Alistair Dabbs

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

Who would code a self-destruct feature into their own web browser? Oh, hello, Apple

Something for the Weekend, Sir? “Put down the sacrificial dagger and step away from the goat.” Tsk, typical. I make all the effort of finding a remote hillock in Wales and an inexpensive black doe for my pagan ritual and I’m not even halfway through the banishing ceremony. It’s wet and cold and the trailing edges of my robes are muddy, and now some norm in a …
Alistair Dabbs, 05 Feb 2016
Still from the movie Zoolander: Derek and a fellow model try to get the 'files' out of the Mac by smashing it to pieces. copyright Paramount Pictures

'Printer Ready'. Er… you actually want to print? What, right now?

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Whirr whirr click. Oh come on, print, dammit. Bzzzzt. Whirr click [silence] brrrrrrrrrrr [silence]. Why is it that an office printer manages to churn out pages day after day without delay or complaint, yet chooses to play silly buggers the moment you are in a hurry? Eh. Phut. Click. The green activity light is blinking …
Alistair Dabbs, 29 Jan 2016
Robots, image via Shutterstock

AI no longer needs to fake it. Just don't try talking to your robots

By the early 22nd century, Mega-City One will stretch down the eastern seaboard from Montreal to Georgia. It will be home to some 400 million citizens. Almost all of them will be unemployed. Judge Dredd’s vast satirical dystopian backdrop in the pages of 2000 AD is one of the comic’s most colourful settings. A predominant …
Alistair Dabbs, 28 Jan 2016
The Seeing Eye by Valerie Everett, Flickr, CC2.0

Five technologies you shouldn't bother looking out for in 2016

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Welcome to the future! The skies are full of flying cars, the waters are full of personal submarines and our digital wallets are full of 57 varieties of mutually incompatible blockchain-based monetary currency. Food is consumed in the form of nutrition pills. The outdoor temperature is determined by Weather Control in Berlin. …
Alistair Dabbs, 22 Jan 2016
Photo by Heather Sorenson / sxc.hu

Put your private parts on display if you want to keep earning a living

Something for the Weekend, Sir? My prospective client is staring at my nuts. The quality of my work is apparently not too important. What really matters are the warm bits that dangle between my legs. Indeed, the human resources rep is insisting that I be prepared to present my lobster and urchins on demand, as regularly as possible. You’d think I would be …
Alistair Dabbs, 15 Jan 2016

Smartphone hard, dudes, like it’s the end of the world!

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Welcome back. Just think, it’s been a week already since glum users began reluctantly re-occupying seats that had been blissfully empty during most of Christmas and New Year. No doubt your Monday was spent dealing with forgotten-password requests, Tuesday helping the same users who had already forgotten the replacement password …
Alistair Dabbs, 08 Jan 2016
that's all folks featuring Porky Pig

If it still works six months from now, count yourself lucky

Something for the Weekend, Sir? My underwear smells of bacon. The idea, I think, is to make carnivorous members of society salivate in the unlikely event that they should ever bring their faces into close proximity of my shreddies. Unable to test the effectiveness of this theory "in the field", as it were, I am forced to take it on trust. That said, I can …
Alistair Dabbs, 04 Dec 2015

So why exactly are IT investors so utterly clueless?

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Are you thick or what? No, really, how else can you explain why you invest vast sums of money on daft schemes that nobody wants? Long-time readers of this column may remember my little Tech City adventure a while back, in which I managed 2,000 sq ft of chic hipster office floorspace in the heart of London’s so-called "silicon …
Alistair Dabbs, 27 Nov 2015
Super Woofer by Pleuntje, Flickr, under Creative Commons 2.0

Love your IoT gadget but could you keep the noise down?

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Shutupshutupshutup. There’s a man with an extraordinarily annoying voice on this floor and I wish he would take his fulsomely resonating gob somewhere else. Blah blah market synchronisation blah blah invested intelligence blah blah cooperative disruption arse bollocks. Don’t you just love open-plan offices? Actually, come to …
Alistair Dabbs, 20 Nov 2015
Gerard Depardieu. Pic by Thore Siebrands, licensed under CC 3.0

Let's get to the bottom of in-app purchases that go titsup

Something for the Weekend, Sir? I have paid to watch a fat French man’s thrusting buttocks on TV. But something has gone wrong. Despite my attempts to display gallic grinding on the living room screen, my TV is – quite literally – not playing ball. It’s not what you think. Actually, on reflection, yes it probably is. I had better explain. This week I …
Alistair Dabbs, 07 Nov 2015

The only GOOD DRONE is a DEAD DRONE. Y'hear me, scumbags?!

Something for the Weekend, Sir? There’s nothing worse in journalism than a big-mouthed writer who can’t take what he gives. So I would like to thank all those readers who emailed me personally to offer their opinions on last week’s column in which I cast doubt on Hollywood’s portrayal of computer hackers as sharp-witted and articulate with washboard abs rather …
Alistair Dabbs, 31 Oct 2015

If MR ROBOT was realistic, he’d be in an Iron Maiden t-shirt and SMELL of WEE

Something for the Weekend, Sir? I have an urge to dress up in unconventional clothing, don a wig and parade myself around east London. You may be relieved to learn, without indicating prejudice, that this will not involve women’s clothing. I am neither a master potter nor am I on the game. Sorry to disappoint. I had better explain. MCM London Comic Con …
Alistair Dabbs, 24 Oct 2015
Passenger plane exploding on the gournd

Self-driving vehicles might be autonomous but insurance pay-outs probably won't be

Something for the Weekend, Sir? I enjoy travel but I do not fly well – especially if the aeroplane’s wings are rusted, the tail has been attached with vinegar and brown paper, and the undercarriage is still sitting in the ditch it fell into at the end of the departure airport’s runway some 300 miles away. As you might have guessed, I am a big fan of the TV …
Alistair Dabbs, 17 Oct 2015

PHONE me if you feel DIRTY: Yanks and 'Nadians wave bye-bye to magstripe

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Whenever I dump my load, I don’t feel the need to swipe. Swiping is far too dirty for me. I’d rather just lightly touch, lift up my trousers and walk away. Having slipped the touch-and-go debit card back into my wallet and collected my load of clothes shopping that I had dumped at the till – why, what did you think I was …
Alistair Dabbs, 10 Oct 2015
Police direct a cabbie at the Uber protest in London

Only a CNUT would hold back the waves of the sharing economy

Something for the Weekend, Sir? The Turtle-Necked Twats are having their bluff called at last. Taxi-hailing app developer Uber has been invited to rejoin the real world and the TNTs are in uproar. London’s transport authority, TfL, has launched a public consultation into private-hire taxi services in England’s capital. As usual, Uber’s TNTs are convinced …
Alistair Dabbs, 03 Oct 2015
Cheat by https://www.flickr.com/photos/sohelparvezhaque/ CC 2.0 attribution https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

VW’s case of NOxious emissions: a tale of SMOKE and MIRRORS?

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Karma must be a great comfort to those who believe in it. The assurance that nasty deeds will be accounted for, eventually, must make all the shit we have to put up with worthwhile. Take Martin Winterkorn, forced to resign his role as head of Volkswagen this week, amid revelations that his company had been systematically …
Alistair Dabbs, 26 Sep 2015
A pair of side cutters

RFID wants to TRACK my TODGER, so I am going to CUT it OFF

Something for the Weekend, Sir? There’s something I’d like to show you in my underpants. Come along, now, don’t be shy. Take a good look. See how it dangles there getting in the way? And yet, conversely, it’s a little bit stiff, isn’t it? This makes wearing tight underpants pretty uncomfortable, I can tell you. Pass me those scissors and I’ll cut the damned …
Alistair Dabbs, 19 Sep 2015

You want to DISRUPT my TECH? How about I DISRUPT your FACE?

Something for the Weekend, Sir? My “iBeats by Dr Dre” earphones have ceased functioning. They lasted all of eight weeks. Tangerine Dream at Coventry Cathedral. HD. Tangerine Dream at Coventry Cathedral 1974. While I’d been joking that I was trying to defile Dr Dre’s muvva-fuddin’ bitch-slappin’ earphones by listening to early Mike Oldfield and Tangerine …
Alistair Dabbs, 12 Sep 2015
cheating_648

You tried to hide your extramarital affair … by putting it on the web?

Something for the Weekend, Sir? What’s your name, chuck, and where do you come from? “My name’s William, Cilla, but my friends call me WILLY eheh heh heh and I’m from HORNY Hornsea!” (Studio audience cheers noisily for no obvious reason) And you, number two? “My name’s ROD uhuh huh huh, and I’m from uhuh huh huh SHAFTesbury.” (Studio audience …
Alistair Dabbs, 05 Sep 2015

FORKING BitcoinXT: Is it really a coup or just more crypto-FUD?

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Bitcoin is about to fork off. Too forking right, some of you may cheer. But a great many Bitcoin “users” – miners, developers, retailers and spenders – are against the idea. If you ask them about it, they’ll tell you they don’t like being forked about. Some of them say they couldn’t be forked. You thought Greece was in turmoil …
Alistair Dabbs, 29 Aug 2015
Two upended shopping trolleys in an alleyway. Photo by Cyron, licensecd under CC 2.0

'Unexpected item in baggage area' assigned to rubbish area

Something for the Weekend, Sir? "Please wait while we verify your bags." Oo-er, sounds a bit rude! Youtube Video In a Carry On film, they’d follow this up with "Ooh nurse, feel my pulse". Or as Butthead might say: "Uh-huh-huh. You said 'verify'. Uh-huh-huh..." After last week's SftWS column was spiked, The Reg was kind enough to re-run one of my old …
Alistair Dabbs, 22 Aug 2015

IT jargon is absolutely REAMED with sexual double-entendres

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Alistair Dabbs is currently hanging upside down in a cave at an undisclosed location. While he slakes his thirst with the blood of those who crossed him, El Reg is re-running one of his timeless classic columns. My wife is looking at online porn again. This can happen accidentally to anyone from time to time, usually while …
Alistair Dabbs, 15 Aug 2015
Toilet

All hail Ikabai-Sital! Destroyer of worlds and mender of toilets

Something for the Weekend, Sir? My toilet is working again. I’m sure regular readers are overjoyed to learn this, and I extend a particularly warm welcome from me and my toilet to those reading this Saturday morning’s column while eating breakfast. That first celebratory slash of relief following three consecutive weeks of toilet withdrawal symptoms was …
Alistair Dabbs, 08 Aug 2015
Bank vault

Windows 10: Buy cheap, buy twice, right? Buy FREE ... buy FOREVER

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Microsoft wants to give me Windows 10 for free! Hooray for freebies! OK, some of my software no longer launches or works quite the way it’s supposed to, but I got used to that after upgrading to Windows 8, and then again with Windows 8.1. Free software, yay! Give it away, now! Youtube Video To be honest, I only thought about …
Alistair Dabbs, 01 Aug 2015

It’s DEJA VU: Customer forgets to tell us about essential feature AGAIN

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Déjà vu. I’ve just walked into the offices of a prospective new client for the first time and everything looks familiar, from the faux marble cladding and chromed door handles in the reception to the roughened white wallpaper and very specific shade of blue carpet tiles on the main floor. The Matrix - Déjà vu For all their …
Alistair Dabbs, 25 Jul 2015
2001: A Space Odyssey

Evil computers sense you’re in a hurry and mess with your head

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Error 51: Consult service manual. Error 51? Is that supposed to be a joke? I mean, it sounds like a bad pun on “Area 51”. Oh, those wacky error-message coders on the firmware development team, they kill me, they really do. Let’s try again. Print. Error 51: Consult service manual. Come on, come on, don’t give me that. …
Alistair Dabbs, 18 Jul 2015
"Composition with yellow, red, black, blue, and grey" by Piet Mondrian (1920)

What do you MEAN, 'Click on the thing which looks like a Mondrian?'

Something for the Weekend, Sir? A minicab driver is cross with me. As we swing around the tidy little streets of 60s-built suburbia, none of which look familiar, he fixes me in his rear-view mirror and snarls: “Don’t you know where you live?” Yes I do, I reply in calming tones, adding – less helpfully – it’s you who doesn’t know where I live. If I’m guilty …
Alistair Dabbs, 11 Jul 2015
Nikola Tesla's fake lightning, Recuerdos de Pandora on Flickr CC2.0 license

Let me PLUG that up there, love. It’s perfectly standaAAARGH!

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Want a new driveway? No problem, mate. Fix your garage door? Sorted. Oh, what, you want the the garage door to open on to the driveway? Oh no no no no, no can do, pal, that’s not done, they is sep’rate. Tell you what, though, I got a mate who could build you a shortcut so you can get the car from the drive to the garage through …
Alistair Dabbs, 04 Jul 2015
Darth Vader choking someone

That man told me to stuff a ROLE up my USER ENTRY!

Something for the Weekend, Sir? “Who are you, again?” Well, that’s just great. I’ve been talking to tech support customer services for barely two minutes and already he’s forgotten my name. To be honest, I can hardly blame him, considering my own inability to memorise names instantly, as recounted in this column many times. Tell me your name and within 10 …
Alistair Dabbs, 27 Jun 2015

FLICK my FLINT and SNIFF my TREE on the streets of Naples

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Youtube Video "See Naples and die" the saying goes. After visiting the city recently, I can believe it. Hang around there long enough and you’ll be dead. The likely causes of your imminent death in Naples are many: you might be run over by a motor scooter, stumble into a pothole in the broken pavements, get hit by falling …
Alistair Dabbs, 20 Jun 2015
zombie_648

DON’T add me to your social network, I have NO IDEA who you are

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Alistair Dabbs is away. This column is a repeat publication from back in 2014. Enjoy! Norbert Spankmonkey has invited you to connect. Oh dear, not another one of these mystery invitations. Who the heck is Norbert Spankmonkey? Did we exchange emails perhaps, or cross swords recently on a forum? Could I have met him at that …
Alistair Dabbs, 13 Jun 2015
self-service checkout

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

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Alistair Dabbs is away. This column is a repeat publication from all the way back in 2013. Enjoy! “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 …
Alistair Dabbs, 06 Jun 2015
Homer Drooling

The oracle knows all. Not THAT Oracle, of course

Something for the Weekend, Sir? We’ve reached the end of an extended, hot, steamy and sweaty session that has been going on practically non-stop for several days – just me and four willing young women. One of them suddenly sits up, looks into my eyes and whispers those magic words: “I have a quick question.” Oh lordy, here we go. It’s almost five o’clock on …
Alistair Dabbs, 30 May 2015
Fritz Pfleumer with his magnetic tape recorder

Putting your schlong into the reel-to-reel tape machine is a bad idea

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Last week, I promised you I’d rip my two mighty appearances on Granada Plus’s The Computer Channel (later relaunched as .tv) in 1997 from VHS. Well, a promise is a promise, if only half-kept. Here for your viewing curiosity is just one of my BAFTA nomination-worthy performances for a short-lived night-time satellite TV programme …
Alistair Dabbs, 23 May 2015
Starbucks Dabbsy

Right Dabbsy my old son, you can cram this job right up your BLEEEARRGH

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Slinking away early from yet another works leaving party this week, I was reminded with some regret that I will never get one of my own. All those nice words spoken, all those pats on the back, all those clinking glasses of pub house wine. How lovely it must be to be surrounded by so many faithful colleagues celebrating the fact …
Alistair Dabbs, 16 May 2015
Passenger plane exploding on the gournd

SOD TABLETS, if you want to get anything done travelling get a ... yes, a LAPTOP

SFTW, Sir? Some people mature like a fine wine. Others mellow out like a smooth whiskey. Yet others get more sprightly and a bit fruity as they grow older, akin to a strong gin and tonic. I am a cheap Rioja. By this, you understand that I’m widely available and don't cost much but never quite live up to my reputation. In fact, I often …
Alistair Dabbs, 09 May 2015
School of Rock

Why should I learn by ORAL tradition? Where's the DOCUMENTATION?

Something for the Weekend, Sir? The eye-rolling comes first. This is followed by a resigned sagging of the shoulders. Then comes a theatrical slump forward, often accompanied by an equally melodramatic groan, as each user in turn puts head on desk and covers same with arms. And so begins a new round of user training in a new piece of content management …
Alistair Dabbs, 02 May 2015
Acer Iconia One 8

Acer introduces a REVOLUTION in tablet tech: The PENCIL

Pics In an earlier article on The Register, Acer revealed its PC plans – but also in evidence at its recent press launch in New York last week was the company’s belief that there is still plenty of room in certain market segments for tablets. Acer Iconia One 8 Acer's Iconia One 8: why buy a fancy stylus when you can use the 2mm …
Alistair Dabbs, 28 Apr 2015
Acer E series

Acer: 'We will be the last man standing in the PC industry'

Pics Acer CEO Jason Chen this week tore through the company's international product launch presentation – on the 68th floor of New York's 4 World Trade Center – like a rock star on speed from start to finish. He even donned sunglasses at one point and there seemed every chance that he might not take them off. Acer E series laptops …
Alistair Dabbs, 27 Apr 2015
Man in an orange jumpsuit clutches prison bars. Image by Shutterstock

Stuff your RFID card, just let me through the damn door!

Something for the Weekend, Sir? "Never heard of them." Well, could you look again? "They're not on the list, sir." Look, I was here last week. The business I am visiting today definitely exists. It's in this building. Please let me through. [shuffling of papers] "Did you want Amalgamated Durables? No? How about Insure and Blow? Or is it one of those tech …
Alistair Dabbs, 25 Apr 2015
Wolfenstein 3D

Let’s PULL Augmented Reality and CLIMAX with JISM

Something for the Weekend, Sir? “Augmented Reality is a terrible expression,” says the AR demonstrator. “It’s a pity it doesn’t have a better name. So we call it XXooming. With two Xs.” Oh dear, I can tell this is about to be a presentation involving a string of brand-new made-up terms designed to mask the abject failure of the technology in question to have …
Alistair Dabbs, 18 Apr 2015
Crystal ball via http://www.manoftaste.de/

Struggling through the Crystal Maze in our hunt for a spare CAT5

Something for the Weekend, Sir? “For heaven’s sake, they’ve moved everything.” Sharp observation. Of course they moved everything, it’s an office move. If they hadn’t moved everything, some of your kit wouldn’t be there at all. It would still be 10 metres away where you used to sit. We are Glass – Gary Numan As office moves go, at one of my client’s …
Alistair Dabbs, 11 Apr 2015
Gromit as HMV dog Little Nipper

Streaming tears of laughter as Jay-Z (Tidal) waves goodbye to $56m

Something for the Weekend, Sir? This was a contradictory week for the music industry. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. On Wednesday, I attended the unveiling of an IEEE Milestone plaque to commemorate the invention of stereo recording in 1931 by the prodigious scientist-engineer Alan Dower Blumlein. The event was hosted by Abbey Road …
Alistair Dabbs, 04 Apr 2015
Jeremy Clarkson

Forum chat is like Clarkson punching you repeatedly in the face

Something for the Weekend, Sir? How can you condone racist violence, Alistair? Blimey! I’m not sure I know the answer to that one. In this round, there is no conferring. They sure come up with difficult questions in online forums. Perhaps my interrogator and I are at cross-purposes. I decide to find out. “Racist violence?” I type tentatively without …
Alistair Dabbs, 28 Mar 2015

Dear departed Internet Explorer, how I will miss you ... NOT

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Rumours reaching Dabbsy Towers that Microsoft might be finally letting Internet Explorer die gave me absolutely no joy or cause for celebration. Hahahahahahahaha. It has been said in places that, having been the world’s favourite web browser straddling the Millennium years, Internet Explorer defined the emerging Internet age …
Alistair Dabbs, 21 Mar 2015

Yay! Wearables! It's the future! Uh-oh! I'm going to be sick

Something for the Weekend, Sir? What do you do when your brain is missing? Let’s say you put it down somewhere the night before but you can’t remember where and now you can’t find it. Or perhaps you were harmlessly manning the comms link when the bugs tunnelled under your off-world fort, jumped up and sucked your brains out. I have the answer: get yourself a …
Alistair Dabbs, 14 Mar 2015
Child swearing

Give biometrics the FINGER: Horror tales from the ENCRYPT

Something for the Weekend, Sir? This week’s sorry tale of security-lapse-by-design might reveal plenty about political interference but it tells us even more about human nature in general. Due to some poorly thought-out US government policy some 20 years ago, yet another security lapse has raised its ugly head, drawn back its lips and threatened to sink its …
Alistair Dabbs, 07 Mar 2015

I, ROBOT ~ YOU, MORON. How else will automated news work?

Something for the Weekend, Sir? They want to replace me with a robot. This is an excellent idea. In a world of unlimited connected information, it’s about time that the middleman stopped getting in the way. Things happen, facts materialise, they end up online, then you read them. Simple, really. What’s a journalist for? Even better, El Reg commentards will …
Alistair Dabbs, 28 Feb 2015

For pity's sake, you FOOL! DON'T UPGRADE it will make it WORSE

Something for the Weekend, Sir? It’s decided: I am going to be an actor. Apparently, actors have better sex lives than any other profession. In fact, according to the press release in front of me, they shag 550 per cent more often than bankers. Oh, hang on. The survey didn’t quote “actors” exactly, it said “those in acting and performing”. Given that some of …
Alistair Dabbs, 21 Feb 2015
Stella Artois: Queens Tennis Championship. Artwork by stevecaplin.com for The Guardian

(Re)touching on a quarter-century of Adobe Photoshop

Feature Nothing proves the popularity of a star product more than its name being used as a verb. Rival companies hate it, but carpets get Hoovered, wrapping paper gets Sellotaped. And what do you do to a photo? A poorly Photoshopped picture can arouse horror or derision, while a half-decent one can become an internet phenomenon. Think …
Alistair Dabbs, 19 Feb 2015