Alistair Dabbs

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Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling IT journalism, editorial training and digital publishing.
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
steampunk-looking robot smokes pipe. pic shutterstock

On the couch with an AI robo-doc asking me personal questions

Something for the Weekend, Sir? "Tell me about your mother." I should have guessed that was coming. I am on a virtual couch, being diagnosed by a digital psychiatrist. Naturally it's a virtual couch. Being British, I don't own such a thing in real life. I have various other types of soft furniture and even once considered buying one of those reclining …

Dead serious: How to haunt people after you've gone... using your smartphone

Something for the Weekend, Sir? I will be annoying when I am dead. In fact, I plan to be much more of an irritant after passing away than I am at the moment as the once-dicky ticker continues to clock up the artery miles. How will I inflict annoyance from the grave? Well, I have an app for that. Or at least I will have once it's available on Android: …
Alistair Dabbs, 30 Jun 2017
Wire wastepaper bin filled with scrunched up paper. Photo by Shutterstock

Smart burglars will ride the surf of inter-connected hackability

Something for the Weekend, Sir? What the world needs now is an intelligent dustbin. It would be the pinnacle of achievement for the Internet of Things sector. But wait – it already exists! And in common with its robotic, pseudo-not-actually-AI brethren, it has a suitably daft anthropomorphic moniker. Instead of labelling it with a gender-presumptive name …
Alistair Dabbs, 23 Jun 2017
Thanks, I suppose. Woman contemplates unwanted gift. Photo by Shutterstock

My unpopular career in writing computer reviews? It's a gift

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Nice t-shirt. Where did you get it? "Oh, it was just something they put in the box with the socks." You got a free t-shirt with some socks? "No, the socks and t-shirt came free with the bomber jacket." OK, so you bought a jacket and got a free t-shirt and socks... "The jacket was free as well. It all came with the laptop …

The nuclear launch button won't be pressed by a finger but by a bot

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Nothing could hurry Cool Dave. Tall and taciturn, he would make his way around school between classes at his own pace. When he talked, he not so much spoke as delivered a quiet soliloquy in a thoughtful and deliberate manner. Cool Dave looked you in the eye. He spent time considering before answering questions. He never …
Ewok

The revolution will not be televised: How Lucas modernised audio in film

Star Wars New Hope @ 40 The opening sequence of Star Wars is designed to give you a jolt. It's heightened by those moments after the legend "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..." has faded, leaving you sitting in a silent, pitch-black cinema auditorium. Then kapow – without warning you are blinded by the iconic logo at full screen and made to …
Alistair Dabbs, 26 May 2017
Monty Python TV viewer

Life is... pushing all the right buttons on the wrong remote control

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Mrs Dabbsy is getting cross. I know this because she has said "grrrr". People don't often say "grrrr" in everyday conversation so it's noticeable when they do. Either that or you are inadvertently chatting with Tony the Tiger over a bowl of over-sugared breakfast cereal. The target of The Glowing One's ire (this time) is the …
Alistair Dabbs, 26 May 2017
banksy_hmv_nipper_bazooka_648

Bye bye MP3: You sucked the life out of music. But vinyl is just as warped

Something for the Weekend, Sir? When I was younger, I had a chronic problem with fluff gathering in awkward-to-reach places. What can I say? My personal grooves acquired dirt very easily. It was a teenage thing, I suppose. Neither sterile wipes nor the careful application of a vacuum cleaner seemed to help so I ended up seeking professional advice. A man-in …
Alistair Dabbs, 19 May 2017
Lefty's Bar from Leisure Suit Larry

What augmented reality was created for: An ugly drink with a balloon

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Dabbs (Mrs) and I are in bed. She is shaking my shoulder to wake me up. “Not again,” I groan. “I’ve done it three times already.” Disappointed, she slips out from under the duvet, dons a dressing gown and heads off by herself to locate the source of “the noise downstairs”. Hearing bumps and creaks during the hours of …

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