Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Cricket can be a deadly game

Two old blokes, Dave and Pete, had been friends all of their lives.
When it was clear that Dave was dying, Pete visited him every day.

One day Pete said, "Dave, we’ve both loved playing cricket ever since school. Please do me a favour: when you get to heaven, somehow you must let me know if there's cricket there."

Dave looked up at Pete from his deathbed and said, "Pete, you've been my best mate for many years. If it's at all possible, I'll do this favour for you."

Shortly after that, Dave died.

A few nights later, Pete was awakened from a sound sleep by a blinding flash of white light and a voice calling out to him, "Pete...., Pete...."

"Who is it," asked Pete, sitting up suddenly. "Who is it?"
"Pete... it's me, Dave"

"You're not Dave. Dave just died."
"I'm telling you, it's me, Dave," insisted the voice.

"Dave where are you?" Image result for royalty free cricket cartoons
"In heaven," replied Dave. "I have some really good news and a little bad news."

"Tell me the good news first," said Pete.

"The good news," Dave said with joy and enthusiasm, "is that there is cricket in heaven. Better yet, all of our old mates who died before me are here, too. Even better than that, we're all young again. Better still, it's always springtime and it never rains or snows. And best of all, we can play cricket all we want, and we never get tired. "And we get to play with all the Greats of the past.

"That's fantastic," said Pete "It's beyond my wildest dreams! So what's the bad news?"

"You're opening the batting next Tuesday."

Friday, October 21, 2016

Zuver hosting is so boring!

Congratulations to the folk at Zuver Hosting for providing a service that is so fast and reliable that I’m getting oh so bored with receiving weekly performance reports like the one in the following screenshot:


The above free weekly report comes from a US-based monitoring site, and the connect times would probably be even better if measured from within Australia.

Since November 2014 I’ve experienced the same boringly good performance and reliability, week after week, and all for such a low monthly rate.

Note that I’m not at all saying that there aren’t any equally good Australian web hosting companies, some of which I used previously, just that I’ve found Zuver pretty darn good and great value for money. This is just my pat on the back for their team.

I’m just an ordinary customer of theirs, with no business affiliation whatsoever -- not an agent or reseller of their services or anything like that.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Brain stretch

Here’s a reminder of our place in the grand scheme of things.

The above movie was generated using the iOS App "Cosmic Eye", written by Danail Obreschkow at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research at the University of Western Australia.
Watch for the quarks making the briefest of appearances in the atomic nucleus.

There are older versions of this “cosmic zoom” approach, such as this one created by the National Film Board of Canada:

Enough of that easy-peasy visual stuff. A new research report indicates that there are even more galaxies in the universe than we thought

This article links to: The Solar System recreated to scale in the Nevada desert

And if all the above hasn’t sated your appetite, then take a look at
Size comparison of the universe 2016

UPDATE (15 April 2017): Here's another mind-blowing video that compares planet and star sizes, and more:

Thursday, October 13, 2016

You just can’t get through to some people

I was browsing for Java programming books yesterday, and came across this one:

URL: http://www.worldofbooks.com.au/catalog/product/view/id/4152420/


Notice the asking price?  $1,421.99 (Australian dollars)

The same book (Introduction to Java Programming: Comprehensive Version by Y. Daniel Liang) at other sites such as Amazon was – depending on the edition and type (hardcover or paperback) and whether new or used – going for anything from around $20 to $240.

I thought that I’d warn the seller (World of Books) that there was a serious anomaly here, so sent them an e-mail advising that there was a major pricing issue with this particular book (and asking whether the pages were made of gold leaf).

Well, they did me the courtesy of answering, but can you imagine my disbelief that they just didn’t get my message. Here is what they replied:

We have an automatic pricing system which adjusts the prices of our items based on several variables, including things like market demand and availability. The postage prices for each country are also fixed by the marketplace themselves, so we’re unable to alter these in any way.

Our listing prices are updated many times each day – sometimes they increase, sometimes they decrease. Please check the marketplace listings to keep up to date with our prices.

Kind Regards,
Customer Service Assistant
(name supplied)

That’s right, blame the computer – “We have an automatic pricing system” – and completely disregard the GIGO principle.

You just can’t get through to some people.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Everything is up to date!

Error messages and information dialogs and displays. Oh, what a prime subject for commentary and criticism.

I started blogging in 2005, and one of my early posts was Note item not found in November of that year. Later on I made several other posts on similar matters, such as An error was encountered while opening a window and a more general critique: Reveal the error, for crying out loud. Am I right, or am I right?

When I worked at IBM, I spent many years supporting midrange systems, starting with the IBM System/3 and then the IBM System/38 and its descendants (IBM AS/400, IBM iSeries). At other stages I worked with IBM mainframes (starting with IB< System/370 released in 1970, the year that I joined IBM), the IBM System/7, the IBM RS/6000 (their first product running a variant of UNIX), and networking products such as the IBM 37xx family of communications controllers.

These IBM products were all extensively documented, and had excellent information about information/error messages.

After I retired from IBM and started working with Windows systems and Windows-based application packages, I found myself in a totally different rough-and-ready environment, more like being in the Wild West where just about anything goes. The same can be said about Web browser interactions and Web apps, as well as apps running on smartphones and tablets.image

I find this especially to be the case with the information/error messaging side of things. Perhaps my greatest bugbear is the Something went wrong class of error message> They indicate that an application’s designers and developers have paid little attention to conveying accurate and pertinent messages.

In the picture at right, at least we know something went wrong in a Web browser environment, but I’ve seen similar messages pop up -- out of the blue, on one of the four monitors on my system – which might have been generated by any one of the dozens and dozens of foreground and background tasks running om the system. The worst of these have a blank title bar and give not the slightest clue about where they originated! Oh so cryptic. Oh so hopeless.

When developing NotesTracker (now passed on to Alex Elliott at AGECOM to support and continue development) I painstakingly paid attention to providing users with accurate and detailed information and error messages. Here are a couple of them:




My approach, when specifying and coding apps,  is to give both positive and negative feedback, and whenever an error occurs be sure to give clear instructions (or hints, at the very least) about the steps needed to recover.

I also made sure to review and refine the messages with each new version of the product, to reflect user feedback plus changes and enhancements in the product. Stale, out of date information is anathema.

Well alright, enough of my complaining about the faults of the software industry. Today’s diatribe now ends, let me move on to happier thoughts.

This post was kicked off by my amusement when I checked for updates to my installation of Everything Search Engine (for Windows). It’s an excellent free utility that I use all the time to ferret out files and folders from amongst the millions that I have on my system. It claims to “locate files and folders by name instantly” and it sure delivers on its promise. Well, perhaps it overstates its promises in the following info dialog that it produces:


Everything? … Everywhere? … Now that’s a claim!

Reminds me of the following claim made about Kansas City:

What’s next? They’ve gone about as far as they can go!

The developer of Everything Search Engine, David Carpernter, has informed me that if you’re unfortunate you might see the following error message heaven forbid:

Everything has stopped working

Monday, August 15, 2016

Discover Lotus Notes–The Fastest Way to a Responsive Organization (1993 demo)

What’s old is new, even if it’s old, and Lotus Notes (nowadays called IBM Notes) certainly is one of those things.

Some of the basic concepts and capabilities of Lotus Notes still are of great benefit to organizations using Notes, even though its fundamental architecture comes from the 1980s and early 1990s. Some of the NoSQL database products that have evolved over the last decade have variations (and improvements?) of what Notes provided way back then

Here’s a little something I’m leaving for posterity, which will possibly bring tears of joy (I hope) to the eyes of anybody associated with Notes in its early days -- in my case that was 1993, starting after my 1992 early retirement from IBM.

Lots of you won’t have seen this diskette-based presentation Discover Lotus Notes–The Fastest Way to a Responsive Organization so I’m giving you the opportunity to run it on your own PC. Only a few minutes of downloading and setup are required.

Firstly, download the zipped diskette image from my website … Discover-Lotus-Notes-1993-diskette.zip 

Please retain a copy for archival purposes (since every year I’m getting closer to my “use by date” and upon my expiration there won’t be anybody to maintain the site so it will disappear into the great bit bucket in the sky).


Then extract the diskette image into a folder called NOTEDEMO on your Windows system (C:) drive, which should contain three files:  AUST.DSP, DEMO.EXE and PLAY.EXE

You need a PC x86 emulator to run the demo, and my suggestion for this is DOSBox, an x86 emulatimageor with DOS but you may prefer something else.

Perhaps run the installer (DOSBox0.74-win32-installer.exe) as Administrator to overcome any execution-time permissions. I suggest this because I’ve found Windows 8 and 10 tend to be rather finicky regarding permissions, but you shouldn’t have any problems with the demo.

There’s a built-in manual to assist you:


Launch the DOSBox emulator, and enter the following three commands (case insensitive):

  1. mount  C  c:\NOTEDEMO
  2. C:
  3. play


The demo fires up, and away you go! Follow your nose through the various sections of the demo (using the keyboard to navigate, not the mouse). Here’s the initial part of the Discover Lotus Notes 1993 demo:

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

A race you don’t want to win–the Skin Cancer Susceptibility Index

New Zealand and Australia have, by far, the highest incidences of skin cancer, according to the Skin Cancer Susceptibility Index created by Derma Plus (website shows both German and English versions).

In the southwest Pacific, down here where I live, things look pretty grim for Aussies and Kiwis, as I know from personal experience.

Go to the original article to see how your own country rates.

(click on the image to go to the original article by Derma Plus)

Friday, July 08, 2016

What do great programmers know (that average programmers don't)?

Programmers, developers, code hackers, or whatever you like to call them …

Here’s a very interesting discussion over at Quora:
      What do great programmers know that average programmers don't?

Friday, June 24, 2016

Murderous meetings

Having retired, I’m very fortunate to no longer be bombarded with meetings.

I do have an annual general meeting to attend next month. Some AGMs can be excruciating, especially when they involve complex and occasionally vitriolic debates about articles of association and rules of membership (not to forget financial matters).

Anyway, I came across a couple of articles about meetings that you might find very useful:

Meet is Murder - They’re boring. They’re useless. Everyone hates them. So why can’t we stop having meetings? (Also read the other articles, via tabs at the top of this one.)

Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule -  One reason programmers dislike meetings so much is that they're on a different type of schedule from other people. Meetings cost them more.


Wednesday, June 08, 2016

The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity (by Carlo M. Cipolla)

This paper is not to be missed!

               The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity Stop Stupidity
    by Carlo M. Cipolla  
    illustrations by James Donnelly
        (PDF document)

If the above fails, then try this link.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Why wealthier people are more likely to survive melanoma

Can’t really say that I’m surprised by this:

“We already know that poverty is a risk factor for poor health and premature mortality, according to a 2004 meta-analysis of income inequality and health in the journal Epidemiologic Reviews. But a new skin cancer study finds that wealthier people actually have a higher chance of being diagnosed with melanoma—as well as a higher chance of surviving it.”

See …    http://qz.com/675149/the-surprising-reasons-why-wealthier-people-are-more-likely-to-survive-melanoma/

Friday, May 27, 2016

Computers and their peripherals, old and even older

I just read the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) 2015 report: Improving the Management of IT Acquisitions and Operations about "federal IT investments too frequently fail or incur cost overruns and schedule slippages while contributing little to mission-related outcomes" which is an outcome not unique to the U.S. government by any means!

It got me thinking yet again about old computers and old software, and the reliability of these today and in the past. See my earlier post: If it’s safe enough for NASA, then it’s good enough for me (software coding rules)

The other day I stumbled upon another fascinating tale about hardware, software and user interfaces between the two, that I strongly recommend. Be sure to read  Apollo Guidance Computer: A Users View (PDF) by astronaut David Scott.

Just think about it. Jet-setting to and vacationing on the Moon, back in the 1960s, with your life relying on computing equipment about as powerful as a $5 wristwatch these days.

But most of us were unaware of all this as we gathered boggle-eyed around out TV sets to watch grainy live broadcasts of the various Apollo landings – not to forget the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission.

This will goad (or goat) you into laughter

Watch this amusing video:

Friday, May 20, 2016

Men's essential reference manual now available in paperback edition


Just letting you know that the popular men’s handbook "Understanding Women" is now out as a paperback …

Re Men's reference manual now

Monday, March 07, 2016

Food for thought–Your guts, eating greens, and well-being

Why eating greens is so good for you
Did you see this in The Age (Australian newspaper) several weeks ago?
Another reason to eat your greens: sugar

Queen Garnet plums – new superfood?
Wthe latest info on Queen Garnet plums in today's episode of Landline (the segment near the end of the episode):

If you’re don’t have an Australian IP address then you might be blocked from watching this ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) video, I’m sorry to say. (Plus, it may be withdrawn within a few weeks.)

It certainly looks like this is another "superfood" that we should all consider consuming (and, if you're a farmer, well worth setting up in your plantation).

Does your gut have control over you?
and I think that I sent a note about the following a while ago:
Stomach and mood disorders: how your gut may be playing with your mind

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Putting these all together, there seems to be plenty of food for thought about how eating the "right" things should have a distinctly beneficial affect on improving your well-being and enjoyment of life.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Why Australia is better than the USA, melanoma-wise

I had a melanoma excised from my scalp at the start of 2013, it was probably sitting there baking away for years. Out of sight, out of mind. Too many decades in the plentiful Australian sun, while surfing and elsewhere.

I visited a dermatologist for examination of a spot on my left thumb (which turned out to be benign), and he gave me a full skin examination. I asked about the lump on my scalp, for which the dermatologist took a biopsy. He rang me a few days later with the bad news that it was a dangerous well-developed melanoma that needed excision as soon as possible.

A week or so later I was on the operating table at Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital, under light anaesthetic, where I could feel the scalpel catting out a 5-centimetre wide circle of flesh from the top left side of my noggin. Then I felt some sort of sharp, whirring surgical gadget sliced off a thin patch of skin from the upper inside portion of my right arm, and this donor graft was stitched onto my scalp.

Life’s full of surprises: a few weeks earlier I hadn’t the slightest inkling that I would be experiencing this novel event!

So for a few years I’ve been living with a pale circle on pink hairless skSt. Anthony of Padua in that really stands out against my greying but still mainly mousy-brown hair.

I tell people that I have a SETI antenna built into my scalp, and am aiding in the search fro intelligent life in far places. .. Perhaps I could claim that it’s a tiny tonsure, but I wouldn’t have the gall to claim so since I’m neither devout or humble, unlike my patron saint pictured to the right. (Click the image to find out more.)

As you might expect, over the last few years I’ve been attending regular skin checks, and have had a couple of less aggressive skin cancer sports excised too. As you might expect, I’m now extremely aware of skin cancer in all its manifestations.

Anyway, on to the topic of this blog post. Australia has now in all states banned commercial tanning beds (solariums), which we found to have been responsible for too many deaths -- though anything more than zero deaths is of course too many. There is some concern that non-commercial (private) solariums are increasing in number, buts that’s a different problem needing to be solved and at least the commercial ones are illegal here Down Under.

But sadly the US seems to be way behind Australia in the way that solariums are regarded, see US melanoma rates are rising faster for women than for men — indoor tanning may explain why and take heed (in the USA or any other country where solariums are used, at home or in parlours).

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Please help this user to install IBM Notes 9.0.1

RJ Kelly has asked for assistance in installing IBM Notes 9.0.1 and I hope that somebody in the Notes community is able to help him.

To assist, see my earlier blog post:
    IBM Notes 9 Client install fails with “RCP Base plug-in not found”

Please scan the post and read his comment right at at the bottom -- and help him out, so that he doesn’t have to go back to Notes R5!

How to check “short URLs” before opening them

I just stumbled upon this useful security too that everybody should use:
Be safer online. Use this tool to help determine if a cryptic shortened URL – such as bit.ly/AbcDef1245 -- might be dangerous to open (by leading to a malware site).

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Let's Bring Learning to Life at Home and in the Classroom

During the 1960s I did some industrial (analytical) chemistry work, then spent six years teaching chemistry, general science and mathematics in high schools. … Then gave up teaching to join IBM in 1970 and spend the rest of my professional life in the IT industry (finally retiring at the end of 2013).

I just received an e-mail from one Stacy Maxton, requesting that I add some links to this page on my website but that page (and most of the others on the site) have now been moved to archive status, so I couldn’t fulfill Stacy’s request.

Instead, since it looks worthwhile, as one who believes strongly in encouraging education (for people of all ages), I’ve taken the liberty of posting Stacy’s request below, where it will probably get more attention:

Hello fellow educator!

I’ve been a cheerleader for math (and, really, education as a whole) for as long as I can remember (in fact – that’s ultimately why I started my own site!).

Over the last several years, I’ve tutored 100s of students to make math more attainable and fun.

Teaching becomes increasingly difficult during the holiday season when thoughts of sugar-plums are dancing in our students’ heads! :) That’s why I decided to put together a list of resources to help educators keep a classroom full of excited children focused and (hopefully!) ensure that learning still happens during this somewhat chaotic time! :)

Please enjoy! And feel free to share with others (on your site: http://notestracker.net/Links/WebResources.htm, and any other medium you prefer)!

I hope these resources ease this somewhat chaotic time for learning!

Keep Calm and Teach On! :)

I hope that the above resource links assist educators around the globe, including visiting Stacy’s site MathCamps of course.