Alistair Dabbs

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

In defence of online ads: The 'net ain't free and you ain't paying

Something for the Weekend, Sir? It's about to get wet. Have some towels ready. Indeed, I anticipate a good soaking this weekend, both inside and out. This is because Friday 8 June has been announced as World Oceans Day. Come on, you know – that famous international day of celebration when we, er, get the day off work? (no) … hold ocean-themed parties? (no …

Kill the blockchain! It'll make you fitter in the long run, honest

Something for the Weekend, Sir? I am looking for a fit man. Sorry, did I forget to put that in quotation marks? C'est Mme D qui parle and she's staring at her computer screen. "I am looking for a fit man," she repeats in a monotone. I have a quick check around the room: nope, we haven't acquired an Echo, although she did say it twice (heh heh). Is she using …
Man looks into his cellphone/mobile - which looks back at him

Is your smart device a bit thick? It's about to get a lot worse

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Hooded eyes are following my keystrokes. Hidden ears are analysing every shuffle. Deep inside its circuitry, my laptop is tutting and rubbing its silicon chin. I am trying to write another weekly column for a notorious IT-themed scandal sheet and my computer does not like what it detects as I tickle fitfully at the keys. …
Alistair Dabbs, 25 May 2018
A man holds in his poo while looking at the toilet

Want to know what an organisation is really like? Visit the restroom

Something for the Weekend, Sir? I like to hang out in company toilets. That's not to say I linger long after the shake-off – I'm no washroom loiterer – but I do enjoy the visit. It's because I am curious. As an itinerant freelancer, my work takes me to a variety of tech-savvy business premises. And while small companies each have their own style of office …
Alistair Dabbs, 18 May 2018
Red hate key on a keyboard

Your software hates you and your devices think you're stupid

Something for the Weekend, Sir? “I want you to kill Barbra Streisand.” Yup, no problem, I’ll enjoy doing that. Anyone else? “Kylie Minogue. And bloody Madonna, I can’t stand her any more.” Consider them bumped off. It’s sounding a little misogynistic, though. Are you sure? “Leave Chaka Khan alone.” Fine, Chaka survives to sing another day. Anyone else …
Alistair Dabbs, 11 May 2018
50 of your British pounds. Photo by Shutterstock

Blame everything on 'computer error' – no one will contradict you

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Please pass on my regards to Mrs Cromwell for selling me her fig. What's that? You can't? Your email isn't working? Maybe that's because you are trying to log into Gmail with your Yahoo ID. That's right, they are different. They are supposed to be different. Yes, really. No, the computer isn't broken. You're broken, perhaps …

Can't log into your TSB account? Well, it's your own fault for trying

Something for the Weekend, Sir? I am a time-waster. And I hate people who waste my time. This means I know what I'm hating – have fun, all you amateur psychologists out there. I don't want to dither about but at least it's my own time I'm wasting. I am a procrastinator. That's not really the same as a time-waster, is it? Perhaps you could spend a few minutes …
Alistair Dabbs, 27 Apr 2018
Walter Spier L Peter LeComber R photo courtesy University of Dundee Archive Services

The tech you're reading these words on – you have two Dundee uni boffins to thank for that

Every time you use a smartphone, glance at your smart watch, fire up a computer, watch TV or endure a PowerPoint presentation, you experience a little bit of Dundee. The flat-panel technology we use in modern devices wasn't invented by megacorps in Japan or Silicon Valley but by a pair of academics in Scotland's fourth-largest …
Alistair Dabbs, 25 Apr 2018
Statler and Waldorf - copyright - The Walt Disney company - the muppets studio

There is no perceived IT generation gap: Young people really are thick

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Blank faces abound. No, not all are blank: some are horrified, revolted even. What did I say? Security is swiftly called. The usual routine, I think, as a pair of uniformed bouncers slip unhurriedly into the open-plan office, fire doors swinging gently behind them. But no – they come to a halt several paces in front of me and …
Alistair Dabbs, 20 Apr 2018
man reads tablet on the toilet. Photo by Shutterstock

Best thing about a smart toilet? You can take your mobile in without polluting it

Something for the Weekend, Sir? A man on the internet wants me to take a look at his ring. He claims his ring detects hand gestures. Apparently with one flourish of the fingers, it will open up and let you in. His ring supports input as well as output. You can store things in it. It accommodates accessories. He uses it as a means of payment in lieu of cash …
Alistair Dabbs, 13 Apr 2018
Marconi and transmission equipment

My Tibetan digital detox lasted one morning, how about yours?

Something for the Weekend, Sir? My nuts are freezing. So are my toes and fingertips. It's chilly here on my remote Tibetan mountaintop. Being removed from the hurly burly of everyday modern existence gives me a chance to contemplate the truly important things in life. I exercise mindfulness as my exhalations produce swirling clouds before me. I consider the …
Flying pig

Autonomous vehicle claims are just a load of hot air… and here's why

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Up, up and away-a-ay in my beautiful, my beautiful balloooooon… Bye, then. I'm staying here. Nothing would persuade me to get into one of those hot-air death traps. Off you go, floating among the stars, singing your song while sailing along a silver sky or whatever. I've got work to do. OK, OK, I admit I'm scared of the …
Alistair Dabbs, 30 Mar 2018
Man on old phone, image via Shutterstock

Zucker for history: What I learnt about Facebook 600 years ago

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Sudden infant wails finally brightened the delivery room late that night, a relief to everyone, not least the mother. After a quick wipe-down and weigh, the baby was swaddled and handed back to the parents to be comforted. I leant across the bed towards the crying baby, put on my best Yorkshire accent and whispered into her …
Alistair Dabbs, 23 Mar 2018
Leonidas, king of Sparta, as portrayed by Gerard Butler in the film 300. Pic copyright: Warner Bros

I couldn't give a Greek clock about your IoT fertility tracker

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Like to get wet, confides (or asks) the manufacturer in suitably moist English. Faithful admirers of my long-standing column will immediately recognise a sexual double-entendre when they read one. But this time you'd be wrong. Or at least you might be. I'm not sure. I am looking at Comper Healthcare's promotional web pages …
Alistair Dabbs, 16 Mar 2018

A ghoulish tale of pigs, devs and docs revived from the dead

Something for the Weekend, Sir? "My pages have come alive!" accused one from my pod of guinea pigs, unfeasibly. This (as it turned out) not-so-singular anecdote from my murky professional experience working on large-scale content management projects came to mind this week while reading The Reg. It was triggered by that recent Who, me? story about the little …
Office workers in meeting seem frustrated.

Another day, another meeting, another £191bn down the pan

Something for the Weekend, Sir? "Wow, that was quick!" Yeah, sorry about that. I don't like to waste time. I prefer to get my thrust in first and finish off straight away. "You're not joking! I barely noticed it happening, it was over so fast!" I readily admit I have a reputation as an early finisher. If I can, I'll try to get it over and done with before …
skull_648

IT peeps, be warned: You'll soon be a museum exhibit

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Telephone operator, please put me through to… What's that? You want me to address you by your first name? Well, that's jolly friendly. I'm (thinks quickly, decides to use Starbucks name) "Alex". And how should I call you? Right. Alexa, please put me through to… Yes, I said "put me though". You don't understand the question? It …
Alistair Dabbs, 23 Feb 2018
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 …

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