Alistair Dabbs

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

HomePod, you say? Sex sex sex, that's all you think about

Something for the Weekend, Sir? My wife has a hairy tongue. At least, I think she may soon develop one. The source of this information is the package leaflet inserted into the box of capsules she's been prescribed for what the doctor reckoned was a bad case of Woman Flu. Fans of Japanese surreal fiction and body horror should spend more time reading these …
Alistair Dabbs, 16 Feb 2018
old Cassette Tape player and recorder on a white background... the play and record keys are blurred from use.

Home taping revisited: A mic in each hand, pointing at speakers

Something for the Weekend, Sir? I once tried to do it standing on one leg, arms pressed against the wall for stability. On other occasions, I would do the business with arms and legs akimbo. In fact, I have variously tried it huddled in a corner, sitting on a ping-pong table, at both ends of a teak sideboard, straddling the back of a leather sofa and even …
Boy with binoculars photo via Shutterstock

Web searching died the day they invented SEO

Something for the Weekend, Sir? You can find anything on the internet apart from the specific thing you're looking for. No wonder the boffins at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center are bigging up the enormity of the task of decoding data from its recently rediscovered zombie satellite. They probably did a web search for the old system and came up with a blank …
Bearded man with crazed expression wearing multiple pairs of glasses

Ever wondered why tech products fail so frequently? No, me neither

Something for the Weekend, Sir? It's not working. Sorry, this has never happened to me before. Actually it has, frequently, but let that pass. Can we try again in a few minutes? Foolishly, I agreed to help an ex-colleague with some user acceptability testing this week. It's a chore I swore I'd never do again, such that for my own digital publishing projects …
Alistair Dabbs, 26 Jan 2018

Why did I buy a gadget I know I'll never use?

Something for the Weekend, Sir? It could get steamy in here. I have stripped off the layers and am now looking to turn up the heat. I’m looking forward to an afternoon of delightful tenderness with plenty of oohs and aahs. I certainly don’t want things to be chewy. Preparing the Brussels sprouts for Christmas dinner is always a challenge. The Dabbs …
Alistair Dabbs, 19 Jan 2018
IpHONE x family line-up

Apple iPhone X: Two weeks in the life of an anxious user

A top-end smartphone isn’t just for Christmas: it’s for 18 months, maybe two years, two-and-a-half at a push. So here at The Reg, we let the stardust settle around Apple's iPhone X launch before putting the product to test in the field for longer than an afternoon. Fanboi squeals written up just after you peel away the …
Alistair Dabbs, 18 Jan 2018
Trotter's Independent Trading Co.

Self-driving cars still do not exist even if we think they do

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Before I take off my Sonic The Hedgehog socks, I want to be sure there is mutual consent. I don't mind being extradited to Sweden but there's no way I want to spend the next five years conducting my daily ablutions under a cold dripping tap in the faux-marble tiled toilet in the Ecuadorian embassy. Luckily, I have an app for …
Alistair Dabbs, 12 Jan 2018
Ten fingers with windows flag

The healing hands of customer support get an acronym: Do YOU have 'tallah-toe-big'?

Something for the Weekend, Sir? "I have something to show you," she purrs, reclining suggestively across the sofa. "Come and have a peek." This invitation from Mme D is irresistible. But just as soon as I kick off my slippers, don my welding goggles and settle down beside my wife, she sits up abruptly and exclaims: "Sorry, no, it's not there any more!" Such …

10 years of the Kindle and the curious incident of a dog in the day-time

Something for the Weekend, Sir? A little worse for wear after the first Christmas party of the season, I stagger up the driveway to be met at my own front door by... a Kindle. The Kindle is tapping one foot while gauging the weight of a rolling pin in its hands. It is furious. It demands: "And what time do you call this?" That throws me. My dad used to ask …
Alistair Dabbs, 24 Nov 2017
Una chooses the special offer

It's artificial! It's intelligent! It's in my home! And it's gone bonkers!

Something for the Weekend, Sir? I have awoken to the sounds of electronic growling. Making my way downstairs, I discover teethmarks in the bannister, a pool of oil by the back door and the remains of a torn-open jumbo box of AA longlifes in the kitchen. That damn robot dog simply has to go. I locate the chirpy little bastard sitting on the lounge sofa. It …
Alistair Dabbs, 17 Nov 2017

The day I almost pinned my tushie as a Google Maps landmark

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Facebook wants to look at my nuts. Aided and abetted by the Australian Government, the $407bn fake news disseminator is fascinated by my inseminator. By having a right old gander at my toilet duck, it hopes to stop other people from Googling my googlies. It's no game. Australia's eSafety Office has confirmed that it will …
Alistair Dabbs, 10 Nov 2017
woman drinks vile green liquid

Those IT gadget freebies you picked up this year? They make AWFUL Christmas presents

Something for the Weekend, Sir? An eerie green glow is radiating from my 1960s sideboard. Arming myself with the only weapons at hand – a TV remote control and a cushion from the sofa – I guardedly edge towards the ghastly rectangular cuboid of varnished beech. A dull, distant thumping can be heard, growing louder as I make my approach, and ultimately …

Car trouble: Keyless and lockless is no match for brainless

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Cheep-cheep-cheep. I'll try again. Cheep-cheep-cheep. Nope, that didn't work, how about this? Cheep-cheep-cheep. Or… this? Cheep-cheep-cheep. Come on, lock up, you bastard car. Cheep-cheep-cheep. I cut a frustrated figure as I skirted around the bright red vehicle I had rented just 45 minutes earlier at an airport desk …
Alistair Dabbs, 27 Oct 2017

Your data will get hacked anyway so you might as well give up protecting it

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Flee! Flee! It’s the return of the frozen heads! With childish inevitability, this steaming pile of perennial medi-nonsense is trying to stage a comeback. Walt Disney did it, and now your own bonce can jostle with his for space in the freezer at a fraction of the price. And it’s all going to happen within the next ten years. …
Alistair Dabbs, 20 Oct 2017

ARM chip OG Steve Furber: Turing missed the mark on human intelligence

"Brains are massively parallel. We each have just under 100 billion neurons inside our heads, all running at the same time. And they are hugely connected, with 1015 synapses connecting the neurons together. The way forward in computing is parallelism. There is no other option." Professor Steve Furber, one of the designers of …
Alistair Dabbs, 19 Oct 2017
A beaver chewing down a tree

I love disruptive computer jargon. It's so very William Burroughs

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Would you mind leveraging a time unit while I ideate my ecosystem? Sorry, I meant to say “Give me a minute while I sort my things out” but I’ve been writing a lot about disruptive technology this week. I must have zoned while dogfooding my hume-code for bugs… er, I mean “got carried away while proofreading my articles for …
Alistair Dabbs, 13 Oct 2017
Neanderthal

Hipster disruptor? Never trust a well-groomed caveman with your clams

Something for the Weekend, Sir? The Dawn of Man. Picture a pastoral scene of prehistoric arcadian bliss as our troglodyte ancestors sit about calmly picking fleas off each other's backs. One eats a banana. Another slowly munches the scraps from a mammoth bone. The rest seem happy munching the fleas. Mmm, fleas. Young Trog is wallowing in a nearby rock pool …
Robot touches screen with finger. Photo via Shutterstock

30 strong fingers but still no happy ending for robotic back rub

Something for the Weekend, Sir? The future is a six-handed massage. Apparently some engineers have sidestepped the conventional uses for robotics – stealing your job and exterminating the human race – by putting several additional arms at the disposal of adventurous masseurs. So the claim goes, anyway: it's an example of how next month's HUBOT exhibition in …
Alistair Dabbs, 29 Sep 2017
Desks in a Classroom

You forgot that you hired me and now you're saying it's my fault?

Something for the Weekend, Sir? "I'm sorry, who are you again?" I am being challenged by a polite but slightly baffled receptionist. I repeat the declaration I shouted into the video intercom at street level a minute earlier: that I have been hired for the day to train a number of staff on-site. Not being expected when I turn up at a customer site is an …
Alistair Dabbs, 22 Sep 2017
Apple iPhone X poo

'All-screen display'? But surely every display is all-screen... or is a screen not a display?

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Right. Right. Right. No, left. I said LEFT! Oh for the love of humanity, swipe left now! My eyes! Sorry, no, I mean "My EARS!" Is this what it's like to browse a dating site by voice command? I only ask because I hear that dating apps have been introducing Alexa skills and I am trying to work out why. Let's say you're …
Alistair Dabbs, 15 Sep 2017

Stuff the movement of celestial spheres, let's sit down and watch Bonnie Tyler on TV

Something for the Weekend, Sir? I'm on deadline for two concurrent articles and another client has asked me to rebuild their app with a new welcome screen by tomorrow morning, which is also when I shall be training a classroom of delegates how to use spectrophotometers to create custom-calibrated ICC profiles. So much to do, so little time to prepare. Which …
Wi-fi symbol as chocolate dusting on cappuccino foam. Photo by Shutterstock

Connect at mine free Wi-Fi! I would knew what I is do! I is cafe boss!

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Stop the digital presses, hold the home page – I have breaking news for you! An organisation somewhere in the world has NOT been hacked into today! Of course when I say "been hacked into", I mean "allowed anyone with a computer and the slightest inclination to take an unauthorised copy of confidential customer records with the …

Pre-order your early-bird pre-sale product today! (Oh did we mention the shipping date has slipped AGAIN?)

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Good Afternoon, Alistair Dabbs. Do you still write in the direction of Hi-Tech, didn't you? Perhaps you will find fascinating the following information. Yes, I still write in that direction. I am hoped to it finding fascinate. It's easy to mock. If the roles were reversed, who knows what kind of mangled Mandarin I'd be …
Alistair Dabbs, 28 Jul 2017

Ten new tech terms I learnt this summer: Do you know them all?

Something for the Weekend, Sir? I'll never forget the day I found my children looking at Spam for the first time. My son was particularly perplexed, asking: "Is that what I think it is?" It was my own fault. I had left the tin on the kitchen counter. Even in his tender years, my tech-friendly tweenager was perfectly familiar with spam. But not Spam. He'd …
Alistair Dabbs, 21 Jul 2017
View-Master vintage advertisement

What can you do with adult VR, some bronze gears and a robotic thumb? On a Friday?

Something for the Weekend, Sir? A VR headset is pressing down on the bridge of my nose. The strap is pulling out strands of hair from the back of my head. I have bruised shins after walking into a coffee table. This, apparently, is "the closest thing to real sex". I must be doing it wrong. VR, that is. Or sex. Or both. Perhaps not expecting to get bruised …
Alistair Dabbs, 14 Jul 2017

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