Spam, management speak, waffle, or just crap?

I received this, in an email the other day:

We’re entering a new age where consumer applications are setting the standards for user experience, self service and efficiency by leveraging new innovations in information visualization and Web application development. Because of this change, our customers are starting to demand the same level of user experience and interactivity from their business applications.

Come to this webinar, sponsored by XXX, to learn how you can add content into your commercial applications using mashups, external apps and dashboard. We’ll be using ZZZ, an Eclipse-based reporting system. We’ll multiple ways to “mash” ZZZ into your commercial applications, including how to provide a complete, easily configured view of the enterprise through a dashboard interface.

Now that you have stopped screaming – this DOES contain a certain amount of software technology jargon. And I’ve been in the business since about the time that the dinosaurs started to die out, and I only understand about half of it.

Picking through the waffle here:

- “consumer applications are setting the standards for user experience, self service and efficiency”

Say what?  Does this refer to MS Word? That’s a consumer application. Or perhaps to Facebook, MySpazz, or (shudder) Twitter? NONE of these things set standards for user interfaces, except perhaps to lower that standard to new depths.

- “by leveraging new innovations in information visualization and Web application development”

Sorry, used the leverage word. In other words, everything that follows is meaningless garbage. And when we get to Web application development… is just a case of YAWN. Information Visualisation? Jeez this crap makes my blood boil. What the heck are you going to do? Show addresses and phone numbers in pictures instead of words? Show sales forecasts upside down? Show bank balances in stereo with bells on? People have been drawing charts and making pictures for about 17,000 years. Software lets us do it faster and easier, but New Innovations In Information Visualisation? Spare me FFS.

- “add content into your commercial applications using mashups, external apps and dashboard”

Can I poke my eye out with a fork now, please? What the fook does this mean? Add content? What is to be added? Mashups? As in jam a bunch of crap in fast and see what happens? Sorry – you lost me there. External apps (that’s applications, outside of jargon speak). Well….derr….. that’s why we have green screen emulators into older character mode systems, and why we can insert things like web pages and other STUFF into documents, pages, and what not. How is this new?

And dashboard. Oh dear. The 1-page management panacea, specially designed to show everything important at a glance, complete with happy faces and ANGRY faces. Oh dear. Oh dear.

Not to mention the appalling grammar.

Is this what the software industry has descended to?

How sad.

A fine way to spend a Saturday

Youngest son was full of excitement. After Saturday morning cricket, he rushed home, grabbed his bicycle, and took off:

“I’m off to see Fred, don’t hold lunch for me, I’ll be back later.”

This happens now and again (and the names are changed to protect the innocent). Of course, every parents nightmare is to get a phone call to say their little scrumkins has been maimed / injured / bitten / run over. But you have to let kids go and do stuff.

The Lady Of The House had to work Saturday afternoon, so I was happily minding my own business when came the dreaded call from Fred’s mum:

“There’s nothing to worry about, he’s not hurt. He’s just broken a bit off a tooth, we’re bringing him home. It might be an idea if you get him to a dentist.”

Oh.

Righto then.

DSC_4768

Imagine my surprise – that’s not a piece broken off. That’s a front tooth snapped in half. He’d done the right thing and found, and salvaged the broken piece.

Now do you think the medical / dental profession are open on a Saturday afternoon? I rang the usual suspects – his dentist, then mine. Got plenty of out-of-hours numbers to call, none of which answered or were helpful. Eventually I found a dentist across town – 24 hour emergency – who could see us – only an hour’s drive away. We hoofed it off there, lugging our busted piece of tooth in a jar of milk.

The nice dentist, in running shoes and a polo shirt, took one look.

“Nah – the root is exposed. If we put it back together it will just break. There’s only one thing for it. Root Canal, then eventually you can get it capped or crowned. It’s going to cost ya though.”

DSC_4770

So, we’ve begun. The tooth can’t be saved but root canal + lots of messing about should mean that something can go there and eventually fill the gap.

The bill – for an hours dental work and step 1 root canal on a Saturday afternoon. A cool $680. And from what I’m told, there’s about two grand still to go. Oh joy.

Software and the internet

The internet has, without a doubt, changed the software business forever.

Once upon a time software was delivered by mag tape – great big reels of 1/2 inch tape that stored about as much as a couple of modern floppy disks.

Then.. we had floppies – umpteen generations of them storing from sod all to not very much – and I fondly (not) remember installing Microsoft Office 4.3 from floppies. There were about 40 of them, and the install took well over an hour, constantly shoving floppies into a PC.

Then there was the CD, then the DVD, with a few diversions into other tape technologies along the way.

These days, on-line delivery means you never need sell a boxed product. Everything can be downloaded, fast, and easily. The only challenge is registering that a user is genuine – painful but a problem that can be solved.

In my own case, I’ve had backup software up for download now from a dedicated web site. Thought I was doing pretty well originally to get 5 to 10 downloads a week.

Things have grown… In October (that’s last month) I had 423 downloads – that’s actual downloads, not viewings of the various web pages.

Here’s the monthly figures over the last few months:

May: 99

June: 112

July: 156

August: 144

September: 218

October: 423

It’s awfully hard to tell if the Google ad campaign (which was VERY expensive but that’s a story for another day) had a big impact in October or not.

But the moral of the story here is that having software which works, at a reasonable price, with ready availability – leads to downloads, eyeballs on a screen, and ultimately users who might even pay and become customers.

Who needs a boxed product? Who needs to burn CD’s? The internet makes software delivery a piece of cake.

All I need now is to extract a couple of dollars for each download and I’ll be a rich chappy. In my dreams.

Keep off the roads!

Oldest son sat the test for his (driving) learners permit yesterday.

He passed on the first attempt with about 3 wrong answers (I think you are permitted no more than 8 wrong answers – do worse and you have to sit the test again).

Now he’s an official learner driver. And I’m an officially worried parent.

What you going to cut?

The great Global Warming Talk-Fest of Copenhagen is coming up soon.

One of the common demands being made is for a cut of Carbon Dioxide emissions by 80% (by 2040 or something like that).

So, in purely practical terms, how can one cut emissions that much? Bear in mind that ranting about governments doing so is silly. Only PEOPLE can, by their actions, cut emissions. Everything else is fudging.

Cutting emissions by 80%, of neccessity means that emissions would be about 20% of what they are today. Allowing for renewables, perhaps more efficient transport and so on might deliver on some of this. But in the end people will have to change their ways.

What are you prepared to give up? Because change of lifestyle will be mandatory. The following are ALL essential to meet the target, so you can’t pick and choose. You need to do them all:

- Driving to work – only permitted one day a week. If cars get REALLY energy efficient, then 2 days per week might be possible. This assumes cars are twice as efficient as today. Electric cars don’t count, they only shift the emission somewhere else – to the big evil coal buring power station.

- Air travel – only one (return) overseas plane flight per lifetime. Choose wisely now! Jet engines might get more efficient, but doubling the km per litre of fuel? Maybe…. In which case, two overseas holidays per lifetime. And forget nipping over to Melbourne or Sydney to see friends on a cheap flight – that’ll be a complete no-no.

- Plasma TV – but you can only watch one night a week. If you have an LCD TV, you can watch 2 nights a week. Which won’t matter, because to use less power, radio TV stations will only be permitted to broadcast for 1.5 days per week. Perhaps this is no great loss.

- Backyard swimming pools – totally forbidden. Pools need to run the filter and pump typically a few hours each day in order to remain hygienic. If the pump can only be run for 20% of the time, the pool won’t be fit to use, so drain and fill it. This has the added benefit in a dry country plagued by drought of reducing domestic / city water consumption.

- Ditto spa’s of all kinds – heating the water means that these won’t be worth having.

- Assuming LED lighting is a success (it will be), the efficiency of lamps will be about 3 to 4 x incandescent. That means you can run your house lights for about 4, or maybe 5 nights a week. If you use only half of them, you can have light every night.

- Refrigerators larger than a bar fridge will have to become illegal. Beer fridges will be totally forbidden. Even these smaller fridges will be a stretch.

- All amplified music and rock concerts will have to set the volume no higher than 2 out of 10. Limiters will be imposed by law on all new audio equipment to enforce this.

- Cooked meals will be permitted for only 1 in 5 meals. Typically this means that a cooked dinner will be allowed roughly once every second evening.

- A hot shower will be permitted once every 5 days. The remaining time the water must not be heated to avoid burning anything. This does not present much of a problem on a 45 degree Adelaide summer day, but it will be something of a challenge for Melbournites during their winter.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Reducing emissions means using less. By us all. Does the above sound extreme? That’s what is being expected of us.

Die Zitrone

The ongoing saga of The Lemon continues. In the spirit of it being an Opel car, it is also henceforth know as Die Zitrone. When means The Lemon. Although the car is of German origins, it was built in Belgium but we’ll ignore this minor detail.

About 3 weeks ago, I leapt into The Lemon to drive between the two offices at work that I currently split time between. The car promptly turned on 2 service lights and the automatic transmission would not shift out of 3rd gear.

Of course, this happened on the Wednesday before we were to go out looking to buy a replacement for it. :(

From that point on, it would run like Baby Bears Porridge – Just Right, until it warmed up. Then it would flip into emergency / limp-home mode.

I decided I was tired of throwing money in the direction of Holden – I’d do some car work of my own. First step was to find what the service codes were. Dealers and garages will happily attach their diagnostic equipment and find the service codes – for a fee. Mr Google came in handy, and I found a place selling car service code scanners. For less the price of paying a garage for 2 vehicle scans, I now have my very own service code scanner.

In the meantime, I found I could drive the car like a manual – just put the transmission in first, second, third, and try and do so at about the right engine speed. That got me to and from work for a fortnight.

Using the service code scanner turned up 3 codes: P0220, P1550 and P1890. These code indicate a throttle position sensor error and an automatic transmission switch to emergency / limp-home mode.

A bunch more googling showed that the fault here could be the electronic throttle body – they get gummed up and need cleaning. A happy day with oldest son pulling that out and cleaning it left the car no worse. And no better either.

The remaining possible faults were a serious failure of the throttle body, or a stuffed engine computer (also called the ECU or ECM). A quick trip to my friendly local mechanic confirmed this diagnosis. The packing-it-in-only-when-warmed up left me suspecting the more expensive of the possible failures – the ECU.

Now an ECU in a modern car is a pretty serious beast, and in this car it controls EVERYTHING. It makes the power windows go. It runs the engine. It runs the door locks. It does the cruise control. Without an ECU the car is just a big pile of scrap metal. Trouble is, a new ECU costs about $1500, and then you need your friendly local Holden dealer to program it to the car – setting things like the type of ABS you have, putting in the Vehicle ID number, setting the various car options (power windows – yes/no, rear window wiper – yes/no) and so on. Programming it to the car allegedly costs another $300.

Mr Google came to the rescue again. ECU’s can be repaired, they are know to fail quite frequently and especially in this model of car. HINT TO DESIGNERS: Bolting a lump of electronics onto the side of a hot vibrating engine is NOT the way to make the electronics reliable. Most of the ECU repairs I found require the unit to be sent to England. Then – relief, Injectronics in Melbourne also fix them, with agencies through Sprint Auto Parts in SA and REPCO nationally.

Ripping the ECU and immobiliser out is a 20 minute job if you know what you are doing. If you don’t, like me, it takes about 3 hours. Anyhow, I got the sucker out and dropped it in last weekend to be sent away for it’s lobotomy. A few days later an exchange unit was sent back with all the car programming transferred into it, and I fitted that today. The last week has been difficult – transport-wise, but we managed.

Re-assembly of everything, again, takes about 20 minutes when you know what you are doing. I did quite well to have it done in about an hour and a half.

HOORAY! The car seems to be running OK now.

Now we can sell it. I just need to get one more thing fixed first :(

When the time comes…

The slogan on the Kelloggs Nutri-grain pack reads:

When the time comes, will you be prepared?

A reference to having the energy and stamina to go and slay dragons, or play football, or catch fishies.

Clearly the Marketing People who put this together don’t remember the advertisements that used to be run by a prominent local funeral home, using almost exactly the same words.

I’m left wondering therefore just WHAT IS THE EFFECT of eating Nutri-grain?

Tips, tips, tips, tips, and more @$%^ tips

Is it me?

Am I going mad, have I just noticed, has it been going on forever?

I’ve just started to notice a vast number of TIPS.

TIPS on how to save money.

TIPS on how to use your time more wisely.

TIPS on better healthy living.

Blah blah blah.

The trend to tips
Gives me the shits
Cos the trouble with tips
Is there’s not time for thinks.

And that about sums it up really. TIPS. The things you have when you don’t want to think something through or take some time for reflection. Gimme some TIPS. Preferably in bullet point form. Keep it short. Use Readers Digest words. Give it me now. And then piss off.

Erk. A world full of no thinking and a bucket of tips. Yuk.  Bring back time for reflection, thinking, and the occasional hint. Tips suck.

Lemons and Slides

Today I took a day off work – second to last day of the school holidays.

When The Chaps were smaller I was going to a good dad. Around the place. Not one of those fellas at work till all hours. Alas, it’s not quite turned out like that. I’m usually at work till 6:30 pm, I have things to do both volunteer and otherwise on weekends, and so have all the usual regrets. Especially seeing as Oldest Chap will be 16 in about 3 weeks and wants to rush off and get his Learning-To-Drive permit. Ye Gods, it seems like only a few months ago that I was cleaning poo out of his socks. (And he’ll be mortified to read this, naturally, which is why I wrote it.)

So anyhow, today we did a bit of Boys Stuff and Silly Stuff.

The Lemon, see, is playing up again. This time with some kind of weirdness where after it’s been driven about 10 minutes the automatic transmission gives a big “clunk” and after that its locked in 3rd gear. At the same time it seems to be running hot. Again. A few days ago I bought a car diagnostic fault analyser that you plug into the vehicle – it extracts and displays the fault codes from the car on-board engine management computer.

This is very informative, it tells me I have a P0220, a P1550 and a P1890. Gosh.

It seems that P0220 is related to muck building up the in the throttle body (the newfangled version of the carby that applies to fuel injected vehicles). So we went and bought some carby cleaner, and pulled bits of the engine apart. Got the throttle body out enough to squirt cleaner in, and polished it all up nicely so you could eat yer dinner orf it. Oldest Chap got covered in as much grot as me so it must have been fun!

After reassembly – the car did actually start. I cleared all the fault codes from the computer, and we took it for a spin. Ten minutes in…. CLUNK. And a Christmas tree worth of fault indicators on the dash. Drat. Well, that one didn’t work then.

So what the heck – we went off to the St Kilda adventure playground with a couple of daggy old towels, climbed the fort and the hill, and spent an hour zipping down the huge slides, the double helix slide, and generally being a bit silly. The Lemon got us there and back – driving the automatic as a manual and changing through the gears works reasonably well.

But after 40-mumble years I feel I’m getting a bit old for  this playground thing. The slides are not wide enough, so I have bruises on the sides of my hips. And have had the living daylights shaken out of me from the bumps. They still terrify me – looking down – and they still exhilarate - sliding down. But it sure is more difficult than it used to be.

Perhaps I just need more practice.

Friday Photo(s) – Late Again

Today’s Phriday Photo’s are late – yes – posted on Saturday.

Today I’m doing a batch – from my wanderings at Port Adelaide of a month or so ago. The theme today is a bit woolly. Yes, that’s right. Sheep and how the nation made a motza flogging fleeces to The Empire, or perhaps that should be, Empahh.

Port Adelaide had, and still has, vast Wool Stores. Many of these were built in the 1930’s or before – as best I can find out anyhow. They vary between the elegant and the utilitarian tatty.

Today’s photos then, are a selection of wools stores.

Wool Store 
Wool Store

Wool Store 
Wool Store

(Click for a full size version)

Friday Photo

Yep – its running a bit late.

Today the Friday Photo is the Workers Memorial at Port Adelaide. Whilst vaguely interesting in itself, the early morning light gives deep shadows, and bright light where the sun is – overall the impression is striking.

The Workers Memorial

(Click for the full size version… go back a photo for William Russell – Sail maker and Ships Chandler.)

Shallow

Today’s crop of vanity plates displays just how shallow people are.

Exhibit 1.

Seen on a bog ordinary out-of-the-factory Holden Commodore:

ITS
MYNE

So, not only can the owner not spell, but they want to show to the world that they can’t spell, and that they can only show off a plain mass produced factory car. If something like that was on the back of an Aston Martin driven by a blonde bimbette, I could perhaps understand the desire to show off. But on a Commodore? Sorry.

Exhibit 2.

Seen on a plain old Mazda 3 or Toyota Corolla – another car sold by the squadrillion:

IOU-001

You owe who one, for what? What strange piece of logic, if any, entered the twisted and demented soul of a person who wants a number plate like that? On the getaway car of a bank robber or perhaps as the plates on one of the Bernie Madoff Rolls Royces, I could understand and even appreciate the irony. But on a rice burner in the morning rush-half-hour commute of a big country town? Sorry.

Exhibit 3.

Seen on another Holden Commodore:

MYVY-03

Yes, it WAS in the back of a VY Commodore. Gosh, what an imagination! Not everyone could think of a vanity plate that includes the car model. I think I’m going to have palpitations, I might need to sit down and get my breath back, the imagination shown here is just so stupendous in its breadth, depth, and creativity.

I’m left wondering. These people have such egos that they want these vanity plates in the first place, and this is the best they can come up with. (Follow the train of reasoning here), so how come if they are so dumb we let these people DRIVE? And VOTE?

Friday Photo

Todays Friday Photo comes courtesy of a wall at Port Adelaide – painted with an old advertisement for M. Donaghy & Sons – ropemakers of Geelong and Port Adelaide.

Sign

(Click for the full size version… and if you go back a photo once there you can see why I might have a few reservations about The Central Hotel.)

Zzzzzzz

I spent today writing a Software Development Plan. The sort of thing you need to do now and again as part of quality systems and such like.

I’ve reached 23 scintillating pages. I have some very good reference material, previous documents, and other odds and sods to draw on.

There is one big trouble with writing documents like this.

It’s as boring as bat shit.

I’m having trouble keeping the attention focussed on it. Sooooo looking forward to having it completed. Another day or two should see a reasonable first draft. How ever do full time QA professionals avoid the boredom?

Creepy, yes its creepy

The Lady Of The House (otherwise known in Acronym Soup land as The LOTH… which seems better than the male equivalent, being The MOTH), Anyhow… The LOTH has been hunting down all sorts of weird stuff for her work – which at various times involves kiddie-winks and school groups and such like.

In her travels, she found The Creepy Halloween Vampire Dude:

dracula-mask

She was very excited. “Take away the teeth – who does it look like?”

Scroll down for the answer.

——

In other news, this one caught my eye about the entry of the US giant Costco to Australia. Sounds a bit like Tom-The-Cheap (of 35 years ago) meets Bunnings Warehouse.

—–


Read the rest of this entry »

Oh dear, oh dear

Gosh. Perpetual motion machines ARE REAL and you can use them to generate FREE ELECTRICITY and power your home.

And the reason it’s not used more widely is because OF A BIG CONSPIRACY TO COVER IT UP.

Oh dear.

http://www.smallbizcenter.info/magniwork.php?apid=A1M&apflag=1&v=1

If you watch the videos – it all seems so plausible. There is even a patent so it must work, right? Wrong! Patents are patents, they are not a determinant of truth.

Do some more digging, you will find this: http://www.rexresearch.com/christie/christie.htm#how

The bit right at the end explains how the fallacy works.

For a historical list of free energy devices and perpetual motion machines: http://www.phact.org/e/dennis4.html

If ever asked, don’t invest your money in such devices.

Friday photo

Today’s Friday Photo is still from the recent Port Adelaide series.

The chap above the door on the town hall is, well, striking. What a grumpy old sod, he makes me look positively cheerful.

Grumpy? Me?

(Click for the full size version… and if you go back a photo once there you can see the delights that Bernie The Butcher has to offer.)

Humourless Bastard

I’ve got a bit to get off ma chest. No blogging for a few weeks back there and now I have an accumulation of rants.

So today, the one in my sights is Mr 80% – yes, that’s right, the essay-writing Kevin 07 – Mr Rudd.

Back in the days when the Evil Bastard was in power we had corruption, self-serving dimwits, and the dying days of a government that had done it’s time.

But we also had The Chaser on the Goggle Box, who would do a weekly stunt – like catch Little John power walking and try and cuddle him whilst holding a running chainsaw. (As you do to a Prime Minister).

John might have been an evil little prick – but he could at least take a joke. Every week, he’d have a laugh, and we’d laugh along.

Well, now, The Chaser has finished – killed off by their own lack of imagination, and stifled by an ABC even more cowed than it was when Little John was The Man.

But notable in the last few shows was the reaction of Mr $300,000,000 – Kevin The PM.

Kevin HAS NO SENSE OF HUMOUR AT ALL.

Unlike Li’l John, Kevin can’t take a joke, can’t laugh at himself – or anyone else. His sense of humour must have been surgically removed. This does not fill me with a sense of a great future for this nation. We need to laugh at ourselves – and this starts at the top.

Friday Photo

Yes, the Friday Photo has made a comeback (on a Saturday, I might add).

The other week, before the Dreaded Lurgy struck, I had to run Oldest Son down to Port Adelaide each morning for a few days. On the last day I remembered to grab the camera before leaving.

So today’s Friday Photo is the first in a series, which I’ll pop out over the next few weeks, probably a couple of photos a week.

Port Adelaide is interesting, because unlike many of the other cities of the old colonies, the port is some 10 or so miles distant from the city; so the character of the port is quite different to the character of the city.

The port has also been left behind in the development stakes, though things have gradually been changing there over the last 10 years or so. Right now, a huge development push is happening, so the character will be completely changed again over the next few years.

This series, then, is a bit of a snapshot of the port of today – bits of the faded grandeur,  bits of the tacky and run-down, and bits of the warehouses that stored the wool that created much of the wealth of the early colony.

——-

Today, though, is indulgence: The end of winter, the clear blue sky, early morning long shadows, and the effect of parallel lines of trees and buildings make for an interesting effect.

Light, Shade, Perspective - Port Adelaide

(Click for full size)

Plagued…

In amongst the fun of getting The Lemon fixed, both The Lady of The House and I have come down with the same ripper of a cold-in-the-head at the same time.

We’ve been a pair misery-gutses, I’ve been off work since Wednesday, the LOTH since Thursday. Today was an annual leave day for us both because the kids have day off school. We had been going to have a noice family day out somewhere. Instead, the chaps have been lying low while their Mum and Dad mope around feeling sorry for themselves.

Now Youngest Son says he thinks he has it on the way as well. I hope not, because it’s a mighty powerful one this. The Snot Fairy had extra strong magic in her wand when she cast it in our direction.

I feel like putting a sign on the door: “Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here”.

I spose it will be sorted in a few days.

The Lemon – today’s exciting adventure

Today The Lemon came home from its overnight stay in car-hospital.

Total bill for the cooling system repairs: $1100. Costs you less to have children.

It turns out that the water pump was busted, and the nice chap who did the repair sees a lot of this model for the same fix. At the same age, the water pumps all go. Apparently they are in such demand that the suppliers have them on back-order.

While they were at it, they replaced the special hard-to-get-at Y-shaped hose that the dealer service people had suggested might need replacing – it was leaking so it had to be done.

And in order to do the water pump, the timing belt needed to be replaced as well. You have to pull the timing belt to get the water pump off. But it was just as well, the timing belt was shot and pretty much ready to give up the ghost at any time. He kept it to show me the cracks in it, and questioned if it had ever been replaced.

Now on this car, the timing belt is supposed to be replaced every 60,000 km. the car has done 105,000 km. I just checked back through the service receipts – the 60,000 km service was a shocker – at that time they replaced the water pump also (so it’s now on #3), timing belt, and a bunch of other things. In other words, the timing belt was replaced when it was supposed to be, but the replacement may not have lasted the scheduled time. And getting under 60,000 km from water pumps?! What were these designers thinking?

Interesting though was the price for all this work:

Item Quoted Holden Dealer Price Price I paid
Y Shaped Hose $170 $121
Coolant $65 $50
Labour for Y shaped
hose replacement
2 hours 1 hour

If this is what a nice guy in the ‘burbs can charge – for genuine parts, then watch out – your friendly Holden dealer is most likely ripping you off.

The whole repair has been very expensive – but as the nice man said – had the timing belt gone, it would have been 3 times the price to fix it.

I can thoroughly recommend the chap who did the fix: McLean Automotive Services at Ridgehaven. They seem to be honest, they charge less than a dealer, and most impressively – the workshop is immaculately clean – a sign that they take a great deal of care. This is our second dealing with them now, and they’ll be getting more of our business in future.

Disappointing…

When I left University, 20-mumble or so years ago, I signed up at no cost to join the Alumni Association. For all that time, I’ve been receiving the occasional publication setting out what’s going on, new research, blah blah blah.

Some of this is good, some is bad. I’ve vaguely kept in touch with the University where I spent 5 years, and that gave me 2 degrees. Some of the administration and Vice-Chancellors who run the show day to day, have been good, some terrible. Some interesting, and some excruciatingly boring.

And along the way, I’ve been an occasional donor to the various appeals – money for library collections, but more particularly, funds for student scholarships.

I donate for a few very good and simple reasons:

- I was the beneficiary of Gough Whitlam’s free tertiary education; modern students (thanks I might add to a later Labor Government) are not so fortunate. My parents – who no doubt on reading this may disagree – were not hugely well off, and paying fees would have been either a huge stretch or meant I would not have gone at all;

- My wife is likewise the beneficiary of the free tertiary education – in her case, the parents were even less well off  - but ended up with three University educated daughters – courtesy of Gough or the once-generous government scholarship system;

- And finally – I only just managed to scrape into what I wanted to study. I crept over the cutoff score by 3 points in the equivalent back in those days of the TER. I think I was the lowest scored entrant that year – but entry scores don’t prove everything because I still managed 2 degrees (1 with honours and an invitation to two extra honours years in two other disciplines as well), and left with a bag full of distinctions.

Supporting students who are not so well off is something I care about. It helped me along the way, so the idea of giving something back for future generations matters – especially in the land of HECS, and fees, and parsimonious governments who make it much harder for students to study.

So it pains me when I receive the annual published list of donors – never showing dollar amounts – just donors of anything. And on that list I see the old lecturers, tutors, professors and staff. And bugger all of the students I spent 5 years of my life with.

I wonder what they think of the education and opportunities they received, and whether they are grateful for it? If they are – I’d hope now is time to show it. Most of my cohort should be middle aged and debt free – finding $20 to $100 a year to chuck in a scholarship find should be immaterial. And the help is immeasurable. Time to give a little back.

Gotta Wonder

A Lemon update…

The other day I took The Lemon for its service and check of the cooling system; where the Nice Men From Holden gave me the price of hoses and so on and said “it will cost X dollars”. But didn’t actually fix anything.

At the time I told them that I’d added a litre of coolant, and that it was dumping rather a lot of coolant on the garage floor. And I wanted it fixed. In spite of all that, they didn’t even really look at it, and didn’t want to try and fix anything – even when I asked them to when they called me at 4:45 pm.

I drove it home from The Nice Men From Holden, and got home with a rather unpleasant smell of hot engine coolant wafting around. Drove The Boy around the next couple of days, work on Friday, blah blah blah.

I seriously wondered if I’d make it home on Friday – the engine temperature was getting awfully high. This morning I added another litre of coolant and did a quick run to a couple of shops. Got home and did the bleedin’ obvious check: HAD A LOOK UNDER THE CAR.

There is coolant DRIPPING OUT… drip drip drip, about a drip a second. No wonder it pongs.

These IDIOTS at The Nice Men From Holden obviously didn’t even run the damn engine or put the car up on the hoist.

Total F#@$wits.

(For fear of libel suits I won’t mention their names here… anybody who wants to know a Holden dealer to keep well away from can email me.)

One of my colleagues from work put it like this: They probably have service KPI’s to meet – like turn-around time. So they do the smallest amount possible, meeting their performance targets, and fob it all off by saying the customer was informed. He’s probably right. KPI’s – the evil outcome of a misguided attempt to give customer service; which only result in the system being gamed and the customer being screwed.

A Car-full of crap

Today has been a run-around day. I’ve been running The Boy around from here to there and back again. Well, not quite back – he’s getting the bus home after much research of routes, and bus stops, and what not. I’m on standby in case the journey turns to custard. My morning only comprised 2 hours on the road – only another hour to go now.

Along the way I dropped The Lemon in for a service and to get a couple of faults fixed; “The Lemon” being the fond family name for the Holden Astra TS. If something can go wrong with that car, it will.

When I had to fill out the form for the work security guards (yada yada what’s you car make, model, and rego number…) I filled out that its “The Lemon”. I hope the nice security man managed to crack the merest twitch of a smile.

So far, The Lemon has had rear brake disks replaced (TWICE), the air-con compressor replaced, and both rear power windows replaced. The A/C compressor come in at a mere $1000, and you don’t want to know what power windows cost when they cark it. In this case, cark it means “make horrible snap noise”, and after that the window falls down. Jolly cold in winter I tells ya.

So after spending 17 arms and 43 legs, The Lemon has another couple of small faults.

The T-bar automatic shifter has a button that you press in to change from Park to Drive, and so on. The knob pops out, and lands on the floor amongst ones feet, always at the most inopportune time.

And the poor dear is running a bit warm, and seems to be drinking coolant the way a wino slurps down cheap port.

So like I was sayin’,  I dropped it in for a look-see with the doctor today. Who just phoned. They did the service.

Yes, that’s right. They did the service. The T-Bar automatic transmission changer-knobby-thing can’t be repaired by itself, it needs a whole new assembly. $350. They need to order it from Melbourne. So that’s not fixed.

And as for the drinking problem. Well, there are a couple of hoses that are a bit weepy. One is $75. For the hose. The other one is $175. For a !#$% hose. And the expensive hose (that’s that latter, in case you were curious) is a bugger to fit – the trained mechanics take about 2 hours to sort it out.

So the drinking problem is not fixed either. But they advise getting it seen to soon, because if it splits completely it will be kind of catastrophic.

Err… ISN’T THAT WHY I TOOK IT THERE? I’ve been waiting all day for a call to say what it would cost, not expecting a call at the end of the day when it’s too late for them to just get in and do it.

Jeez… how do you get mechanics to actually repair something? Dimwits.

Now The @#$% Lemon needs to go back to the doctor again. This time to a backyard mechanic who will actually do some @#$% work instead of trying for the easy life.

(I think the next car after this one will be another Corolla. They seem to go forever.)

It’s just NOT good enough!!!

Ha ha – the campaign has paid off. Maybe somebody on the council was paying attention to my weekly postings…

Nudes are back in the City of Tea Tree Gully annual art exhibition!

Great Googling Gaggles of Bookses

There has been a great furore a-brewin over the dreaded Google getting out there and scanning books to add to the stuff they index, so us plebs can search it.

In general there seems little dispute about the desirability of scanning, indexing, and presenting whole books that are out of copyright. In other words, written over about 100 to 150 years ago. Pretty much everyone can get the reasoning – literature and knowledge that it inaccessible or out of print is suddenly accessible again: I don’t have to travel to some dusty library in Alexandria in order to ferret out an exotic tome on the legal principles underpinning grain transport in ancient Babylon.

Where everybody (especially publishers) is getting in a lather is about books that are still in copyright – in other words, younger than 50 years after the death of the author. That’s pretty much the vast majority of books in the world.

The concerns here seem to be twofold – how the deals are done with the copyright owners, and the general principle of digitising an in-copyright book in the first place.

The big trouble with all the excitement is the publishing industry need to understand their role. The publishing house has always been the middle-man between author and market – weeding out the rubbish, editing, arranging printing and distribution, collecting the money, paying the authors yada yada yada.

The publishing houses control the supply. So when you want to buy a book, and can’t because it’s out of print – that’s the publishing house saying “you want to give me money but I don’t want to take it. And if you are naughty and get that book and stick it on the photocopier then it’s illegal and I’ll get very grumpy with you.” Heads they win, tails you lose. In this case, so does the author.

Allowing books to be on-line, searchable, browseable, puts the power back in the hands of the readers. We don’t have to suffer the tyranny of distance (to the dusty library). Even better – by searching the content of a book we can find things we didn’t know we didn’t know. (A touch Rumsfeldian… think about it). Suddenly, knowledge and literature is available.

For books in copyright but out of print – nobody is going to lose money if the book is suddenly on-line. It wasn’t available, remember?

For books in copyright and in print, the approach used is to allow only a portion of the book to be viewed (but still a full content search). So I can see the few pages of interest when I want to know about Crypographic Ciphers, or All Animals Being Equal But Some More Equal Than Others*, or Accounting Standards, or Pipe bend radii in 1/8 inch mild steel pipes. And if I find that the book is useful, and available I can go buy it. Before search, I didn’t even know it was there so that I could buy it. Or I could only search a bookstore by title. Slow, dull, and requires great leaps of faith.

Book search and browse makes the world a better place – it puts more knowledge where it is most useful, at low cost. And those who want to buy now know what to buy. Copyright owners should see more sales, not less.

What’s the big deal? Get on with it.

——-

* I”m pretty sure that the estate of George Orwell are being a bit difficult about his books going on line. Time to get over it, methinks.

Useless, completely useless

While the family were telling bad jokes over the dinner table, my mind was wandering. And it landed on VCRs. As you do.

I think we bought our first VCR about 14 years ago. So about 1995, maybe ‘94. Whatever. Far from being top of the range, it was roughly middling, and set us back about $500. I well remember that amount, because it was about a weeks wages (after tax). Maybe a touch less. It seemed like a heck of a lot of money back then. The model with G-code was about $100 more.

That machine lasted for around 7 or 8 years. At one stage it broke, and we had it apart on the lounge room coffee table, in pieces for weeks finding the bit in the mechanical gubbins that had broken. It was some big toothed wheel thing with cam follower slots in, or something equally peculiar and mechanical. We could even, in those days, buy a NEW PART, rather than a whole assembly. The repair cost $3 because that’s what the big toothed wheel thing with cam follower slots in cost. Our labour to re-assemble it was free.

Likewise, it would stop playing after a while, because the heads needed cleaning. It had a special mechanical automatic-head-cleaner-ator, but this wore out after a few years. Head cleaning tapes didn’t work so I used to pull it apart and clean it with special head cleaning alcohol, in place of the automatic-head-cleaner-ator.

One day it died so badly that it was beyond repair. So we bought the replacement we still have. This must have been about 2003, or thereabouts. The new one came with G-code (wow!! a cool feature!). And it cost about $250. More stuff for less $$.

About a year ago we bought a hard disk recorder. $500 obtained digital TV, about 9000 hours of recording time, random searching, playback while recording. Blah blah blah. And electronic program guide. Even more stuff… more $, but allowing for inflation – far cheaper than that original VCR.

Which remininscences brings me to the point of this ramble. G-code. Anybody remember that?

A magic number placed in the printed TV program guides published in the newspaper. Enter the G-code and the machine would automagically select the right channel, start time, and stop time.

Two fatal flaws were glossed over in the rush to have the must-have feature:

- Firstly, G-code just coded the channel and times. There was no synchronisation with the transmitted signal. If the station started early, or ran late, tough. You missed recording bits of the program you wanted. And worse, in some places (like where I live) the G-codes would always enter Eastern Standard Time. Fine if you live in that time zone. Useless elsewhere.

- Secondly, for a program that repeated at the same time each week, G-Code could not code the repeat. So even if you entered the G-Code, you had to edit the programming of the machine anyhow.

And, if you had the printed guide (with the G-code numbers in) it was just as easy to enter the start and stop times with a 5 minute allowance either side. You got better results and missed less of your program.

And did anybody even pay attention to the copyright notice? It used to appear under the program guide and say something illuminating like “G-Code numbers are copyright by blah blah corporation and may not be used or reproduced without permission blah blah blah.”

THEY WERE JUST NUMBERS. Like 7. And 982543. HOW DO YOU COPYRIGHT A NUMBER? Idiots.

G-code was therefore, in my experience, completely useless. But it sold premium VCRs and must have made a packet in licence fees for Mr G, the inventor. Thank heavens junk like this is obsoleted by digital TV.

You did what, Mr Potter?

So yesterday afternoon / evening, we continued the long family tradition of going off to see the latest Harry Potter movie and going out for dinner afterwards.

We went to the Piccadilly, one of the few remaining Art Deco theatres still in Adelaide. It’s still been converted to a multiplex internally, but the biggest theatre is mainly the old upstairs stalls, and it’s quite large by modern standards.

As we arrived, the previous session must have just finished – hundreds of people were spilling out, heading away. We arrived with chaps to meet my parents – who were in the queue which stretched the full length of the downstairs foyer, up the stairs, and the full length of the upstairs foyer. In this theatre, that’s a very long queue. We managed to get seats together, and settled into the Swine Flu Incubation Chamber for 2 1/2 hours of Mr Potter and his wizarding fantasy madness. Talk about ending with a What The Heck. The final film better not be another 2 years away. We need to see it NOW.

When the film ended, I started counting people leaving. About 100 had already gone before I started counting, I counted 150, and the theatre was still half full. There must have been about 400 to 500 people in that session. As we left, the huge queue was forming ready to do it all again. The theatre must love this, the big hits are money for old rope.

After, we ambled down O’Connell St, trying to find a place to stop for a bite to eat. The first two restaurants we tried were full: “Sorry Sir, we’re completely booked out”. Third time we struck lucky. Recession? What recession?

Monstered

OK, I admit it.

We’ve been watching Masterchef – known in our house as MonsterChef. Nothing much else gets done.

As the competition has proceeded, it has (naturally) become more and more interesting, and when you have a recorder that allows record / playback you can skip the extremely long ad breaks.

Product placement and sponsorship anybody? The show must be a marketeers dream. Coles banners all over the place, and more steri-packs of Campbells Real Stock than you can poke a stick at. And Scanpans. And on and on.

But what really stands out, what I notice more than anything else, is how NICE the contestants are. To everybody. To each other. After watching Gordon Ramsay’s Hells Kitchen, the contrast is staggering. In Hells Kitchen, the contestants are mean, nasty, manipulative, lying, and just downright nasty. Masterchef is the opposite. Does this say something about Australians, or are they just targeting a different demographic?

Gah!

I just finished reading a novel by PD James.

More fool me I suppose. I just don’t like the rather prissy way she writes, I’d figured this out years ago. But I got bored and picked one up a week or two ago.

PD James is now in her 70’s, or thereabouts, and it shows. The style of writing is from a bygone age, when words were crafted for how they sounded, as much if not more than what they meant.

Here is an example, which I found particularly irritating:

An arrow in white wood with the words ‘Perigold Pottery’ painted in black was fixed to a post stuck into the grass of the verge.

This sentance, at first glance, seems just fine. Once you start to analyse the grammar, it’s actually very difficult to understand. There are 7 subjects (things being referenced) here: the arrow, the wood, the words, the paint, the post, the grass, and the verge. In a single sentence!

This could be be re-written: “A post stuck in the grass of the verge had an arrow, showing the words ‘Perigold Pottery’”. Or it could be trimmed even more, and just say there was sign. Why all the excessive detail? It was of no relevance whatsoever to the story.

There are more examples than I care to go and find, that above is only notable because my irritation level had risen to the point where I wanted to grab a red pen and start marking up changes to the text.

Modern writing tends to be tighter, more terse, and requires far less hard intellectual work to read. Desirable, when we read for pleasure or to escape the hard intellectual work of the daily grind. Don’t give me more of what I’m trying to escape from!

Gah!!!

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