Sunday, December 28, 2014

At last I believe in the Theorem of Pythagoras

Pythagoras was right! Here’s the definitive, rigorous mathematical proof:

See boring proofs at Wikipedia (or elsewhere).

View a collection of other interesting dynamic GIFs here.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Possibly getting eaten by a shark, versus winning the Lotto?

I keep telling members of my family that buying Lotto tickets is a “mug’s game” and that they would better spend their hard-earned money on something else.

They even think that buying a Lotto ticket each week increases their chance of a win. I’ve given up on trying to persuade them, it’s like talking to the proverbial brick wall.

Earlier today I was reading Response to the latest shark bite is fuelled by myth and retribution and reading the various interesting opinions of commenters.

One of them pointed to a web document that turns out to be a real gem, and I encourage you all to read right through its six pages:

Shark attacks and the Poisson approximation by Byron Schmuland


As well as gaining valuable insights about your chances of being gobbled by a “Noah’s Ark” you will also learn about the theory of coincidences: winning the Lotto, having the same birthday as someone else in a group, and the true nature of Edmonton Oiler Wayne Gretsky’s amazing batting average.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Largest collection of FREE Microsoft eBooks, ever

We all like the freebie, something given away for free, don’t we?

Well then, Eric Ligman (who is Microsoft Senior Sales Excellence Manager) has accumulated this big list of free eBooks from Microsoft

He also reported in July 2014 about Over 1 Million FREE Microsoft eBooks Given Away in 2 days!

A couple of other interesting eBook sources are here and here.

That lot should keep you busy for a while!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How to find a good tradesperson (or other goods and services provider)

Read the article How to find a good tradesperson at the Energy Australia website.

This might help you to avoid a tradie like O’Reilly in Fawlty Towers!

Considering  the tips in the Energy Australia article, I wonder how how they should be extended/modified for selecting a reliable doctor, cloud computing vendor, landscape gardener, or any other provider of goods and services. Please have your say below.

Monday, October 20, 2014

As Culture changed so did Melanoma risk, new study finds

Changing fashions, cultural attitudes and health beliefs have contributed to the rise of deadly melanoma skin cancer, according to a new study.

“Attitudes and behaviors shape exposures. More skin, more sun and more tan lead to more melanoma.”

Do you have the wrong attitude towards risky skin exposure (sunlight, or ultraviolet tanning booths)?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Rumour has it …

While I followed a technology career (or careers. rather), I have always been very interested in learning foreign languages which started when I studied Latin and French at high school (until the final year, when I dropped them to focus on the sciences).

All these decades on, I still can recall the famous onomatopoeia stetit illa tremens describing (when pronounced appropriately) the quivering of the spear that had been hurled with force into the side of the Trojan horse, so aptly pictured in Virgil’s Aenid Book II.

Another Roman poet, Ovid, was rather good at describing the insidiousness of rumour and how it spreads like wildfire. To quote a translation into English from Ovid’s The Metamorphoses:

Book XII:39-63 - The House of Rumour

      There is a place at the centre of the World, between the zones of earth, sea, and sky, at the boundary of the three worlds.  From here, whatever exists is seen, however far away, and every voice reaches listening ears. Rumour lives there, choosing a house for herself on a high mountain summit, adding innumerable entrances, a thousand openings, and no doors to bar the threshold. It is open night and day: and is all of sounding bronze. All rustles with noise, echoes voices, and repeats what is heard. There is no peace within: no silence anywhere. Yet there is no clamour, only the subdued murmur of voices, like the waves of the sea, if you hear them far off, or like the sound of distant thunder when Jupiter makes the dark clouds rumble.

      Crowds fill the hallways: a fickle populace comes and goes, and, mingling truth randomly with fiction, a thousand rumours wander, and confused words circulate. Of these, some fill idle ears with chatter, others carry tales, and the author adds something new to what is heard. Here is Credulity: here is rash Error, empty Delight, and alarming Fear, sudden Sedition, and Murmurings of doubtful origin. Rumour herself sees everything that happens in the heavens, throughout the ocean, and on land, and inquires about everything on earth.

The Roman scribes seem to have been preoccupied by this theme, witness Virgil’s The Aenid Book IV:173-197 - Rumour Reaches Iarbas:

Rumour raced at once through Libya’s great cities,
Rumour, compared with whom no other is as swift.
She flourishes by speed, and gains strength as she goes:
first limited by fear, she soon reaches into the sky,
walks on the ground, and hides her head in the clouds.
Earth, incited to anger against the gods, so they say,
bore her last, a monster, vast and terrible, fleet-winged
and swift-footed, sister to Coeus and Enceladus,
who for every feather on her body has as many
watchful eyes below (marvellous to tell), as many
tongues speaking, as many listening ears.
She flies, screeching, by night through the shadows
between earth and sky, never closing her eyelids
in sweet sleep: by day she sits on guard on tall roof-tops
or high towers, and scares great cities, as tenacious
of lies and evil, as she is messenger of truth.
Now in delight she filled the ears of the nations
with endless gossip, singing fact and fiction alike:
Aeneas has come, born of Trojan blood, a man whom
lovely Dido deigns to unite with: now they’re spending
the whole winter together in indulgence, forgetting
their royalty, trapped by shameless passion.
The vile goddess spread this here and there on men’s lips.
Immediately she slanted her course towards King Iarbas
and inflamed his mind with words and fuelled his anger.

I recalled those Latin works when yesterday I stumbled upon La rumeur, si douce à nos oreilles (Rumour, so sweet to our ears):

      La rumeur fait partie de notre nature et tout le monde participe à sa propagation. On a tort de penser que seule une catégorie de personnes adorent les rumeurs, car ce serait de l’hypocrisie. C’est quasiment une obligation dans certains scènes de notre société, car vous serez mis en marge si vous n’aimez pas les ragots. La rumeur se définit par une histoire qui est difficile à authentifier, mais ses aspects séduisent notre volonté de faire du mal à autrui. …

      Rumor is part of our nature and everyone is involved in its spread. It is wrong to think that only one class of people love rumors, because that would be hypocritical. It's almost a requirement in some sections of our society, because you will be marginalized if you do not like gossip. Rumor is defined by a story that is difficult to authenticate, but its aspects appeal to our desire to hurt others. …
[here’s a Google translation into English]

It behoves us all to to stop ourselves from perniciously spreading rumours. So, everybody, strenuously resist the urge! But alas, I fear that rumour will be with us forever.

Monday, October 06, 2014

I’m living by IBM time, again

I was recently impelled to do something strange. Stranger than my usual “strange” (which is quite strange indeed).

I was led via an Australian LinkedIn ex-IBMers’ group called “Famous in the 70s” to watch the YouTube video On Guard! The Story of SAGE (IBM SAGE Computer, 1956)

All this 1950s technology history is quite fascinating in and of itself – keeping in mind, for example, that my three young grandsons each have an iPad, with a combined processing power probably greater than all the computing equipment shown in that YouTube video.

The strange thing that happened was that I was struck by an image that flashed past. It was an old IBM wall clock, no longer in production of course (remember that IBM was once in the business of managing work time).

I just had to have such a clock, but with no access to one I decided to construct my own facsimile (and it all cost about $3.00 Australian). Here it is:


I decided to use the solid black IBM logo, after working out that AFAIK the famous IBM 80bar logo wasn’t ever used on clocks.

So now I’m living by IBM time again (after retiring 19 years ago).

Whatever does that indicate about my mental state? Have pity, and say a prayer for me!

Saturday, October 04, 2014

I don’t spend $40,000 annually on airplane or truck maintenance, but …

This is self-evident (once it’s pointed out to you):
Your Health – You Own It! Manage It As Your Most Important Assetimage

And, while you’re at it, here’s more good job/lifestyle reading: Is tech good or bad for work-life balance?

And also: Life On Demand - How technology is transforming daily life commissioned by Microsoft Australia (2014, PDF)

Many [of those surveyed] discuss their devices, smartphones particularly,
as much more than just tools or appliances, but as extensions of themselves:

“I feel like something is missing when I don’t have my
phone with me.”

“Couldn’t live without my smartphone and tablet.
I feel lost without them.”


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Scottish independence referendum (2014) might well have gone the other way

From the perspective someone with a 50 percent British, 25 percent Irish and 25 percent Scottish bloodline, living half a world away Down Under in the antipodes, and still trying to understand the history and culture of those sceptered isles ...

Do the Brits really understand the Scots? ... Probably not, as this video makes clear.

If the video had been broadcast on Scottish TV even a few times in the lead-up to the referendum, it's quite possible that the vote would have gone the other way!

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

This interactive Periodic Table makes learning Chemistry fun

During the 1960s I practiced analytical chemistry then taught chemistry, mathematics and general science at high schools (in the sate of Victoria, Australia).

I left teaching when I joined IBM in 1970, but am still interested in all things scientific even to this day. I’ve decided that I’m going to try getting my three young grandsons interested too, hoping that at least one of them will follow in grandpa’s footsteps!

I decided to write this brief post as soon as I came across an excellent little website devoted to displaying the Periodic Table of the chemical elements in an novel way.

The Dynamic Periodic Table is an interactive web-based joy to use -- but I will admit that you have to be that way inclined!

(click for a larger image)image

This periodic table was created by Michael Dayah.  Read all about it here.

Michael explains that it’s a true web application, uses only HTML (no images or Flash), and accesses multiple resources (such as Wikipedia) to conglomerate information about the individual elements, tablet friendly, usable offline, kept up to date with newly-discovered elements and other information, and more.

Highly recommended for chemistry buffs!

I heartily recommend that you have a play with it too, then be sure to pass the link on to all the young people that you know.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Self-check video for Melanoma (or other skin cancers)

After many decades of sun and surf, I’ve finished up with a circular bald patch on my scalp where a melanoma was removed last year.

Such skin cancers can happen to anyone at all, typically appearing from teenage onwards. It’s particularly distressing to see beautiful young people dying quite quickly from skin cancer, with melanomas being the prime cause.

If detected and removed early enough, there’s a fair chance of recovery and hanging around on this wonderful blue planet of ours for five to ten years or even longer.

In my case, nobody noticed the melanoma brewing away atop my noggin. Its presence was confirmed only after I decided to go to a specialist for another skin spot, and he found it while doing a complete body scan. (I’m quite surprised that various hairdressers over the years didn’t ever commented on it.)

You owe it to yourself (plus those near and dear to you) to check your skin REGULARLY for the appearance of suspect moles and other skin spots.


The University of Queensland (Australia) has put together a video to help people carry out skin self-assessments: How-to skin check video - Useful for men 50 years or older

I suppose that old blokes are rather careless about their health (but we know that it applies to anyone of any age, don’t we?). A recent Australian study showed that men over 50 ignoring skin cancer risks despite awareness campaigns 

A Swedish study that men living alone have higher risk of death from skin cancer:

“Cutaneous malignant melanoma is the most aggressive form of skin cancer. The disease is one of the fastest growing cancers among Caucasian (white) populations and is an escalating health problem even among young individuals.”

The Swedish study mentions that “Melanoma of the skin can be cured if the tumour is surgically removed before the cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body” and that’s certainly what I’m hoping for in my case.

In my readings I’ve discovered that melanoma is frighteningly aggressive in its spread (metastasis). The biggest criticism is that the video is prudish in not mentioning that checks must include the entire groin region, front and back. You should also check the less obvious spots, such as between the toes.

Some forms of melanoma are worse that others, see: Nodular Melanoma, Form Of Skin Cancer That Grow 4X Faster Than Others, Has Doctors Warning Patients

Although nodular melanoma only accounts for 15 percent of melanoma cases, it is also to blame for 43 percent of deaths caused by melanoma.

Then there’s the frightening way that melanoma cells work their way all over the body. See Skin cancer cure step closer as Manchester scientists mimic way cells 'wriggle' through body:

“The life-threatening cells form different shapes allowing them to squeeze their way out of tumours, travel through the bloodstreams or even raid soft tissues such as the brain. The cells can also assume a long thin shape giving the life-threatening disease the ability to travel through harder tissues like bone.”

Surely that’s quite scary!

Australian doctors have been told recently to warn patients about The killer pimple: Doctors warn of aggressive form of skin cancer which is six times more likely to kill if it is not removed within two months (be sure to watch the video), and there’s more at Some melanomas present as harmless-looking pimples

I’m sure that all the above makes for very unpleasant reading, but if it leads to even a single extra person getting early treatment I’ll be very pleased.

Just let me get back to coding - a developer’s dream?

Andrew Binstock, Editor in Chief at Dr. Dobb’s, has hit the nail on the head in two recent editorials about development toolsets that every coder should read:

  • Just Let Me Code! (22 July 2014) - Managing the complexity of development toolchains — from SCM, to the build tools, to the testing, to the deployment stack — now so overwhelms the developer experience, it's hard to get any real programming done.
  • Getting Back to Coding (29 July 2014) - Reducing tool complexity requires mercilessly applying YAGNI to your toolchain. Resist the siren songs of new, popular memes and the blandishments of vendors, and choose the tools that deliver only what you need.

    … “That problem is most acutely felt by two groups: solo developers and those working either in SMBs or for-hire at a client site. Those least affected are programmers at enterprises, which can afford dedicated staff” …

Andrew obviously hit a nerve, there being quite a few assenting comments!

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Moving and docking Eclipse-style views in IBM Domino Designer (video)

An old 2010 post of mine about Open In New Window (for IBM Notes data views) just received a comment (by Scott) asking whether in IBM Domino Designer this capability for Notes data views was also available for design elements.

Well it is possible, pretty much, by taking advantage of the underlying Eclipse Workbench ability to move and dock "views” (here used in the Eclipse sense).

Open Help for Domino Designer and navigate to:
>>> Workbench User Guide
>>>>>> Tasks
>>>>>>>>> Working with views and editors

This documentation is rather sparse, so I recorded an off-the-cuff demo that should give you a fair idea about the way this capability works. (Sorry about the croaky throat, it’s winter season here Down Under in Melbourne.)

In the Eclipse Workbench there’s the ability to have “detached views” (which would be the exact equivalent of opening a Notes data view in a new window), however this doesn’t seem to have been implemented in IBM Domino Designer.

Nevertheless what’s there is pretty good, so go try it out and maybe improve your developer productivity.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Are these the Biggest Problems facing your IT Project Teams?

A nice slideshow has just appeared on the Baseline website that covers the commonest issues that arise all over the world. Can you add to their list from your experience?

See The Biggest Problems Facing IT Project Teams (slideshow)

Don’t overlook the link on the first slideshow page to AtTask’s free-to-download e-book titled "10 Problems Preventing Your IT Team From Doing (Its) Best Work and How to Solve Them" (or here).

Of course, remove the references to IT and edit just slightly, and these same points pretty much apply to every sort of project there is.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Should Google be called “the evil umpire”?

My ex-employer —I retired nearly twenty years ago – IBM used to be widely regarded as an “evil empire” but that label seems to have worn off over the last few decades, even being called “almost cuddly these days” in an InformationWeek story IT’s Evil Empires:

Evil Empires can acquire their reputation through no fault of their own. But all too often, they earn the characterization through a distasteful combination of success-fueled arrogance and a thinly disguised disdain for customers, competitors, and regulators.

Microsoft more recently usurped the “evil empire” throne in the years following the release of Windows 95 (during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, who seems to have popularized the term).

Now it’s Google’s turn, and since its ascendance to obvious dominance in Web search by the early years of the new millennium, Google is being nominated as the “new evil empire.”

Along comes the recent launch by Afaq Tariq of his “Hidden from Google” website.

This causes me to suggest, more in jest than anger, that if Google kowtows to the “right to be forgotten” ruling of the EU then Google should be called The Evil Umpire (laughter all around)!

Or perhaps I’ve gotten it wrong, and by enforcing a new form of censorship on otherwise-free Web information is it the EU Council that/who are the evil ones in this case?

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Debugging JavaScript– new DZone Refcard (cheat sheet)

Here’s a heads-up for those that are unfamiliar with the many developer resources at DZone.

Just released is a reference card (a.k.a. cheat sheet)  for Debugging JavaScript which is the latest in a long list of their Refcardz series.

Go get the Debugging JavaScript cheat sheet.

It’s free, you only have to register with DZone to be able to download it.

And don’t forget to browse all the earlier ones too, you’ll undoubtedly like what you find there.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

An essay on The Joy of Typing

I don’t like most modern computer keyboards. My career at IBM using their excellent keyboards with the superb “buckling spring” technology has made every other type of keyboard seem inferior to me. There is that immensely satisfying “Click” every time you successfully make a keystroke, you just can’t beat it.

During the mid-1990s I switched to a Lexmark keyboard, not as massive as the weighty IBM ones, also having the buckling spring mechanism, with the added advantage of taking up less desktop space. This Lexmark gathered much gunk between/under the keys, so a few months ago I pulled off the removable keytops and gave it a thorough cleaning.

Trouble was, I couldn’t ever get the space bar to work properly after that. Now it randomly generates extra spaces between words causing me much frustration and time wasted remove the surplus spaces.

I explored the purchase of a brand new Unicomp keyboard from the USA. I’m sure their keyboards are excellent to use, with the slight advantage of having a “Windows” key which neither the old IBM or Lexmark keyboards did (they were designed well before Windows 95 appeared). They cost from USD $79.00 upwards, however the freight across the Pacific to Australia was going to double the price, so I passed on this option.

So now I’m back using an original IBM “Model M” keyboard again, and must say that it does seem to have a subtly better tactile feel than the Lexmark. So I’m a happy typist again (in keyboard terms, that is).

The IBM Model M keyboard

Interestingly, and in a completely different vein, the other day I came across The Joy of Typing by Clive Thompson, wit the subtitle “How racing along at 60 words a minute can unlock your mind.”

He starts of by posing the question: “How racing along at 60 words a minute can unlock your mind.” A study had reported that college students who typed lecture notes remembered less than those who wrote them down by hand.

So, should we stop typing in favour of handwriting (where possible)? Go read Clive Thompson’s article and draw your own conclusions.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Detecting sharks with Clever Buoy

I was out surfing once, in the 1960s, at Portsea back beach on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. Another surfer suddenly called out “Shark! Shark!” and none of us hung around to verify his observation, we headed straight for the beach.

Such is our innate fear of those big toothy fish. It’s heightened by the regular (but thankfully small in number) deaths and severe maulings at beaches around Australia and the world.

Over the years I’ve listed some facts about shark (and crocodile) attacks on my website. This includes various attempts to make it safer for the general public to share the beaches with sharks.

Australia’s number 2 telco Optus has announced a project called Clever Buoy which they describe as “the world’s first shark detection buoy” and “Research & Development project between Optus, Google and Shark Attack Mitigation Systems to develop a smart ocean buoy that detects sharks and alerts lifeguards on the beach.”

It certainly looks very intriguing, nevertheless as one commenter points out (omitting the impolite bits) the scheme has at least one potential shortcoming:

“By the time life guards get the information the shark has attacked.”

Coffee roasts your insides

Coffee now has been popular in “the West” for several centuries, and has had its keen devotees during that period.

One of those was the great French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac and he had quite some interesting views on the fabulous “Java” beverage.

Read an English translation of de Balzac’s somewhat unusual observations at The Pleasures and Pains of Coffee (this is a scanned image version).

Here’s a more legible text-based version of de Balzac’s essay:
The Pleasures and Pains of Coffee

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Mangone … from Bowen, Australia

(25 February 2014) The 10-meter  (30-foot)  Big Mango tourist attraction In  Bowen,  Queensland (Australia’s  mango-growing capital) went  missing overnight.

                 Before and After

Who would do such a thing, and why?

The  Brisbane Courier Mail seems to have got to the bottom of it  and soon, apparently, everything will be revealed.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Is there a way to eliminate the Notes 8.5.3 pre-load error? (J9THR24.dll is missing)

I want to keep Notes 8.5.3 running on one test system, and haven’t been able to eliminate that irritating boot-time error causing a problem with the nntspreld.exe task (the IBM Notes preloader). The follow dialog box keeps reappearing every time that you click  the OK button:


The only way to stop this is by  killing the task via Windows Task Manager.

I’ve tried the Notes installer’s “repair” option, quick enough but to no avail. Before spending more time (with no certainty of a good result) on doing an uninstall of Notes followed by a clean install, I thought that I’d ask the Notes community for assistance.

According to this Notes/Domino Fix List post (03 December 2010) the problem was supposed to be fixed by Notes 8.5.3 itself.

It’s puzzling that the fix list Technote tab indicates “There is no Lotus Support Services technote associated with this SPR right now. Please check again later.”

I’ve searched the  system for the supposedly missing DLL (J9THR42.dll) actually is present, it’s in the Notes\jvm\bin\ folder.

So why this error at boot time? My guess is that it’s some sort of Java PATH error, or something like that, but I may be way off the mark. Can anybody help me with this?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What you think is right may actually be wrong – Inferring versus rationalising

Over at The Conversation there’s a thought-provoking new article (16 January 2014) about the process of thinking:

What you think is right may actually be wrong – here’s why

We like to think that we reach conclusions by reviewing facts, weighing evidence and analysing arguments. But this is not how humans usually operate, particularly when decisions are important or need to be made quickly.


We tend to prefer conclusions that fit our existing world-view, and that don’t require us to change a pleasant and familiar narrative. We are also more inclined to accept these conclusions, intuitively leaping to them when they are presented, and to offer resistance to conclusions that require us to change or seriously examine existing beliefs.

Go read the full article.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

A ship-shipping ship, shipping ships

Here’s one for New Year’s Day:

The title of the page at MajorGeeks was “Oh ship! A ship-shipping ship, shipping shipping ships.”

But -- compared with my blog title above (q.v.) -- I can’t quite follow why they wrote (after the comma) “shipping shipping ships” … Is the ship-shipping ship at bottom shipping some shipping-ships which in turn are themselves shipping ships?

Oh ship! It’s all too much  for me, after  last night’s celebrations. Perhaps somebody would explain the subtleties to me.