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Verity Stob

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Verity Stob is the pseudonym of a software developer based in London. Since 1988, she has written her "Verity Stob" column for .EXE magazine, Dr. Dobb's Journal and, now, The Register.
Linux

The missing five-minute Linux manual for morons

It is time to wake up and smell the elephant in the room. Vista is struggling to achieve escape velocity. Microsoft finds itself the butt of an international joke, but does not seem able to get a grip. The issue of choice of platform is once more up for grabs. Of course there is an alternative; a popular computing platform …
Verity Stob, 14 Apr 2008
Dalek

Doctor Who and the moody Dane

Perhaps motivated by the desire to avoid type-casting, David Tennant is to take time off from television, to lead the RSC's forthcoming production of Hamlet. Your correspondent sneaked into early rehearsals. Episode I. Elsinore. The guard-platform of the Castle. Enter HAMLET, HORATIO and MARCELLUS. Hamlet The air bites …
Verity Stob, 25 Feb 2008
The Register breaking news

Her Light Materials, Volume I

'So that's how I came to be mysteriously orphaned and, on my ninth birthday, just three years ago today, sent to work as a junior grader at the Ah-Poo! Toilet Tissue reclamation factory at Fort Wirth', explained Jo, our heroine, a feisty, scruffy and independently-minded young tomboy whose more mature, more feminine side we won' …
Verity Stob, 20 Jan 2008
The Register breaking news

The art of software murder

Only the guilty need be afraid Did you ever try Paint Shop Pro? It is the most splendid of programs, a faithful collie dog of a program. Whistle for it and it bounces up off your hard disk, and licks your face, and gambols around all eager and excited and ready to play. Design industry pros may swear by Photoshop, but that …
Verity Stob, 20 Dec 2007
The Register breaking news

Programming with Marigold gloves on

We were quite awestruck and overcome with jealousy when Wired magazine managed to get in that guru of the grated nutmeg, high priestess of the investment handbag, and archdeaconess of the artichoke salad to host its annual 'How to' issue. Wired came straight out and asked Martha, who is photographed putting the finishing …
Verity Stob, 13 Nov 2007
Warning: aircraft

An unsatisfactory meal in County Antrim

I say, "I could try ringing again." R, my boss, wipes the raindrops off his specs to look at me impatiently, and starts jabbing at his mobile phone. I sit down on our pile of laptops and computer gear. The Warm Welcome Hotel and Guest House, Ballylolly (seven bedrooms, three diamonds, three stars, and a lucky clover) is …
Verity Stob, 09 Oct 2007
The Register breaking news

In the beginning, there was the flowchart...

Those who can, do. Those who can't, make those who can draw a picture My first effort in instructing computers, about 30 years ago, was drawing a flowchart. Here it is as I remember it, albeit without the smears and crossings-out with which my 14-year-old self doubtless decorated the original. A simple flowchart describing …
Verity Stob, 16 Aug 2007

Comments are disabled

'What if,' said a friend down the pub the other day, when the conversation was circling uneasily for take off at that tricky third round mark, 'what if those old Greek philosophers - you know, the ones that used to sit around all day gassing - what if they had had the benefit of modern social website software, like Facebook? …
Verity Stob, 17 Jul 2007
The Register breaking news

Beyond the valley of the drolls

There's another of those lists of supposedly amusing/sage/cute adages going around, bouncing from blog to email, accumulating fresh contributions and occasional edits and doing all the meme-ish things that memes do. This one differs from all the others that you have deleted irritably from your email inbox in that it includes a …
Verity Stob, 18 Jun 2007
The Register breaking news

More fables for our time

Fewer people than I would expect seem to be aware of the American humorist James Thurber's fine self-illustrated reworking of Aesop's fables entitled Fables for Our Time. Thurber's stories, being written in 1939, lack coverage of the digital age. I therefore humbly offer three new fables as tribute to the master, and as a …
Verity Stob, 06 May 2007
The Register breaking news

Absolutely SFW

Before I start, please take a moment or two to identify your exits, in the unlikely event of the alarm sounding during this article. These are clearly marked with a blue underline like this (nb this is not an actual exit, but just a demonstration of what an exit would look like if this were an exit. Do not click on this), and …
Verity Stob, 09 Apr 2007
The Register breaking news

Unhelpful Microsoft help denies helpless millions help

Here is a little contest, to which all fellow Windows programmers are invited. What is the API function LockWindowUpdate for? How might you use it? You are definitely allowed, nay encouraged, to use the official Microsoft documentation. Here is the function description on MSDN, and here is the same documentation on the upgraded …
Verity Stob, 08 Mar 2007
The Register breaking news

When Mercury went down

Last month, Kiwi programmer David Harris officially threw in the towel. After 17 years, he announced he was ceasing development of Pegasus Mail, the famous, free-as-in-beer, email program. (That Mr Harris subsequently retrieved the towel, now damp in patches and covered in other people's hairs, I will get around to in a moment …
Verity Stob, 06 Feb 2007
The Register breaking news

Was that the 2007 that was?

Two article formats inevitably get rolled out at this time of year: the list of predictions for the next twelve months, and the answers to the seasonal topical quiz (which was printed in late December as a filler in the absence of any news and to enable us journalists to spend a few precious Yuletide days in the environs of the …
Verity Stob, 03 Jan 2007
The Register breaking news

Yuletide Weblog roundup

Ah, Christmas! When pubs fill up with inexperienced drinkers to the disapproval of regular sots, when lunchtime turkey sarnies get a blob of cranberry jam and are relaunched as 'Christmas dinner flavour' for a 40p premium, and when the moneyed middle-classes are not ashamed to be seen shopping at Woolworth's. Ah, Christmas! …
Verity Stob, 04 Dec 2006
The Register breaking news

Under Torch Wood

FIRST VOICE No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; SECOND VOICE Ahem. Hold on there, Richard. Wrong script. FIRST VOICE I do beg your pardon. My mistake. I thought you were Jeff …
Verity Stob, 06 Nov 2006
The Register breaking news

Oh my Word

Microsoft Office Word is a candidate for the world's favourite program, provided you accept BA's use of "favourite" as a synonym for "ubiquitous" (me neither). One app may bind them all, but its users come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Here is the Reg's kut-out-and-keep guide. Antiquary The Antiquary refuses to …
Verity Stob, 04 Oct 2006
For Sale sign detail

Poetry in slow motion

Thanks to the Beeb's correctly extensive celebrations of Sir John Betjeman's centenary, Betjmania is once more abroad and has conquered everywhere. (Everywhere? Well, as they say in the Asterix books, everywhere except one tiny village...) In recent days, hooded teenagers have abandoned their accustomed role as shopping arcade …
Verity Stob, 04 Sep 2006
The Register breaking news

Out of the (C++) loop

Hi Verity, are we up for some more frolics and fun? Nope. It's a spot test today. Using your neatest handwriting, write out a standard C++ loop on the nursery blackboard. No copying. This will count towards your final grade. Joy. What brought this on? Oh, ok – gimme the chalk, let's get it over with: for (int i = 0; i < …
Verity Stob, 08 Aug 2006
The Register breaking news

House style

I'm not usually a great one for American TV comedy, the cartoons excepted. But recently I came upon a wonderful thing called House, featuring Hugh Laurie as the eponymous hero, a consultant at a New Jersey hospital. Laurie is an effective counter to that arch-enemy of all American hospdrams, Doctor Mawk. The first pleasure to …
Verity Stob, 07 Jul 2006
The Register breaking news

Hexadecimal coinages

All top computing publications should occasionally put out a glossary of new and with-it computing jargon, together with clarifications of expressions that have evolved with the new technology. Here is ours. Architect: Any programmer who has specified a database, or a File menu, or even just the keys in a section of an INI file …
Verity Stob, 07 Jun 2006
The Register breaking news

C++/CLI: a paradigm too far

Microsoft has been firing off some big guns in support of something called 'C++/CLI'. The Softies would really like to lure C++ users into the suburban programming world of .NET - the .NETscape if you wish. But their previous attempt in this direction, a system called 'Managed Extensions to C++' that was composed mostly of …
Verity Stob, 05 May 2006
The Register breaking news

Skunkworks roundup

Natch, the Reg is your first port of call for the low-down on all the big product announcements. But today we're taking it one step further. As a special treat, we have a preview of some hot stuff that even the CTO doesn't know about yet. ++SatNav == SatNag SatNav has certainly come a long way since the days when we watched …
Verity Stob, 05 Apr 2006
The Register breaking news

Borland's Delphi goodbye

And it came to pass that the Sons of Kahn, who dwelt in the valley of the Scotts, fell yet again upon interesting times. And their fortune did wax and wane, only with not so much of the wax. And they did bring forth a version of Delphi called '2005'. But the users of Delphi looked upon it with scorn, for it was a stinker. And …
Verity Stob, 07 Mar 2006
The Register breaking news

The unbearable not-rightness of Bitesize

Letters We received a shed load of emails in response to our jibes at the BBC's Bitesize website for GCSE sufferers. Many came forward to explain the site's use of the term 'ICT' instead of the more usual 'IT'. Andrew Field, Head of ICT at a secondary school in Cambridgeshire, writes We do have to call the subject ICT at …
Verity Stob, 13 Feb 2006
The Register breaking news

Good enough for kids

Sitting watching telly, a BBC trailer for its Bitesize GCSE revision programme caught my eye. This is an adjunct to the BBC website, a sort of punishment block, where young shavers are encouraged to swot up for their oncoming exams. What, I wondered idly, were our youngsters being taught about our own, dear trade? How had things …
Verity Stob, 06 Feb 2006
The Register breaking news

Catch as catch can

Exception handling is a comparative newcomer to the programmer’s toolset. The mighty for loop, the enigmatic if statement and the cheeky little counter increment have been with us since the first automatic languages bubbled to the surface of the primordial programming bog at Manchester, more than half a century ago. But, …
Verity Stob, 11 Jan 2006
The Register breaking news

Candid Dalek shares thesp titbits

Do you remember, earlier in the year, there was an episode of Doctor Who where the Dalek stuck its sink plunger through a computer screen and downloaded the entire internet? And then went on to commit suicide? (The Doctor, who inclines towards complex and indeed Lamarckian explanations, diagnosed its depression as being caused …
Verity Stob, 01 Dec 2005
The Register breaking news

Data transfer without tears

Ms Stob claims that old comedy sketches, written in the pre-PC era, need to be ported to a safe, modern and familiar environment in order properly to be enjoyed by safe, modern and familiar IT staff. She offers this classic example… —   Thanks for that, Peter. Excellent. An excellent meeting. I look forward to pushing forward …
Verity Stob, 13 May 2004
The Register breaking news

Stob: Dylan Beard is not weird

There was a rare opportunity to meet Dylan Beard in person today when, flanked by a brace of spear-carriers, he brought his campaign to reimplement the 'Wron number to London. For all its supposed iconoclastic nature, the Free Number Association was rather conventional in its approach to publicity. We met at the traditional …
Verity Stob, 23 Feb 2004
The Register breaking news

Stob: Pirated 'Wron number yours for free

It's been a bad week for beleaguered, bedraggled and be-loathed Softwron chief Rock McDosh. On Monday it was admitted that the 'Wron number had been let loose on the Internet; today comes the news that Dylan Beard of the Free Number Association has already made an imitation of the nefariously nicked number and plans to give it …
Verity Stob, 20 Feb 2004
The Register breaking news

Stob: Number patents Euro-endorsed

Strasbourg. Jean-Paul Le Cliché, Euro commissioner for regulation and commerce, has announced - as predicted in The Reg - that the new US extension of patents to integers will be incorporated into EC law. "This change will come as an element from a greater unit from measurements from reform from patent than we have now at …
Verity Stob, 19 Feb 2004
The Register breaking news

Stob: McDosh hires Titbits

Stob Dateline: Two hours 37 minutes ago. US software and litigation giant Softwron Inc, has upped the stakes in the battle of its patented 'Wron number, recently stolen and released onto the 'Net. Before a packed press conference of cynical reporters who giggled and took bets on how many times he would say "going forward", much …
Verity Stob, 18 Feb 2004
The Register breaking news

Stob: Softwron number stolen

Pioneering patentee and litigator Softwron Inc admitted today that its infamous so-called 'Wron number (see El Reg passim) has been stolen and made available on the Internet, "where just anybody can download it and use it". The theft was discovered late last night, when the employee assigned to look after the number found the …
Verity Stob, 17 Feb 2004
The Register breaking news

Stob: You have opted in

(Previously: Notorious spamillionaire Sam "The Spam" Osborne has been giving poor Verity Stob the run-around.) Louis Theroux would never put up with this. It was time to get tough. I asked Osborne about the recent EU spam legislation. "Terrible. Terrible. A truly wretched thing." It was forcing him to close down his operation …
Verity Stob, 16 Jan 2004
The Register breaking news

Stob: Something for the ladies

(Previously: Sam ‘The Spam’ Osborne, the notorious spamillionaire, is being surprisingly frank about the goods he pushes.) I asked Osborne: "So are all your medical products aimed at men?" "By no means." He pushed a leaflet towards me. I read: Want to lose weight quickly and painlessly? What could be more natural or organic …
Verity Stob, 15 Jan 2004
The Register breaking news

Stob: Why men buy blue pills

(Previously: Sam "The Spam" Osborne, the notorious spamillionaire, has improbably represented himself as a philanthropist.) Time for the interview proper. Did he admit spamming was immoral? "Spamming? Immoral?" He was amazed. "You’ve seen my operation. I’m providing a public service!" In what sense, I wondered, was it a …
Verity Stob, 14 Jan 2004
The Register breaking news

Sp@m: the myst.eries xp1ained!!! By Stob

(Previously: Verity Stob has travelled deep into Essex to meet Sam ‘The Spam’ Osborne, England’s first spamillionaire.) Inside the house, I expected a typical wealthy Essex businessman’s abode: crossed sawn-offs over a granite mantel, 300 inch widescreen TVs in every tennis court, more fake marble than you could shake a …
Verity Stob, 13 Jan 2004
The Register breaking news

Stob: Interview with a bulk emailer

I leave the A12 a few miles after Chelmsford and am instantly deep in rain-soaked countryside. Half an hour of nervous driving on slushy narrow lanes I come upon a vast, newly built mock-Tudor mansion, grandly set up in many acres of sodden lawn. A nameplate screwed to elaborate wrought-iron gates declares: "DunRo@ming". This is …
Verity Stob, 12 Jan 2004
The Register breaking news

’Wron number caught in Fermat-defying romp

US software and litigation giant Softwron Inc is today vigorously denying a rumour that its newly patented integer, the so-called ’Wron number, has been caught flouting numerical law. Hirsute expensively-suited granite-jawed granite-named Mr Rock McDosh, founder and CEO of Softwron, appeared before the world’s press to defend …
Verity Stob, 27 Nov 2003
The Register breaking news

Softwron shows off its new technology

Today was ‘open doors day’ at Softwron Inc, the US software and litigation giant. Softwron is the first company to take advantage of the US Patent Office’s surprise announcement that integers are patentable. To counter recent unfavourable coverage, the company took a party of top-notch journos, your correspondent naturally …
Verity Stob, 27 Nov 2003
The Register breaking news

First integer patented

Softwron Inc, the US software and litigation giant, has become the first company to make a move in what is increasingly becoming known as the Great Rumble for Numbers. The recent surprise announcement by the US Patent Office to grant patents on integer numbers has meant that industry-watchers, Wall Street and the Association of …
Verity Stob, 26 Nov 2003
The Register breaking news

Patented numbers ‘a good idea’

To get some background on the recent move by the US Patent office on the patentability of numbers, The Reg spoke to IP lawyer Lawrence P Po™a®© (pronounced ‘potmarc’) of the distinguished LA firm of Po™a®©, Po™a®© & Po™a®© (pronounced ‘potmarc, potmarc and potmarc’). "The IP legal community is real excited about this," …
Verity Stob, 25 Nov 2003
The Register breaking news

Numbers to be patentable

In a move that has surprised naïve observers, the US Patent Office has announced that from now on it will consider ‘serious’ applications to patent specific integer numbers. "It was the logical next step," grey-haired and twinkling Patent Laureate Mr J Dall Swanhuffer twinkled to a shocked press conference today. "Remember …
Verity Stob, 24 Nov 2003