Sunday, August 16, 2015

It’s time to change this punctuation rule (or am I being too dotty?)

Languages are constantly and continually changing, as are the rules for punctuation. I’ve been interested in languages since early High School days (where I was introduced to Latin and French, my first exposure to foreign tongues).

Being used to mathematics and computer coding, there’s one particular punctuation rule that I’d like to see changed for the better

In mathematics and computer programming languages, there are statement construction rules such as the requirement to balance parentheses. In spoken languages, there are sentence construction rules that we are expected to follow.

For example, in “good English” there are rules for the placement of punctuation marks such as the full stop (the dot, or period). Taking as one example Jef Raskin’s essay Effectiveness of Mathematics and consider the final two sentences:

It is because we have evolved so as to have brains that work the way the world does, that part of what has evolved are the logical (to us) processes of deduction. As we build mathematics we build it in conformity with the physical world because the foundations of logic, the very nature of what makes sense to us, was dictated by the physical world. The inherent abilities of our brains were established, and those abilities reinforced, by natural selection. If we have been schooled by the physical world, should we be surprised that our works reflect its teachings? From this point of view, we should be surprised only if mathematics, built on a logic derived from the way the world behaves, was not able to describe the world. We do not need to resort to Penrose’s mystical explanation, which is based on a "belief in the profound mathematical harmony of Nature" as he proclaimed in his book, The Emperor’s New Mind. In an appropriately skeptical book, The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan came close to my position, saying that, "our notions, both hereditary and learned, of how Nature works were forged in the millions of years our ancestors were hunters and gatherers. I think the roots of logic are perhaps deeper than our sentient ancestors." I move from "perhaps" to "must have been".

In the first of these two sentences we see the conventional punctuation rule for concluding a sentence containing a quoted phrase. This rule states that you should precede the closing quotation mark with the full stop. …    “must have been”.    rather than  “must have been.”

In the second sentence, and probably inadvertently, Jef placed the full stop after the closing quotation mark.

I prefer he second usage, and reckon that the rule should be changed to be like this. It makes more sense to me, and is more “balanced” in the way that mathematical expressions and computer programming statements would require.

Let’s start a movement to get this punctuation rule changed. I hope you agree with me that it’s a “better way”.  Or am I just being an unpleasant, unrepentant pedant?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

If it’s safe enough for NASA, then it’s good enough for me (software coding rules)

NASA / JPL Laboratory develop spectacular stuff, and it’s not all rockets and space vehicle of all sorts.

Behind al that NASA has been doing for decades is software, used to monitor and control all their vehicles since the earth orbiters and the moonshots of the 1960s.

I’ve retired from active IT work now, and closed Asia/Pacific Computer Services at the end of 2013 (importantly though, NotesTracker is still available and supported, more about this very soon).

Now I’m an IT end-user and industry observer, and one thing that continues to be disturb and even appall me is how so much flawed and sub-standard software gets dumped upon us by companies of all sizes.

Well, over the decades NASA hasn’t been in the position to deploy any sub-standard applications. When livers depend of application robustness in a manned mission, or a space probe is at the outer edge of our solar system, they can’t debug and alter it very easily (if at al)l. So it has to be as close to perfect as possible right from the start of a mission.

NASA uses a set of coding rules such as “No function should be longer than what can be printed on a single sheet of  paper” to develop top-class applications, and you should consider using such rules when designing and developing your own apps.

Go view a summary of the NASA/JPL Laboratory for Reliable Software methodology at The Power of Ten –  Rules for Developing Safety Critical Code

An application crash?

Friday, August 14, 2015

What is a scientist? And, is the Internet rotting kids’ brains?

There's a recent article Don’t panic, the internet won’t rot children’s brains in The Conversation that’s very much worth reading in its own right.

However, in this case I’m pointing out that it has an excellent, to-the-point passage about the nature of science:

There’s no admission ceremony to become a scientist, no Hippocratic-like oath, no hand placed on a holy book while pledging to uphold this or that. There’s no need for any of this, because without following the fundamentals of science, you are, quite simply, not a scientist.

At the very core of science is the judgement of theories in light of available evidence. Scientists are humans. We have our own beliefs and prejudices, and at times it is near-on impossible to divorce ourselves from these.

That’s why the only kingmaker in science is evidence: objective, irrefutable observations. For every scientific theory proven through observations, there are dozens that lie shattered on the floor. And that’s how it should be.

And I’ll leave it at that, for you to ponder.

Not to be judgmental, but the above quotation has the spelling “judgement” and there’s an interesting discussion of this spelling over at The Grammarist

Saturday, July 25, 2015

How to add “Open with Foxit Reader” to the right-click context menu of Windows Explorer

I use two excellent PDF reader applications on my Windows systems, PDF-XChange Viewer and Foxit Reader, but there isn’t a  top-level context menu entry (right-click menu item) in Windows Explorer for the latter application.

As is my wont, to save you some time and effort, here’s a “how to” explanation that you can use to do the same (and the same approach, with minor modifications, can be used for opening file types other than PDF documents).

The following screenshot shows the end result, the Open with Foxit Reader context menu entry, achieved after just a little bit of tinkering with the Windows registry:


There Open with PDF-XChange Viewer was already there (created by the installer), but unfortunately the Installer for Foxit Reader doesn’t add such an entry (Foxit Software, take note, and add this to you installer).

Of course, I’m assuming that you are already suitably familiar with using the registry editor in Windows. (If not, get somebody who is familiar to do it for you.)


  1. Expand the HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT hive entry.
  2. Locate and expand the shell key
  3. Right=click on the shell key and create a new key called Open with Foxit Reader
  4. Right-click on “Open with Foxit Reader” and create a new sub-key called command
  5. Double-click on the (default)value and enter (exactly) the following data string as highlighted in green:

        "C:\Program Files (x86)\Foxit Software\Foxit Reader\FoxitReader.exe" "%1"

As soon as you’ve completed step 5 you should find that the desired context menu entry is immediately available to use (as demonstrated in the first screenshot to open The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking). Not too difficult, eh?

Note that the above worked for me, under Windows 8.1 and details might vary a little for prior versions of Windows. Get a few more ideas from articles like this one one from How-To Geek.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Generate your mission statement

Now there’s no excuse not to have a mission statement for your organization, whether a giant corporation of a one-man band …

Mission Statement Generator


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Group illusion – The missing man. A baker's dozen?

An interesting visual puzzle. Watch the group of people at play.

How many people do you see?
Wait a few moments (repeating cycle).

After the people shift places, count them again!
shifting people

Given up? … Look here for a detailed explanation.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Things to do with tomorrow’s leap second (30 June 2015)

Network World is really on the ball with this opportunity!

What to do with tomorrow’s leap second (for 30 June 2015)


Screen capture of the UTC clock from
during the UTC leap second,
on June 30, 2012, 23:59:60.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

What Kind of Procrastinator Are You?

Am I a daredevil, self-saboteur, ostrich, chicken or perfectionist? I was going to find out by working my way through this infographic but I’ll leave it until tomorrow, perhaps.

It’s a flowchart to let you determine why and how you procrastinate – but so far I haven’t gotten around to working my way through it.

It’s probably worthwhile, though, as it points out:

“Sadly, procrastination is part of life. We, as humans, tend to want to put off what we can do later. In small doses, procrastination won’t hurt much, other than possibly making you lose a little bit of sleep if you stay up late to finish the job. But if it becomes a habit, it can lead to losing a job or, if you own your own business, the end of it.”

Yawn …  Mañana is soon enough for me as Peggy Lee puts it:

ATTRIBUTION: "Mañana" - Peggy Lee and the David Barbour Quartet, 1950. From “The Snader Telescriptions”. Copyright 2011 Peggy Lee Associates, LLC, under exclusive license to South Bay Music, LLC.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years

Why is everyone supposedly in such a rush to learn their first (or another) programming language?

Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years

“The conclusion is that either people are in a big rush to learn about programming, or that programming is somehow fabulously easier to learn than anything else.“

I just revisited this essay by Peter Norvig, written in 2001 it looks like, but timeless in its pointedness and veracity.

Go read it. Laugh, cry, enjoy.

While you’re in this abstract frame of mind, be sure to visit Abstruse Goose:

How to Teach Yourself Programming
The Creation – Part 1
The Creation – Part 2
    and lots more

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

IBM Notes 9 Client install fails with “RCP Base plug-in not found”–Help requested

I’ve closed my company Asia/Pacific Computer Services and am getting close to retirement from the IT industry. Having started at IBM Australia in January 1970 I doubt if I’ll reach the 50-year mark, but I’ve had a pretty long innings.

I’m still trying to keep my hand in with Notes/Domino. Every month or two over the last half year I’ve made a number of attempts to install IBM Domino and Notes 9.0 then and more recently the 9.0.1 versions. Note that this is a “virgin” installation, with no baggage left behind from earlier versions of Notes.

I reckoned that I had been sitting on Notes/Domino 8.5.3 for far too long, and that I’d have the typical smooth and painless upgrade to the next version.

The Domino server installation went swimmingly, no problems whatsoever,

However I’ve never managed to get the Notes Designer/Admin Client to install. It always reaches close to the end, as shown by the progress bar, then complains that the “RCP Base plug-in not found” followed by a roll-back of the installation:


Despite all my research (at the IBM Support website and everywhere else I could think of), I’ve not been able to get an understanding of what has been going wrong and how to overcome the stalemate.

I didn’t ever experience this problem with Notes 8.5.3. … What on earth is going wrong?

Your comments, suggestions and advice would be greatly appreciated (if polite)!.

Windows 8.1 64-bit system. I always install Domino and Notes on a non—system drive, let’s call it the G: drive, with plenty of free disk space (this helps minimize the space needed for my daily backup of the system drive). Latest version of 32-bit Java installed.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Saturday, March 21, 2015

English, as she was and is spoken

Whether or not English is your first language, or perhaps your second or third one, I’m sure that you’ll learn a lot about the origins, the spread and the current usage of the language from the following excellent Vox article by Libby Nelson:

25 maps that explain the English language

“Fifty-eight countries have English as an official language. This doesn't include most of the biggest English-speaking countries — the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom don't have official languages. This map shows where English is either the official or the dominant language. Particularly in Africa, it also doubles as a fairly accurate map of British colonial history.”

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sale by Tender of the Copyright to Clive Finkelstein’s Enterprise Architecture Workshop

In my first years with IBM Australia in the early 1970s, I was fortunate to have as one of my systems engineering mentors Clive Finkelstein.

From the mid-1970s onwards Clive concentrated on what would occupy the rest of his outstanding IT career, the field of information engineering.

Read more about this at Clive's website.

Having now retired, at LinkedIn Clive has announced sale by tender of the copyright to his outstanding Enterprise Architecture Workshop which is a rare opportunity for anybody specializing in this field of IT to take over these excellent teaching materials.

If you know anybody who might benefit from this opportunity, please pass on the above info.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Are women perfect for online business?

The battle of the sexes continues! Go read 10 Reasons Why Women are Perfect for Online Business (a new blog post by Paul Smithson):

It reminds me of being taken by my mother to see my first ever Hollywood musical, the 1950 comedy Annie Get Your Gun

And particularly its memorable hit song:

I Can Do Anything Better Than You Can

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Find the cat!

Somebody just sent me this via e-mail. Usually I don’t pass on such things, but it’s harmless and an amusing diversion so here it is.

Locate the grey and white cat in the photograph below. (Sorry, I can’t give any attribution for the originator of this little test of observation powers.)

Don’t pass it on until you’ve found the moggie, and don’t tell anybody else where it is!

Click image to see an enlarged version.

It took me about 15 to 20 seconds.
How long did it take you?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

On the matter of asking useful questions

One of my other blogs is all about asking Basic Questions.

Hopefully they will be “the right questions” rather than just any old questions.

Josh Kaufman has written a pertinent blog post:

How to Ask Useful Questions