkout

Oh, shoppin’ HELL: I’m in the supermarket of the DAMNED

“Thank you for using Fast Checkout.” Whuh? “Thank you for using Fast Checkout.” It’s nice to be thanked by a machine but I haven’t used Fast Checkout. Not yet, anyway. I’m still standing at the automated till with a heavy metal basket - rock on, shopping dudes - cutting into my fingers of one hand while I’m jabbing at the …
Alistair Dabbs, 04 Oct 2013

Congrats on MP3ing your music... but WHY bother? Time for my ripping yarn

Good news. A year on from the ICT debacle at my son’s school, he has ditched the joint and found another place where his skills are more appreciated. Faithful readers may remember - as for all you unfaithful readers, I understand the political parlance is to call you "sluts" - that a couple of days before he was due to embark …
Alistair Dabbs, 27 Sep 2013
Can't take pictures

WHY do phone cams turn me into a clumsy twat with dexterity of an elephant?

I was a little dismissive last week about the technical improvements Apple says it is introducing to the photographic capabilities of its blinged-up iChav smartphones. Just because mimicking street fashion smacks of corporate desperation at – is it cuz I iz gold, innit? – this should not mask the details of the much-improved …
Alistair Dabbs, 20 Sep 2013
Gold iPhone 5s, in'it?

Massively leaked iFail 5S POUNDS pundits, EXCITES chavs

If it was tedious putting up with the prelaunch hype, it was at least entertaining this week to watch so many commentators backtrack on the cobblers they’d been serving up just hours before the event. I’m talking about the iPhone 5S/iPhone 5C launch, of course. Everyone else has expressed an opinion these past couple of days, so …
Alistair Dabbs, 13 Sep 2013
Sinclair Digital Watch

Smartwatch craze is all just ONE OFF THE WRIST

Douglas Adams’ classic 1970s sci-fi satire described the Earth’s population as “so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea”. And here we are again, on the cusp - as in ‘hey, boys, check out my cusp’ or ‘ouch I fell on my cusp’ - of a new outbreak of idiocy that regards digital …
Alistair Dabbs, 06 Sep 2013
Candle in the dark

Behind the candelabra: Power cut sends Britain’s boxes back to the '70s

“Would you like to watch a film with me tonight?” Although the timing seems good – it has just gone 8pm – the offer is extraordinary. You see, in the busy Dabbs household, each member of the family works to his or her own barely compatible calendar and so it is mandatory to book in advance before any interaction can take place …
Alistair Dabbs, 30 Aug 2013

Holiday HELL: Pourquoi, monsieur, why is there no merdique Wi-Fi here?

DAY 1 I arise at 02:00am and clatter about the house noisily. This is my preferred method of waking up the family without the ignobility of knocking on bedroom doors or the inevitable upset that follows from vigorously shaking shoulders or throwing iced water into faces. I have booked a cheapskate pre-dawn flight and I do not …
Alistair Dabbs, 23 Aug 2013

You MERCILESS FIEND... you put that audio file on AUTOPLAY

It was a quiet morning at the office. The early risers among the team were settling gently at their desks and discreetly going about their business. All that could be heard was the swish of papers, the soft clicking of mice and several varieties of birdsong. Birdsong? I thought I might be suffering the effects of the previous …
Alistair Dabbs, 26 Jul 2013
Colossus computer from The Forbin Project

Knocking China with shocking phones and mocking tones

This week began with a story that has become a stalwart of lightweight modern journalism: someone was killed by a computer. It’s a provocative and, let’s face it, often entertaining concept that has inspired many sci-fi writers and filmmakers from the 1950s through to the late 1970s. Of course, in fiction, the solution is for a …
Alistair Dabbs, 19 Jul 2013
New infantry kit modelled by British troops. Credit: MoD

Gadgets are NOT the perfect gift for REAL men

Let’s pretend it’s your birthday. For some of you, it may actually be your birthday, in which case you’re going to find this bit simple enough. Now, what kind of present would you like? Concentrate as I work myself into a trance. The mists are clearing... you want... you want... some sort of techie gadget. Well, that was easy. …
Alistair Dabbs, 12 Jul 2013
Messy mouse ball. Source: University of Washington

Tickle my balls, stroke my button and blow the fluff from my crack

“Give yourself a little blow job every morning and your working day will be a happier one!” These were the unabashed directions given to me during my first professional computing training course. The trainer was full of these saucy one-liners. Another of her favourites - for my trainer was a she - was: “If fluff gets down your …
Alistair Dabbs, 05 Jul 2013
spark fun electronics rotary dial mobile phone

Live or let dial - phones ain’t what they used to be

Shut up shut up shut up. Some annoying tit is typing away on his laptop as I’m trying to snooze on the train – except it doesn’t sound like he’s typing so much as rummaging through a bag of Scrabble tiles. It’s a horrible clattery, clickety, plasticky noise. Shut up shut up shut up, you twat. I’m on the train heading home after …
Alistair Dabbs, 28 Jun 2013

Pussy galore: Bubble-bath webcam spy outrage

“I can make money from it, so why not?” This was a soundbite from a Radio 5 Live phone interview with a “Finnish webcam hacker” who claimed to have “sold” the ability to watch women as they sit in front of their laptops. The reporter and presenters were suitably appalled at the callous and blatant admission, and everyone agreed …
Alistair Dabbs, 21 Jun 2013
iOS spangles at WWDC

Apple dangles Spangles while Dabbsy's cables rankle

Yet another Apple keynote has just whizzed by without so much as a squeak of useful criticism. The non-revelations in the opening keynote of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco this week confirmed just about everything that had already been leaked. To summarise, there will be an iOS upgrade that looks like a …
Alistair Dabbs, 14 Jun 2013
Duke of Wellington

Help! I’m trapped inside the Chamber of Hollers

There’s this guy in the office who sits ten feet behind me. Lovely bloke, diligent worker, cares passionately about his job, loud voice. Oh yes indeed, a really loud voice. It doesn’t seem to matter that there’s an office divider between us, his voice is as clear and piercing as if he was sitting next to me. It’s not even an …
Alistair Dabbs, 07 Jun 2013

Fear the Embarrassing Bodies webcam

Some of my colleagues get writer's block. I suffer from reader's block. I may have a mild form of dyslexia or it may be due to having a very short attention ... you know, whatever. Today, I am unable to reach the end of the following sentence without forgetting how it started. You have a go... A multi-tiered, hybrid approach …
Alistair Dabbs, 31 May 2013
Radioactive wives can be a domestic hazard

Curse you, old person, for inventing computers!

Since being allowed back into public places without causing the skin of those nearby to melt or for Jurassic sealife to shuffle out of the Pacific and sneeze fire at Tokyo Tower, Half Life Wife has enjoyed several evenings out at the theatre with yours truly. My love for theatre has only recently returned, having been beaten out …
Alistair Dabbs, 24 May 2013

I said ‘no’ to a million-pound Tech City empire

I have been propositioned in a toilet by a 72-year-old man. He wants me to move in with him and do the business. Ah, it’s possible that I may have phrased this poorly. What I really meant to say is that he is looking to me to arise and provide him with a youthful injection to keep him in the game. No, no, you’re getting the …
Alistair Dabbs, 17 May 2013
Sony Xperia Go rugged Android smartphone

Excess all areas

My career is taking a turn for the worse. No doubt some of you consider that getting paid to bash off 750 ill-judged and frequently inaccurate words every Friday morning about one’s inability to use a computer correctly is an obstacle that you might suffer to stumble over as you stagger along your own rocky career path. I’m …
Alistair Dabbs, 10 May 2013
Intel Moore's Law

Mooreslaw: Chopping up chips for the future

While computer enthusiasts enjoyed something of a golden age of magazines in the late 1980s, with comic-book inspired titles like Bong! and Fart!, those who were lucky enough to be actually working in the field of business or government computing at the time were served by what could fairly be described as an aluminium foil age …
Alistair Dabbs, 03 May 2013
Monster Beats Pro

Master Beats: Why doesn't audio quality matter these days?

Returning from a school trip to New York, my son handed back most of the $350 spending money we’d given him. Yes, I too thought it was a lot of dosh for a four-day tour but then I have no experience in the matter. When I was a kid, a school trip involved walking up to the pond to catch tadpoles for biology class, not …
Alistair Dabbs, 26 Apr 2013
Spaced's Daisy Steiner

British bookworms deem Amazon 'evil'

“My only real prediction is that it’s all changing.” Well, ask a stupid question - in this case, about the future of book publishing. The lobotomy-inducingly obvious answer was provided by author Neil Gaiman. If I’d written this prediction here on El Reg, I would have been derided as a time-waster specialising in stating the …
Alistair Dabbs, 19 Apr 2013
Robo doggy doo

Oh S**T, here comes a ROBOT to take my JOB

The enormous lump of shit sat steaming directly outside the publisher’s door facing the first-floor landing, welcoming early morning office workers as they arrived with a cheeful “Hello! I’m a giant turd! And I smell really bad!” Each member of staff who had chosen to begin work at 7.30am that day reacted the same way: wrinkled …
Alistair Dabbs, 12 Apr 2013
spok

The healing hands of guru Dabbs

A colleague strides purposefully across the open-plan office to the production desk. She has the wrinkled brow and wild eyes of someone who is simultaneously baffled and angry. She’s on deadline but her computer is “doing stupid things” and she doesn’t understand what or why or how to stop it. Oh no, I'll have to ask Dabbsy "Oh …
Alistair Dabbs, 05 Apr 2013
Personality glasses - Joe 90

I am NOT a PC repair man. I will NOT get your iPad working

“My nephew bought me one of those iPad things for my birthday.” My heart sinks – I can already tell where this is going. I’m at a neighbour’s house party, the time is last summer, and one of the older partygoers is about to tell me that some new-fangled technology is too much for him to cope with now that he has reached the age …
Alistair Dabbs, 29 Mar 2013