Monthly Archives: June 2012

This afternoon, my cousin Linda forwarded an e-mail to me that details 21 passages from letters submitted to town councils in Britain by residents of public housing. Some of these extracts may seem extra funny as the British often use the English language somewhat differently than we Yanks but I can envision most of those same letters being submitted to City Councils here in America. Enjoy and have a good week-end.

Only in Britain – Complaints to Councils

Extracts from letters written by council tenants:

1. It’s the dogs mess that I find hard to swallow.

2. I want some repairs done to my cooker as it has backfired and burnt my knob off.

3. I wish to complain that my father twisted his ankle very badly when he put his foot in the hole in his back passage.

4. Their 18-year-old son is continually banging his balls against my fence.

5. I wish to report that tiles are missing from the outside toilet roof. I think it was bad wind the other day that blew them off.

6. My lavatory seat is cracked, where do I stand?

7. I am writing on behalf of my sink, which is coming away from the wall.

8. Will you please send someone to mend the garden path. My wife tripped and fell on it yesterday and now she is pregnant.

9. I request permission to remove my drawers in the kitchen.

10. 50% of the walls are damp, 50% have crumbling plaster, and 50% are just plain filthy.

11. The next door neighbour has got this huge tool that vibrates the whole house and I just can’t take it anymore.

12. The toilet is blocked and we cannot bath the children until it is cleared.

13. Will you please send a man to look at my water, it is a funny colour and not fit to drink.

14. Our lavatory seat is broken in half and now is in three pieces.

15. I want to complain about the farmer across the road. Every morning at 6am his cock wakes me up and it’s now getting too much for me.

16. The man next door has a large erection in the back garden, which is unsightly and dangerous.

17. Our kitchen floor is damp. We have two children and would like a third, so please send someone round to do something about it.

18. I am a single woman living in a downstairs flat and would you please do something about the noise made by the man on top of me every night.

19. Please send a man with the right tool to finish the job and satisfy my wife..

20. I have had the clerk of works down on the floor six times but I still have no satisfaction.

21. My bush is really overgrown round the front and my back passage has fungus growing in it.


A big thank you to Linda Seamster for sending this to me!

Thus far, the common consensus is that Windows 8 has fleas and bays at the moon thus setting the folks in Redmond, WA up for another epic failure a’ la Vista. Only this time around, the failure is going to be more like a 747 making a belly landing as opposed to the belly flop that preceded Windows 7. Users are going to have to learn a whole new way to do things. That in and of itself is enough to make the average consumer run in the opposite direction. Übergeeks may take the attitude that it’s just something else to learn but it’s a whole different thing to consumers who want their operating system to look and work like it pretty much has for the past 17 years.

Sure, there are add-ons – free and otherwise – that can make Windows 8 look and act more like what folks are used to but one should not have to do such things in order to have a good and familiar user experience. I have discussed such tools earlier on this blog and Id like to direct readers to the archives and related posts rather than repeat myself here.

While Windows 8 has yet to be released to manufacturing, Microsoft has been detailing its upgrade plans for moving from Windows XP, Vista & 7 to Windows 8.  While we have yet to see what the final release looks like – that will come in October of this year, an article on ZDNet’s Linux and Open Source blog wonders if Microsoft has unintentionally opened the door to the Linux desktop. Back in early May, this same blog released a post exploring five points of comparison between Windows 8 and Ubuntu Linux 12.04. I’ll let you read the article yourself but I can say that the latter easily comes out on top while the former is sporting a toe-tag and covered with a white sheet.

I can say from personal experience that Linux is easier to configure and modify than Windows 8. For example, Linux comes configured to display the three minimise, maximise and close buttons in the top left-hand corner of the window rather than the top right-hand corner as Windows has done since the beginning. Now this arrangement is great for left-handed folks as well as Mac-users but I’m right-handed and have used Windows since . . . well . . . forever. The novelty of the left-corner arrangement wore off very quickly and became a minor irritation until this morning when I’d finally had enough. A quick Google brought up the directions and I was ready to go. I could have done it completely by hand but I decided to speed things along by downloading a configuration manager (Free) before starting. The whole process took about 45 seconds and that was because it was my first time and I was taking things slow. All I had to do was type three words, a bit of punctuation and those three buttons suddenly shifted to the right-hand side just as nature had intended. There are tweak utilities that will probably do this for you and an example of one (again, Free) can be found here. I plan to give it a thorough test in the PDS lab as soon as possible.

With scads of free software, a more familiar interface and good performance on older hardware, the time for Linux to shine draws nigh. Canonical, the distributor of the Ubuntu version of Linux has discovered that in India and China, consumers really will buy PCs without the Windows operating system. Not only that, Canonical expects that 20,000,000 PCs will ship this year with Ubuntu as the factory installed operating system. It could well be that consumers who are reticent to embrace Windows 8 might give Linux a try. If you own Microsoft stock, this may be a good time to sell.

I had the great privilege to grow up in the ’50s & ’60s. Sure, the threat of nuclear annihilation at any moment was a pain in the rear and the Cuban Missile Crisis gave one pause but still, there was some real exciting stuff going on like Sputnik, Explorer 1 and the Mercury programme. Those early satellite launches were more the stuff of morning newspapers and the six o’clock news than live coverage. But with the advent of the Mercury manned launches, live coverage quickly became the norm.

So where does my mother fit into space flight? Well, she was the one to wake me and my brother up early in the morning so we could all huddle around our black and white TV to watch the launch preparations and hear that the launch had been scrubbed because a tube blew out in some equipment in some suddenly important tracking station on some island that we had never heard of. Delayed launches and non-launches were the order of the day back in those times and we often left for school with the count-down holding at T minus 2 hours or something like that.

Fortunately, we didn’t always miss the launch when it finally got around to happening. Educational TV was starting to pick up steam and soon, every classroom in DuPont Elementary school had access to a TV. This accessibility was brought home on Nov. 22, 1963 when our principal’s voice came over the PA system asking the teachers to turn on their TVs because there was something going on. Thus, we were able to watch that defining moment in television news when Walter Cronkite informed the nation that JFK had died in Dallas’ Parkland Hospital at 1:00 PM, CST.

Throughout the ’60s, Mom was our pre-launch alarm clock and we were able to watch most of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo launches; either at home or at school.. In 1969, we gathered around whatever dodgy black and white TV that my uncle had managed to find for us in Norfolk, VA and held our collective breath as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldren became the first men to land on the moon. Mom had us put out the American flag while she set about making peanut butter cookies for that evening’s moon-walk.

My mother was responsible for my ongoing fascination with space flight even if she didn’t quite understand all the technical bits. Nonetheless, she eagerly looked at every photo and listened to every detail of the pilgrimage my wife and I made to Cape Canaveral.

My mother departed this planet for places unknown on Feb. 20th of this year; The 50th anniversary of John Glen’s flight in Friendship 7. Scott Carpenter’s famous voice-over “- God-speed, John Glen” – came to mind this morning as I watched the launch of a Delta IV Heavy rocket for the National Reconnaissance Office on my tablet; Technology that would have totally astounded my mother. As the rocket rose from the launch pad, I said to myself:”Thanks, Mom”.

by Adrianna Stepiano

[xyz_lbx_custom_shortcode id=4]As part of the research for my great and probably never-to-be-published novel, this reviewer has become quite a connoisseur of mer-folk fiction. There has been a tidal wave of  this theme in Young Adult Fiction over the past year or two and a notable uptick in such books for adults. So far, I have tended to favour the former as most of the latter often seem to be a rather thin story line wrapped around a bumper serving of soft – and not-so-soft – porn. This reviewer has nothing against Adult themes but most of the time, they can get in the way of what could be a good story.

The Young Adult version of the mer-folk genre is often based on a young adult female suddenly discovering that she is a mermaid. (So far, I have seen few – if any – story lines where this happens to a young adult male.) This momentous event usually happens to girls who have been repeatedly warned by parents – living or dead – to stay out of the water. Not only is there this profound change in life-style, but the heroine discovers that she has special abilities (aside from being able to live under water), is a princess, a future queen, a savior of some sort, etc. Finally, she was originally born or goes to live in some sort of mystical, magical, mermaid-land under the sea.

All these are common elements of the genre and a number of them appear in this, the first book of the Memoir of a Mermaid series, but Adrianna Stepiano takes her story in a completely different direction. Seraphin Shedd is one such girl who discovers that things – including herself – are not what they once seemed. On the day of her high school graduation, she is completely alone; Her mother having departed when she was an infant and her father dead in the ocean when she was 10. To further complicate her life, she has blackouts at times of emotional anxiety like when she thinks of her father’s untimely death. On the same day she receives her diploma,  she also receives the key to the family estate, – an ordinary house on an ordinary street in an ordinary neighbourhood next to the sea – meets the somewhat baffling nephew, Joseph, of her biology teacher, and discovers that this very same teacher has suddenly disappeared.

All alone with no family and no college plans, Seraphin obtains a position as a housekeeper through the auspices of a neighbour. This job is at an oceanic research institute on nearby Great Cranberry Island. There, she finds the nephew of her now missing Biology teacher working under an assumed name. He has a friend in the person of a fellow researcher named Perrine Canard and working there as well is an acquaintance from high school named Ethan Cottington. Thus, the cast of central characters is gathered and the story really gets under way.

It is this reviewer’s policy not to include spoilers or plot synopses but rather to give his impression of the book as a whole and comment on some elements of the story. That being said, this book is a real “page-turner” and the plot keeps you guessing. I am always looking for teachable moments in Young Adult Fiction and Ms. Stepiano’s story contains a fair number. At one point or another, Seraphin encounters prejudice and bigotry, bullying and belittling.

One thing that makes this book stand out is that Ms. Stepiano has declined to create a magical undersea mer-kingdom. Instead, she portrays merfolk as ordinary people living ordinary lives and holding down everyday jobs. These are the residents of Seraphin’s neighbourhood who have been watching and protecting her ever since her father died. It is these characters that help give this story a few comic touches and grounding in the in the real, believable world. The heroine is an extraordinary girl doing extraordinary things, loved and supported by her friends and neighbours.

The story contains romance, mystery, danger and heroism. Although the book was aimed at the mid-teen segment of the Young Adult market, it is easily readable and enjoyable by older teens as well as adults. In short, it is fun and exciting.

When, At Last, He Found Me will be followed by When, At Last, She Could See in January of 2013 and this reviewer believes that it will be eagerly anticipated. Aside from Seraphin and Joseph, there is a budding romance between the other two central characters that many readers, including myself, hope will be continued or at least expanded upon in the second book. Indeed, it has the potential to be a novel spun off of the main story.

Adrianna Stepiano has the makings of a real Young Adult classic on her hands and I hope that the next book will be just as good – if not better – as the first.

My Rating:

For years, I’ve watched Apple and Microsoft duke it out – either thru corporate ads or via their legions of fanboys – over PC security. You probably remember the “I’m a Mac/I’m a PC” ad campaign that Apple launched touting, among other things, that Macs – or rather OS X – just didn’t do virus or malware infections. (Dr. Data repeatedly thought: : Just you wait, Steve Jobs. Just you wait.”)

In the wake of the Flashback Trojan and other attacks – both real and potential – Apple has quietly changed its tune according to an article on the PC World website. What Apple has done is replace the claim on its website that MACs don’t get PC viruses with another stating that OS X is built to be safe. (Take a look at a comparison of the two messages.) Actually, the original claim was quite true; Indeed,  MACs do not get PC viruses. Instead, they get MAC viruses.

In line with that change, came an announcement reported on ZDNet that OS X’s Mountain Lion release would feature silent security updates. The advent of these silent patches indicates that reality has finally caught up with Apple.

During the keynote address at the Google developer’s conference, the company announced that it is partnering with hardware maker, ASUS, to produce a new 7 inch tabled known as NEXUS-7. The tablet will more easily fit into purses or bags than an iPad which is sure to please at least the female portion of our population as well as those brave guys who carry their stuff in a shoulder bag.

The tablet is incredibly thin, light and boasts a quad-core processor and 12 core graphical processor, There is no word yet as to how all these processor cores will affect battery life. NEXUS-7 is optomised for use with Google Play, their cloud-based entertainment and media service.

The price is right; NEXUS-7 will start at $199.00. The device may be purchased online via Google Play and is expected to begin shipping in mid-July.

Of all the recent tablet announcements, Microsoft’s Surface seems to be the device most likely to make headway against Apple’s iPad. How much headway they will make really depend’s on the public’s awareness that there is something else besides the iPad out there. Nonetheless, the Google NEXUS-7 is a mobile device to keep our eyes on in the coming months. No doubt, Apple will find some reason to file for patent infringement.

More from the Google Developers Conference via C|net:

It all depends on your age.

Baby Boomers worry about a lot of things; Hair loss, retirement vanishing over the horizon, dentures and . . . computer security. While those of us who are . . . umm . . . somewhat more secure tend to think that those “kids” in “Generation Y” are more computer savvy than the rest of us, that apparently is not the case when it comes to security. While there are differences between the ways each generation uses their computers, there is no denying that Boomers are more likely to have security features in place.

Zone Alarm, a manufacturer of internet security products, posted in graphical form on its website, the results of their analysis of just who employs computer security and how much. Fifty-eight percent of Boomers believe that security is more important than productivity, entertainment, etc. Only thirty-one percent of Gen. Y think the same way.

The really frightening thing to be found in all this is that, as a whole, 71% of all age-groups do not  follow best practices in security like having a two-way firewall in addition to anti-virus software.

Just something to think about.


Ahhh, the late 1970’s. Disco, the Hostage Crisis, Mork & Mindy, FAX machines; It just doesn’t get any better than that! The micro computing industry was just getting started in those days. We were all used to hearing about mainframes or small business systems but having a computer in your home? That was something that nerds dreamed of. (The term “Geek” had not come into common currency yet with the possible exception of HAM Radio enthusiasts.)

Ads for micro systems and early PCs started appearing in publications like Scientific American and that was only the beginning. To take you back to an era where some of us had more hair and smaller waist-lines, Tech Republic offers a slide-show featuring Vintage Computer Advertisements from the late 1970s. If you look through these ads and smile fondly at the thought of days long past, then you are truly a geek. An uber-geek will look at the ads and say “Wow!” If you weren’t around in the late 1970’s, then this is just another thing that you missed out on.


Years ago when I lived in Atlanta, a most amazing thing happened. I was a Programmer/Analyst for The Harrison Company writing code in the assembly level language, NEAT/VS. (Essentially NEAT/3 for NCR’s Criterion system. Sigh . . . those were the days.) I came home from work one evening to receive not one, not two, but three different unsolicited job offers. The strange thing is that I was not actively, or even inactively, looking for a new job. I was pretty happy with my gig at Harrison and the only job I really wanted was one that would return me from exile to my native Virginia. (One did eventually come through which is why I live here in Charlottesville, now.)

I’ve been on the skids for the past 8 or 9 months and my last interview was back in October. I’ve applied for almost 100 jobs and have only gotten one or two nibbles at the most. Talk about being bummed out!

Within the past week, I’ve received three calls – again, unsolicited – from head-hunters. The first was for one that really intrigues me and the other two – while short-term contract work – would at least keep the wolf away from the door a little while longer.

There is no guarantee that I will get an offer for any of these positions but it is funny how things can sometimes turn on a dime. In 2010, I had a sudden spate of interviews before I was offered a position at SAIC. We shall see. We shall see.

If you haven’t paid a visit to my resume’, I’m a senior software engineer. That’s a fancy-pants name for a programmer, a profession that I’ve been involved in since the late ’70s. Over the years, I’ve heard more times than I care to think about that this programming language is “dead” or that programming language is on its way out. A glance at the List of programming languages by type on Wikipaedia will reveal scads of programming languages that were in use at one time or another. Many of them still are. Among those that are truly dead is my favourite; NCR’s NEAT/3 and NEAT/VS. Another dead – or nearly so – language is the one I developed; TOOL – Text Oriented Object Language.

Neither of these languages showed up on the list of 10 development technologies that refuse to die published by Tech Republic. The ones that did make the list are interesting. I won’t go into detail about all the languages but here are a few examples:

  • COBOL – This is the language developed by the mother of modern programming, Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, and for decades powered much of the world’s business applications. One famous though unattributed quote ran something like “I don’t know what programming language will be  used at the start of the 21st century but its name will be COBOL”. There are countless COBOL based applications still doing work for banks, insurance companies, etc. For what it’s worth, I’d love to write COBOL again; especially since many of today’s younger programmers are frightened by the thought of COBOL and are scared to death of  JCL.
  • C – This language had been sailing into the sunset of application development and looking forward to an active retirement powering hardware drivers and operating systems development. All that changed with the release of the iPhone and iPad, both of which use Apple’s iOS. Objective C – a superset of C – is being used to develop countless cutting edge applications to be run under iOS. Hmmmm . . . maybe it’s time to pull my C manuals out of storage.
  • FORTRAN – I never wrote much code in this language but I did teach my wife to use it when she was in graduate school. FORTRAN code still runs things in certain industries/sectors and is hard at work today doing weather prediction.
  •  JAVA – No, JAVA is not going away anytime soon. Despite its flaws, JAVA is still a powerful language and is to the first half of the 21st century what COBOL was the 2nd half of the 20th century.

And for the people who write all this code? Old programmers never die, they just run to E-O-J.

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June 2012
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