Alistair Dabbs

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

She wants it. She needs it. Shall I give it to her or keep doing it by myself?

Something for the Weekend, Sir? “Give it to me pleeeese!” she begs, staring longingly into my eyes. “I’m desperate and will do anything.” It’s 5:30am and we are the only people in the office. I stutter that I’m not at liberty to satisfy her demands right there and then. It’s too early for me. Could she wait a while? She takes a step towards me and begins …
Alistair Dabbs, 22 Jul 2016
shutterstock_238128856_phone_theft

Gaming apps, mugging and bad case of bruised Pokéballs

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Back in the 1970s, cockney actor Mike Reid’s catchphrase on children’s TV was “Runaround – GO!!!” For the benefit of American readers... oh look, it’s too difficult to explain. However I would love to hear him shout “Pokémon – GO!!!” if only to alleviate the relentless publicity over what counts as children’s entertainment …
Alistair Dabbs, 15 Jul 2016

You can’t sit there, my IoT desk tells me

Something for the Weekend, Sir? I don’t know what to do with my arse. Should I be swivelling on it? Should I do it leaning forward with pressure applied to the small of my back? Or would I be better advised to do the business standing up? For various reasons, I am in the market for a standing desk: that is, a desk that you can work at while standing upright …
Alistair Dabbs, 08 Jul 2016
Twilight Zone, 'Time Enough At Last'

A trip to the Twilight Zone with a support guy called Iron Maiden

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Thank you for submitting a support request. You can put your clothes back on now. In another dimension, logging a call could involve a full invasive strip search. Or perhaps there’d be a sado-dimensional version of Zendesk in which, having determined that a user is raising frivolous issues, sends attitude-corrective electric …
Alistair Dabbs, 01 Jul 2016
Boy with a backpack hides his eyes and cries. Pic by Shutterstock

I want to learn about gamification but all I see is same-ification

Something for the Weekend, Sir? “You don’t know you’re born,” they would say to me during my first holiday job. “You don’t know you’re a sad, blubber-arsed freeloader coasting towards retirement,” I’d reply… in my head, of course. Out loud, I would complain that they were being unfair, and I would be slapped down with that most frustrating of clichés “Life’ …
Alistair Dabbs, 24 Jun 2016
Facepalm by https://www.flickr.com/photos/the-magic-tuba-pixie/ cc 2.0 attribution generic https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Should we teach our kids how to program humanity out of existence?

Something for the Weekend, Sir? "Kids tend to spend far too much of their childhood in an unproductive way," it says here. I quite agree. It was the same when I was a child. All that counting numbers and spelling words they made me do over the years was a massive drain on my television-watching time. "Research shows that children have an increasing problem …
Alistair Dabbs, 17 Jun 2016

Computerised stock management? Nah, let’s use walkie-talkies

Something for the Weekend, Sir? I’d like to try these in a size nine-and-a-half or size 10, please. “A size nine... and-a-half?” the shop assistant asks incredulously. Yes. Or a 10. “Which size do you want – the nine-and-a-half or the 10?” I’d like the size that fits my feet. “So... are your feet size nine-and-a-half or size 10?” Ah now, I can’t say for …
Alistair Dabbs, 03 Jun 2016
Screenshot from the movie Airplane!

In-flight movies via BYOD? Just what I always wan... argh no we’re all going to die!

Something for the Weekend, Sir? It’s sunny outside, which can mean only one thing: I am about to go on holiday to a place where it will be pissing down with rain and sleet for the next fortnight. My globetrotting exploits have been limited this year, so I’m looking forward to enjoying my first experience of in-flight entertainment via Wi-Fi to my own device …
Alistair Dabbs, 27 May 2016
Tintin and Captain Haddock. Pic by Thibaut Démare, licensed under cc 2.0

Being an IT trainer is like performing the bullet-catching trick

Something for the Weekend, Sir? I’m on stage with a gun pointing at my heart. There is the sound of nervous shuffling as those sitting in the stalls squirm in their seats. Then silence: the audience quickly falls still and holds it breath. The man armed with the musket is raising the muzzle to take better aim before slowly squeezing the trigger… He pauses. “ …
Alistair Dabbs, 20 May 2016

Ooh missus, get a grip on my notifications

Something for the Weekend, Sir? YOU LOVE IT YOU SLAG This was, as alert followers of my column may recall, the first SMS text message I ever received on my first ever mobile phone, sometime during the last century. I did not bother to find out who sent it to me. It was a wrong number, of course... but not knowing with absolute certainty ensures that the …
Alistair Dabbs, 13 May 2016

Kobayashi Maru gets real: VR and AR in meatspace today

Three years ago few people other than hardcore gamers and those working in specialist industrial fields were still talking about VR. It was a gimmicky technology cursed by the “P” word (“potential”) and huge, ungainly headsets that generated a flurry of interest in the late 1990s that quickly evaporated. Today, it’s big news …
Alistair Dabbs, 13 May 2016
Cthulu emerges from a printer. Image created by illustrator Andy Davies. Copyright: The Register

You can always rely on the Ancient Ones to cock things up

Something for the Weekend, Sir? We have installed a water feature in Dabbs Mansions. It’s an impressive vertical fountain with a splash radius of two metres. In hindsight, it was probably a mistake to install it in the utility room. To be honest, I don’t even remember ordering it. The first I knew about the whole thing was returning home after an hour and a …
Alistair Dabbs, 06 May 2016
Kelly LeBrock Weird Science

Rampant robot tries to rip my clothes off

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Things are getting steamy. My valet is trying to pull down the back of my trousers. “We’ll have these off you in a jiffy, sir,” he sings. This is his job, after all. I mean its job: my valet is a robot. An autonomous descendant of the ubiquitous hotel trouser press, it is designed to collect my garments as I disrobe, clean …
Alistair Dabbs, 29 Apr 2016

How IT are you? Find out now in our HILARIOUS quiz!

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Gor blimey guv. I jus’ bin dahn the ol’ rub-a-dub for a pokey alright sparrah do us a lemon John. Fret not, faithful reader. Be comforted that I have neither succumbed to Dickvandykitis nor do I have any compulsion to “do the old bamboo” – a suspicious euphemism if ever I heard one. I am merely rejoicing in being told that I …
Alistair Dabbs, 22 Apr 2016
Daniel Craig and Dabbsy

I am sending pouting selfies to a robot. Its AI is well buff

Something for the Weekend, Sir? I like to pick roses on a summer’s day and meeting friends. I dearly wish for world peace. I hope to work with children, just as soon as I have completed my doctorate in astrophysics. Not really, but I am in training. I am about to enter a beauty contest. At the risk of slipping back into my default double-entendre mode, it’s …
Alistair Dabbs, 15 Apr 2016
Scotty in the original Star Trek

Field technicians want to grab my tool and probe my things

Something for the Weekend, Sir? There’s a woman at the front door. She has come to twiddle my knobs. Here we go, you’re thinking: yet another puerile SftWS column opening with cheap sexual innuendo. Well, not this time, young Bucky. It’s been four years almost to the day since I first began writing these weekly rantings, so it’s about time I put an end to …
Alistair Dabbs, 08 Apr 2016
Man types something into Mac while sipping a glass of lemon water. Not a brilliant idea. Photo by SHutterstock

Which keys should I press to enable the CockUp feature?

Something for the Weekend, Sir? The person sitting next to me has confessed that sometimes he likes to do it sideways. Apparently this way he can make use of the full length without straining his neck. He’s lucky: not everyone has the facility to rotate their computer display. Even those that do often don’t realise they can. A manager I worked for quite a …
Alistair Dabbs, 01 Apr 2016
Nokia old-school diddy phone

Let’s re-invent small phones! Small screens! And rubber buttons!

Something for the Weekend, Sir? “You know what they say about people with small hands?” Yes I do: according to the Museum of Carry On Jokes, they are favoured by women with small breasts. Or men with a tiny schmeckel. It must be frustrating to be excluded from high society for having smaller-than-average hands. For example, did you notice the glaring paucity …
Alistair Dabbs, 25 Mar 2016
Rafael Lozano_Hemmer: Surface Tension (1992)

Electronic Superhighway 2016-1966 – a retro: Texts, ar*se and ASCII rolls

Pics A large photo of a woman's bottom greets you as you walk in. Chat messages are emerging from it. Not to worry, it's only Olaf Breuning's mischievous "Text Butt" (2015). Immediately to your left is Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige's Geometry of Space (2014), a mixed-media installation comprising stretched oxidised steel, …
Alistair Dabbs, 21 Mar 2016
Woman angrily hangs up phone. Photo via Shutterstock

Web ads are reading my keystrokes and I can’t even spel propperlie

Something for the Weekend, Sir? A friend has the willies. He even went on Facebook to tell us about his willies. He’s not normally the kind to get the willies, but willies is what he has. American readers of this column may be disappointed to learn that my friend is neither a fellow of loose morals nor is he, as far as I am aware, multitudinally …
Alistair Dabbs, 18 Mar 2016
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You say I mustn’t write down my password? Let me make a note of that

Something for the Weekend, Sir? My desk-side wastepaper basket is full. OK, sure, first world problems and all that, but it’s 8am and I have only just walked in to the office. Why would my bin be full? I haven’t put anything in it yet. Despite being full, this bin does not contain what an office bin is supposed to contain: there’s no half-full coffee cup, …
Alistair Dabbs, 11 Mar 2016

Everything bad in the world can be traced to crap Wi-Fi

Something for the Weekend, Sir? “Ah, it’s sod’s law,” murmurs the person sitting next to me. I nod agreeably. It was inevitable. I am attending a brief awards ceremony for student journalists prior to this year’s Hugh Cudlipp lecture. Young journos, we were reminded, were masters of digital content and were making their names through the use of social media …
Alistair Dabbs, 04 Mar 2016

My devil-possessed smartphone tried to emasculate me

Something for the Weekend, Sir? My left testicle is bruised. Next to me, my wife is looking at me with a surprised expression. Once the stars fade from my eyes, I realise I have just screamed out loud like a little girl. Given what had just happened to my testicles, I almost became a little girl. I really must try to remember to adjust the position of my …
Alistair Dabbs, 26 Feb 2016

The paperless office? Don’t talk sheet

Something for the Weekend, Sir? A report has arrived in my email inbox, claiming to provide information on “the paperless office”. Instinctively, I check the calendar. No, it isn’t 1985. Perhaps I misread the subject line? Nope. There it is: “the paperless office”. Ah bless. I’ve heard people talking about the concept of office work without paper since my …
Alistair Dabbs, 19 Feb 2016
monty_python_french_knights_648

Send tortuous stand-up ‘nine-thirty’ meetings back to the dark ages

Something for the Weekend, Sir? It begins with a murmur. Despite my best attempts to ignore it for as long as possible, the indistinct mumbling gradually becomes intelligible, forcing me to pay attention. “Is it now?” I glance at my watch surreptitiously as being seen to do so could make it difficult later to claim ignorance of the time. I shrink down, don …
Alistair Dabbs, 12 Feb 2016