Saturday, 6 December 2008

The Fat Lady Steps Up

Phwoar, look at that, even the installation screen is looking a bit sexy.

Check out the Opera Desktop Team Blog for more! :)

Meanwhile, I notice it's been a while since I wrote anything... And I'd been meaning to write a bit about synchronicity, too...

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Wednesday, 22 October 2008


I was simply writing a cheque, but after I'd written it, I sat there staring at it for a moment.

Forty pounds only.

I then had one of those bizarre moments where you're sure something is right, but it looks wrong. "Forty.  Forty.  Doesn't 'four' have a 'u' in it? But that is how you spell 'forty', isn't it."

I had to write them both down to check ;)

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Random Holiday Statistics

  • Holiday length: 15 days
  • Number of pictures & movies taken: 2,429 (excluding any on my phone, or of the flight home)
  • Total size of photos and movies taken: 8.76gigabytes (enough to fill two standard writable DVDs)
  • Number of times I used up both my camera battery and 2gb SD card within a single day and had to swap to spares: Two.
  • Total distance driven by me: 1,771 miles.
  • States visited: Three.
  • States visited that I had not visited before: Two.
  • Number of states “very-almost-but-not-quite” visited: Two.
  • Greatest number of beverages produced by the Coca-Cola Company drunk in one session: 48.
  • Total number of record-breaking escalators ridden: One.
  • Number of films that I took with me to watch: Six.
  • Of which, number watched: Zero.
  • Number of TV episodes that I took with me to watch: 63.
  • Of which, number watched: Zero.
  • Books completed: One.
  • Number of photos purchased following rides/events: Eight (six in one go, on a CD).
  • Number of towels bought: One.
  • Number of times fallen out of a raft: Zero.
  • Altitude as I write this: 9,443 metres (30,997 ft)
  • Boxes of teabags taken with me: Four.
  • Record number of steps a one-year-old could take by the end of my first week: Five.
  • Record number of steps the same one-year-old could take by the end of my second week: Twenty-five.
  • Total number of additional nights spent in the same hotel after the first night: One.
  • Money saved by buying a new 16gb blue iPod Nano in the US: £30.
  • Of which, amount saved by happening to buy it the day the US Bailout Plan was first rejected: £6.50.
  • Number of times gas bought: Four (I think)
  • Greatest single distance travelled in freefall: 16 stories.
  • Distance travelled on roller coasters: 20,673 feet (3.92 miles)

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Plastic Power

It's 3am. I'm in a hotel somewhere between the Smoky Mountains and Atlanta.

I got woken up by a plastic bag rustling. Don't know why it rustled, sure made me wake with a start though. Thought someone was in my room for a minute.

But I woke remembering what I was dreaming at the time...

I don't remember how the dream started, but I'm pretty sure it had some sort of plot. An incidental point was that I wanted a snack. Well, next thing I knew was that I was in a top-secret peanut manufacturing plant, surrounded by packets of peanuts.

I picked up two packets and legged it... Seemed to be able to get out too... Leaped out the first story window, onto the roof of a van, onto another van, and onto another, and then onto the floor. Turned a corner, as I could see the perimiter wall (it may have been desert on the other side, not sure), and wandered into an area that set a whole bunch of alarms off.

Immediately, two armed guards appeared. I put my hands to my head.

They gestured to the floor. I kept my arms to my head and got down onto my knees.

They fired a cannister of gas of some sort at me. That didn't really seem to do anything (plot-hole? :) )

They fired some other thing at me, which separated into four and each aimed at one hand or foot.

And it was about there I woke up.

And I have a strong sense of deja vue about the whole experience. Bizarre :) Wish I could remember the first half of the dream, I think that was slightly less surreal, and I'm sure it had an interesting 'plot' :)

Thought I'd write it down, as I don't often remember my dreams :)

Phew, right, well.. best get back to sleep :)

Wednesday, 24 September 2008


I had one of those "woah!" moments over the weekend.

I was engaged in a big ol' bout of tidying, organising, and filing. These things often tend to take me a while, as I can often end up getting distracted by whatever it is that I'm trying to tidy/organise/file ;)

I keep a lot of things (read: random old junk) that spark memories. Leaflets collected on holidays, train tickets, pieces of paper with random scribbles, ... Things I keep that I think may later prompt a smile when I rediscover them.

And it's true, many of these things do spark those memories, spark those smiles, as I later come to rediscover them.

But I didn't really specifically think about this until I found something that I couldn't remember the story behind. Certainly, regardless of what that story is or how long its telling would take, it will have a story. But it felt very strange to hold in my hand something I had chosen to keep, yet not to know its context.

This got me thinking about stories. The stories behind all the things around us.

Everything has a story to tell. From the big things everyone knows about - the stars and the sky, the rivers and the hills, the mountains and the trees - to the little things in forgotten places. Some of these things simply pass through our lives, no more than an idle narrative as the page is turned. Others are a part of the story. And there are so many types of stories behind these things. There are the technical stories and sentimental stories. The stories of where things came from, and the stories of what they were. The stories of things seen, and the stories of things cherished.

The tapestry of life is an ever-changing, ever-evolving wonder. I wonder how these things thread through it?

The pound coin down the back of your sofa. How did it get there? How did it come to you? What has it seen?

The flimsy piece of cardboard that was your train ticket for a day. What did it mean to you? What did you do on that day? Where did you buy the ticket and where did it take you? Where did it come from? Was it once a part of a tree in a forest near you? Or did it come from the other side of the world?

The notes you write for yourself. Reminders and things to do. Would you know now what they meant? Did you do them? Did something more exciting come up that you forgot? Or was there so much going on to begin with that you had to write them down?

A hundred million things pass through our lives, and every one has a story to tell.

I like blogs. Blogs capture a fraction of that most personal of stories, the story of ourselves. Why did you start your blog, and where did it take you? Did the very act of telling that story take it to new places?

We are absolutely surrounded by stories. Most sit, tantalisingly out of reach, hovering beyond our awareness.

I wonder where we would go, who we would be, were we to know those stories. How much would they teach us, and how much would we learn?

Everything has a story. Everything has at least a glimmer of true and absolute wonder behind it.

I am glad that we do not immediately know the stories of all these things, or I would not have thought to write about it :)

What fun would it be, without the mystery?

Friday, 19 September 2008

Windows has Relationship Issues

Restored a computer from the "Windows CompletePC Backup" for the first time.

Trying to logon to the domain:
"The trust relationship between workstation and primary domain failed"

Well. Thanks for that. What do you want? Counselling? :S

Thursday, 18 September 2008

The 007 of Windows Updates?

There was a small bundle of Windows Updates appear last week. But is update 947821 - better known as "CheckSUR", or the "System Update Readiness Tool for Windows Vista and for Windows Server 2008" - the James Bond of Windows Updates? Is it designed to secretly slip past undetected, like a certain top secret agent?

What, you may rightfully wonder, leads me to ask these questions?

Well, I'm glad you wondered that. If you didn't wonder that, then you might as well stop reading now ;)

You see, I had ten Windows Updates appear that day.

Nine of them installed successfully. One did not. The one that did not was, of course, our cunning little friend, the CheckSUR utility.

Well, fortunately, we did also have an error code to investigate:

Ah. So. A stealth error, then. And hang on a minute, look at that error number... C00701E7. So, nobody's had any record of it, and the code includes 007? Well, it gets worse...

Because when I rebooted, Windows was very pleased to tell me that updates has been installed... And that none were remaining.

"Hmm," thought I, "did it install while rebooting?"


It just didn't install it. It snuck in, blew itself up, and then vanished quietly in the wind.

And the ironic thing is that this update is one that is designed to fix problems in Windows. What happens when the thing that fixes things needs fixing!? :S

Ah well. It's not like it actually updated any files, so I won't worry about it.

And I do notice that since my original screenshot, Google does now have some relevant results.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

In the words of The Klaxons

It's not over yet.

Ooh, but that was jolly exciting listening :)

I mean in the end, if there ever was going to be a disaster, it was always going to be when they actually tried to collide the things. So, who knows? There's still every chance to be frozen in time and for the world to be torn asunder ;)

End of the World?

Personally, I don't think that the world will end tomorrow when the Large Hadron Collider is turned on and powered up.

But at the same time... The whole point is to see what it is that happens when we do these things. That means that, by definition, there are unknowns. That also means, in my opinion, that you cannot be absolutely positively certain that it won't do something unexpected. After all, if they knew what to expect, they wouldn't have built it.

And so, I find that I reall can't help but remember a short science fiction story I read when I was young(er).

Mr Top Thief is in his office, planning his next heist, when some funny lass walks in. He's not exactly sure what it is that makes her a funny lass, there was just something 'off' about her.

She puts down her plan for him, and his team of merry men (ok, fellow partners-in-crime), to steal vast amounts of world-famous antiquities and masterpieces.

Now, Mr Top Thief is by now thinking that she's a few nuts short of a Picnic bar - I mean, we're talking priceless pieces from all of the country here, we're talking some serious wonger wangling.

Until Ms. Suspiciously Offish Lass points him to the window of his office.

He looks out but nothing is really happening.

He looks some more and realises that nothing is happening.

Literally nothing. Nobody is moving, there's no background noise around him, trains are at a stand still, cars are lined in endless lines of traffic... Ok, those last two might not help, but you catch my drift, right?

"Look," she says, "I've got this right nifty bracelet that slows time outside its radius down so much, that it appears to have stopped. So if you're wearing it, you can do whatever you want, and nobody will ever even see you."

"Hang on a minute," says Mr. Top Thief, "why do you need me then?"

"Well, you've got the equipment, the man power, the experience... things we don't have to pull off a job of this scale."

"Right. Right. And what do I get out of it?"

"After you've gone out and picked out my shopping list of priceless goodies, you can keep the bracelet."

Hoooooh! Now there's an offer too good to refuse!

So, Mr. Top Thief and his merry band of freedom fighters - uh, I mean co-conspirators - agree.

And at each place, it's exactly the same - they go in, they load up with everything they want, they go out - and by the time they've done it, the security guards haven't even been able to blink an eye.

So, they pull off all the jobs, and they liberate all the gear.

And sure enough, our original Ms. Oddish Lass turns up and takes it off their hands.

"So, like, uh, what's the deal?" asks Mr. Top Thief

"Take a look at this morning's newspaper."

Mr. Top Thief looks around and notices a guy frozen on a bench, half-way through reading his paper. He leans over and takes it, looking at the front page.

"Superbomb testing today!" reads the headline.

"That testing," adds our enigmatic lass, "has already started. This morning, the test was initiated. Within mere seconds of real time from now, that test will rupture your planet's core, decimating all life and ripping your whole world apart from the inside. This process has already begun, and nothing can be done to stop it.

"We come from the future, but we are unable to prevent this disaster which wipes out your entire civilization. Due to the massive forces involved in the explosion, it has created enough of a rupture that we were able to harness that same force to materialise here, and using our technology we can freeze your time and save as much of your culture as we were able - but I am afraid we are unable to bring back any organic or living material with us. The awesome forces involved in the transfer make this impossible.

"So, you may keep your bracelet and live in this frozen time, forever an observer to the world, between tick and tock. But when you take off the bracelet, normal time for you will resume and you will be vapourised."


And who knows? Maybe tomorrow the world will freeze and we'll never know. Maybe even as your eye scans from one end of this line now, unknowable forces have already wreaked their terrific consequences, and, in the blink of an eye, everything that we are, everything that we have achieved, has been relinquished to a museum exhibit on an alien world.

I shall certainly be listening to Radio 4 at 8:30 in the morning to hear this machine be turned on. If anything does go wrong, I doubt we'll ever know.

And if it doesn't? Well, maybe we will just learn a little more about the nature of everything.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Holy House Prices, Batman!

So the news that the level at which stamp duty kicks has been raised to £175,000 is of only mild interest. Ok, so it could save me a couple of grand, that's nice, but at the end of the day it's not going to change my life.

No, I'm interested in this talk of a 30% "free" loan on the deposit. Tell me more!

First up, I think that anyone who goes for this and doesn't have a deposit is asking for trouble. That's where we are now - people with 95%-110% mortgages - borrowing that same amount of money from two places ain't gonna be a huge help, IMO.

But hang on... Will this be interest-free? Let's say I'm looking at a place worth £175,000.

No stamp duty. That'll save me £1,750. Whoo. Rock on.

Now, hang on a minute though... What else are they talking about? Up to 30% loan? Interest-free for five years? What's a typical variable mortgage rate? 6.4%? Work those sums through - 30% of £175,000 is £52,500. What happens to that amount if we were paying 6.4% interest on it over five years? And let's not forget that it will be compound interest...

Year 0: £52,500
Year 1: £55,860
Year 2: £59,435
Year 3: £63,238
Year 4: £67,286
Year 5: £71,592

That's £19,092 of interest over five years. Let's just round it up and call it twenty grand, shall we?

Twenty thousand pounds saved over five years.

That's one hell of a lot more interesting than a couple of grand saved on stamp duty!

I mean... Are my sums right here? Am I missing something? I for one will certainly be watching for more details to be released on this!

Monday, 11 August 2008

But is it art? Part 1

Rick Stein was talking on the Today programme this morning about whether cookery should be a type of art.

Well, I know I decided years ago when I was still living at home that there was certainly an art to making a great sandwich :) But I think they were talking just a tad more culturally high-brow than sandwiches.

Food critic Tom Lubbock had a couple of good points - that you "need" food to survive, but not art. He also pointed out how, I believe his words were, someone may feel "deeply saddened" by a piece of art, but he had never eaten anything which caused him to feel the same way. Which is probably for the best when you think about it ;)

So what is it that makes something art? Does it require creativity? Does it require an emotional input? Should its audience receive an emotional output? Is there some level of emotion that should be reached? Should it have the ability to convey a message or feeling? Is it something which is revered by some and reviled by others?

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Have you had your Daily Top 10?

I have. In fact, so far today (11:20am) I've had 47 of them.

How does spam relate to viruses (or is it "virii"?) these days? Do viruses infect PCs for the purposes of turning them into spam zombies? Or is spam sent for the purpose of getting people to install a virus?

Or is it both? Or neither?

I think I'll finish my cup of tea and stop thinking about it.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

As if that wasn't enough...

Now Remote Desktop / Explorer has gone loopy...

I Hate Symantec

They really, really do my head in.
You cannot down revision Symantec Antivirus / Symantec Client Security as that action is unsupported. The Computer '[computername]' already has a more recent version '30964' verse this version '1000'.
If you really want to down revision this Server, you must manually unstall it first and then you may install an older version."

This is trying to apply Symantec Management Server 10.2. Picking on ScsComms.dll, I see we have these three versions available:

1: (Installed version)
2: (New version - won't install due to above message)
3: (Old installable version - but it's happy to apply this old version which it thinks is newer!)

And does Google find anything for "cannot down revision Symantec Antivirus" ? Or even "cannot down revision" ? Or even "more recent version" and "verse this version" ?

Does it bollocks.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Frown at the Stupid Things

Gah! As if to balance out the smile I described in my previous post this morning, a daily newsletter from a major UK distributor included this headline:

ARGH! For goodness sake! "Professional" has to be one of the most idiotic words you can mis-spell!

Yes, I understand that with a single 'f' and a double 's' it can be a difficult word to get right, but seriously, how professional is it if you actually get it wrong!?

Please, please, use a spell checker, or even a good old-fashioned dictionary.

Smile at the Simple Things

As I headed to work, I saw a dog walking along, carrying a very big stick in its mouth.

There's something about that image which just makes me smile :)

Sunday, 13 July 2008


As I was wander around the supermarket filling my trolley, my brain is always analysing the products I'm interested in - how much do I need? How long will it last? Will I save money if I buy more? Will I save money if I buy less?

Now, I know that different people do this to differing degrees.

But sometimes things just leap out at you and make you really wonder - WHY?

Uncle Ben's rice, in Tesco, today.

Yes, that's £1.75 for 500g, or £1.81 - a mere six pence more - for a kilogram; twice as much.

Six. Pence. Double the amount. And hey, it's rice - if it takes twice as long to use, it's hardly the end of the world (the box advertises best before 20/12/2010).

I mean... It's just daft... Why? How? Who would buy the 500g boxes?

Some questions just have to be asked. ;)

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Missing Herd on the Radial

I'm not sure whether it was my brain or my ears that weren't quite in gear this morning, but there were a couple of things I mis-heard on the radio.

An army chappy talking to John Humphrys in Basra:
...and of course, the English razed the original Iraqi army.

Huh!? He dropped that casually in! Oh wait, that was...
...and of course, the English raised the original Iraqi army.

Then an introduction to a piece by Tim Berners-Lee (the Daddy of the Web):
...the Symantec Web...

...the Semantic Web...

Ok... breath..2, 3, 4... phew... Thought the Wibbly Wobbly Web was a goner for a moment there ;)

Now excuse me while I try to figure out what else I can do while these Windows Updates sloooowly apply...

Monday, 7 July 2008

Poor Old Angelina

Poor old Angelina Jolie. She's certainly having a bit of a time of it. Well. According to the subject of e-mails I've received in the last 24 hours, anyway:

- Angelina Jolie shock pregnancy discovery
- Russel Crowe admits to love affair with Angelina
- Angelina Jolie giving Brad Pitt a blowjob
- Angelina Jolie suffers miscarriage
- Angelina Jolie dies in plane crash

Clearly, it doesn't take much to read between the lines.

The shock discovery must have been that Brad wasn't the father. At this point, Russel Crowe stepped forward and admitted the affair. Then, as if it wasn't one heck of a day already, highly intrusive filming footage showed her and Brad during an intimate encounter.
The shock & stress of the whole day was beginning to overwhelm Angelina by this point, so she hopped aboard a private jet to head back home. It is at this point our tale of sorrow becomes a true tragedy. The aeronautical antics of the cocky young captain in command of the craft, combined with a session of excessive binge drinking, wrought havoc upon Ms. Jolie's mental, emotional, and physical state.
She flew into a blinding rage with the pilot, screaming and yelling at him, demanding to know why he'd allowed cameras on board previous flights containing her and Brad.
This was just too much for the pilot, who was in the middle of flying a loop-the-loop, and found it impossible to simultaneously fight off Angelina whilst also maintaining control of the plane.

Or, possibly, just possibly, it's just a load of old spam.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Black Diamond and Lotus Flower

I was in the supermarket recently, looking at the fabric conditioner, when I noticed a bottle of Lenor Infusions Black Diamond and Lotus Flower.

What a load of pretentious old tosh.

I mean... Seriously? Black Diamond? And Lotus Flower? Do you expect me to believe that this has been even remotely near to a black diamond or lotus flower?

Come to think of it... Just what is a black diamond, anyway?

Well, it seems that black diamonds are better known as carbanados diamonds, and that they don't look like you might expect.

Of course, having said all that...

It was on special offer, so I thought I'd give it a try.

I may not approve of the name (or likely the cost when not on offer)... But to be honest... It really doesn't smell bad ;)

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

How can this be?

I find this sort of thing to be confusing and frustrating. I'm just checking the Event Logs of an SBS 2003 server when I notice this informational message reported from Exchange Server 2003:

Event Type: Information
Event Source: MSExchangeIS Mailbox Store
Event Category: Background Cleanup
Event ID: 1232
Date: 02/07/2008
Time: 01:00:33
User: N/A
Computer: ServerName
Error 1003 while hard-deleting messages in folder 1-79510 on database "First Storage Group\Mailbox Store (ServerName)".

For more information, click

A quick check shows that this has actually gone unnoticed for at least a couple of months.
"Ok, it doesn't seem to be causing a problem," I thought, "but I'll check what the cause is in case it's a symptom of something else."

And lo, for I didst resort to the Ultimate Tool of the IT Administrator. This wonderful tool is able to search not just the Microsoft Exchange Server documentation, not just the Microsoft knowledge base, but the whole of the Internet! You may have heard of it...

Bugger. Ermmm, ok, let's go to the Microsoft knowledge base and try a search there... Ok, all of Ok...

Double bugger.

This seems to happen every few months. You see a message or a phrase in Windows, or some other piece of well-known Microsoft software, search for it, and... Discover that you feel like you're the only person in the world who has ever seen that message.

How can this be? We're not talking about obscure messages in software from companies people haven't heard of. We're talking about some of the highest profile software created by the largest software manufacturer in the world.

Ninety percent of the time, Googling for an error message yields information overload. A hundred knowledge base articles that don't quite describe the problem. A thousand people reporting the problem in forums, and thousands more answering with the hundred random things they did to solve their problem.

When you find something like this, it almost defies belief. It's like taking a turn off of a bustling high street and finding yourself in an alleyway unused for hundreds of years.

And I wish I had the time to investigate. But, sadly, it's not causing a problem, and I have a hundred more things to do...

Monday, 23 June 2008

Examples of Illogical Comments

I recently bumped into the phrase "examples of illogical comments". The moment I read that, there immediately sprang into my mind terrifying visions of code from which I thought I had escaped...

Private Sub Form_Load()

'Put BORDER Around Main FRAME.
Call ChangeBorder(fraContainer.hwnd, BDRSTYLE_RaisedLikeAButton)

'Position RESET Button.
cmdReset.Top = Me.ScaleHeight -
cmdReset.Height - 120
cmdReset.Left = Me.ScaleLeft + fraContainer.Left + fraContainer.Width - cmdReset.Width

'Position UPDATE Button.
cmdUpdate.Top = cmdReset.Top
cmdUpdate.Left = cmdReset.Left - cmdUpdate.Width - 120

'Ensure ESC Triggers CANCEL Button.
cmdReset.Cancel = True

mblnActivateFirstTime = True

Call InitialiseNumberDateControls

mblnIgnoreComputeSummary = False

mblnIncomeChanged = False

mblnCurrentArraysClosed = True
mblnOriginalArraysClosed = True
End Sub

No. No, no, no, no, no! Just no.

This is an example of some genuine code that I have had the pleasure of debugging. When every line suddenly becomes three times longer than it should, it makes it a whole lot more difficult to know what's going on. Oh, how we begged, how we pleaded with its author to change his style, but sadly, that leopard would not change its spots.

Much hair was lost around the building, I can tell you ;)

So, let's just set out a few general pointers, shall we?
  • Do not over-comment. It makes the program harder to read, and significant comments can get overshadowed by insignificant comments.
  • Code should be self-documenting. A line that says "mblnActivateFirstTime = True" does not need a comment to tell us we are setting the Activate First Time flag. We can see that. If you feel it needs a comment, tell us why we are setting the flag and how it is used. Do not state the bleedin' obvious.
  • If you write a comment, write it in English. Anyone should be able to understand it. For goodness sake, certainly don't write them in COBOL as appears to have happened here ;)

Code safely. And please, don't have nightmares. ;)

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Fantastic Errors and Random Nostalgia

So, I wibbling around some random website when I click on a link and up comes an error:
Error 503 Service Unavailable

Error talking to backend

Guru Meditation:

XID: 2075015976

Oh wow! Just how fantastic is that!? :)

Best. Error message. Ever.

Ahh, it's been a while since I've seen that "old friend":

According to Wikipedia:

Guru Meditation is the name of the error that occurred on early versions of
the Commodore Amiga computer when they crashed. It is analogous to the "Blue
Screen Of Death", often referred to as a 'BSOD', in Microsoft Windows operating

The term "Guru Meditation Error" was an in-house joke from Amiga's early
days. One of the company's products was the joyboard, a game controller much
like a joystick but operated by one's feet. Early in the development of the
Amiga computer operating system, the company's developers became so frustrated
with the system's frequent crashes that, as a relaxation technique, a game was
developed where a person would sit cross-legged on the joyboard, resembling an
Indian guru. The player was supposed to remain perfectly still with the goal of
the game being to stay still the longest. If the player moved, a "guru
meditation error" resulted.

It's always great when you encounter random nostalgia :)

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Can't See the Wood for the Trees

Sometimes, you just can't see the answer even when it dangles right in front of you.

"Sign in name" and "Password" the form asked.

I entered my e-mail address and password.
The username and/or password cannot be validated, or your account is locked out or has not been approved yet.

I tried again. I failed again.

I frowned, and tried the same page in Internet Explorer instead of Opera.

I failed again.

I tried again, and I failed again. I frowned again.

I confirmed that I was using the correct e-mail address. I tried again, I failed again.

I requested a new password. I tried the new one. I failed again.

I realised that the "failed" screen said "username", whilst I had kept entering my bloody e-mail address ;)

Thursday, 5 June 2008

I'm thinkin' about my doorbell

I think I lost some credibility at work when I insisted that on the occasions that the central heating thermostat buzzed, it coincided with the times that my computer lost access to the network.
Seriously, what's up with that? I swear they always coincided, and after a few to several seconds the network would be back again...

...And / or the buzzing would have stopped...

Still, that was a different computer and central heating system ago, so is now water under the bridge (Or in the pipes?) ...

But perhaps that's why the final nail in my coffin of "He's lost it!" was sunk after I declared that my mouse stopped working when someone rang the doorbell.

I'd be sitting there, working away... And then the mouse cursor would stop moving. And then the doorbell would ring.

I'm telling you, it bloody did!

Oh, how they laughed at me.

"Enough," I decided the other day, "is enough."

It was time to prove my sanity (or lack thereof) one way or the other. So I stood outside, and I decided to ring that doorbell until my theory was proven. Or the doorbell died. Either way, I'd have proven something...

The verdict?

Yup, it turns out that of the six wireless mice in the building, two of them are interrupted by ringing the wireless doorbell.

Clearly, the other person just plain hadn't been working hard enough. ;)

So, I get one more day's reprieve from the Men in White Coats...

Sunday, 1 June 2008


Taking a look in my Junk Mail folder, I had to chuckle

Nestling between "10 tips to getting college girls" and "Make her ooze love juice" was "Love Scrabble? Open this".

I thought for a second it may even have been a genuine e-mail of some sort, but it did turn out to be a random spam to do with some sort of "instant win" Scrabble rip-off game.

But it makes you wonder, though... Could some sort of exciting new concept game be hidden here? Could spam be combined with Scrabble to form... Spabble!

Instead of randomly picking some letters from a bag, each turn would see you be handed a selection of random junk e-mails. Perhaps the aim should be to attempt to contruct a single valid sentence from all of them. The greater the length (uh, or girth?) of the sentence and the greater its accuracy (e.g. words spelt correctly from letters with no numbers, correct capitalisation), the more points would be awarded.

It's Spabble-tastic! (Oh dear...)

Ceteris Paribus

Wikipedia tells me that:
Cēterīs paribus is a Latin phrase, literally translated as "with other things the same". It is commonly rendered in English as "all other things being equal".

Following on from yesterday's post, True and False, I felt that this seemed like a good title for something with a similar theme.

This is another bug we found in the same third-party supplier's components, and another quick sample we knocked up to illustrate the problem.
Private Sub Form_Load()

With TestControl2
   .Format = "#0.00"
   .DisplayFormat = "#0.00"
   .MaxValue = 99.99
   .Value = 99.99
   Debug.Print "Value:         " & .Value
   Debug.Print "Max:           " & .MaxValue
   Debug.Print "Value > Max:   " & (.Value > .MaxValue)
   Debug.Print "Value > 99.99: " & (.Value > 99.99)
   Debug.Print "99.99 > Max:   " & (99.99 > .MaxValue)
   Debug.Print "99.99 > 99.99: " & (99.99 > 99.99)
End With

End Sub

So, we're talking about a similar set of circumstances - we're sticking a value (99.99) and then viewing and comparing it to, well, 99.99.

One would traditionally expect, all other things being equal ;), for 99.99 to be the same as 99.99. Let's check that, shall we?

Value:         99.99
Max:           99.99
Value > Max:   True
Value > 99.99: True
99.99 > Max:   False
99.99 > 99.99: False

Ah, of course. Value is greater than MaxValue. In other words, 99.99 is greater than 99.99. Good. Right. Erm... ;)

What seems to have happened here is that, for some reason (don't ask me what), the "99.99" that we put into "Value" seems to have been artificially increased, for example, to 99.991, but when we display it it is rounded back down to 99.99.

Both this problem, and the one documented by True and False, are both perfect examples of things going wrong that just should not go wrong. Discovering that 99.99 is a larger number than 99.99 just should not happen. But it does. And when it does, you can guarantee that it'll only expose itself under some bizarre set of circumstances that don't make any sense.
After hours of following through code and feeling thoroughly confused, you eventually arrive at that place where you begin to examine the things that it wouldn't usually occur to check.

And that's when you find the little bugger that's been ruining your day. Hurrah!

Saturday, 31 May 2008

True and False

Normally, we would expect something to be either True or False (techy note: I said normally. I'm ignoring special circumstances such as Null).

Here, however, is a perfect example of something completely illogical that is perfect as a first example for this blog. We bumped into this little oddity a few years ago at work during my main day job as a Visual Basic 6 programmer.

Something I would like to achieve with this blog is to allow even non-techies, non-computer people, non-programmers, a chance to understand what I'm talking about. Now, I won't always be able to do this, but I'm hoping that this post can be an example of one that can be understood by someone who can be logical, even if they don't know the first thing about programming.

On that note, here's some VB6 program code ;) We found this bizarre bug in some components written by a third-party supplier and wrote this sample to illustrate the bug to them...
Private Sub Form_Load()

TestControl.Locked = True

Debug.Print "TestControl.Locked", TestControl.Locked
Debug.Print "Not TestControl.Locked", Not TestControl.Locked
Debug.Print "TestControl.Locked = True", TestControl.Locked = True
Debug.Print "TestControl.Locked = False", TestControl.Locked = False
Debug.Print "TestControl.Locked <> True", TestControl.Locked <> True
Debug.Print "TestControl.Locked <> False", TestControl.Locked <> False
Debug.Print "CInt(TestControl.Locked)", CInt(TestControl.Locked)
Debug.Print "CInt(True)", , CInt(True)

End Sub

Now, what we've done there, is set something to True. We've then printed the value of the thing we set to True in various ways - specifically, we've asked, "What is it?", "What isn't it?", "Is it True?", "Is it False?", "Is it not True?", and "Is it not False?", and (a techy one) "What is the behind-the-scenes numerical value of it?"

Here's what we got:
TestControl.Locked          True
Not TestControl.Locked      True
TestControl.Locked = True   False
TestControl.Locked = False  False
TestControl.Locked <> True  True
TestControl.Locked <> False True
CInt(TestControl.Locked)     1
CInt(True)                  -1 

So, what does that tell us?

Well, it tells us that:
Yes, it is True. Yes, it is not True. It's equal to True. It's equal to False. It's not equal to True. It's not equal to False.

Got that? ;) No, neither had we ;)

I told you it would be illogical ;)

The Science Bit
We can actually get some insight as to why this happened thanks to the final two things we thought to try in our test program. The CInt() function (Convert to Integer) forces our True/False value to be displayed as a number (i.e. an Integer)

True and False typically equate to 1 and 0, on and off, yes and no.

Visual Basic 6, however, treats "-1" as "True" (as we can see from the last line above) and everything else as "False". We can see that, rather than being "-1" as we would expect the value of the Locked property to be, it has actually been set to "1". This is likely to be a bug inside the third-party component where "True" has been treated as "1" at some point, and it's somewhere after that that the world has stopped making sense...

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Illogical Operators

Logical operators are everywhere.

Even if you aren't "a techy", you use them all of the time without even knowing.

They are the "glue" that binds decisions, from those made by computer programs to those made in every-day life.  They are the "ANDs", the "ORs", and the "NOTs" that allow decisions to be made.

"If it is raining and I do not need to go outside, then stay inside."

If these two things are true, then we've got something to do.  These are "conditions" that evaluate to TRUE or FALSE.

Let's take an every day computer example - getting a tenner from a bank machine, hole-in-the-wall, ATM, or whatever you prefer to call it.

There will be some of that computer programming gubbins that says "If account balance is greater than ten pounds and PIN is valid, spit out ten pounds."

In code, this could look like this:

If AccountBalance > 10 And PINIsValid Then SpitOutTenPounds

Seriously, it really is that simple.

Little things like this make sense.  They are all around us, we use them all the time, we take them for granted.

Sadly, the job of a "techy" seems to deal more in the realm of "illogical operators".  Logically, I guess that this must be the reverse of a "logical operator".  Whilst the term popped into my head all of its own accord, as I write this entry, there is barely a page of hits on Google.  Hey, that's pretty good though ;)

Illogical operators.   The things that do not make sense.  When you add 1+1 and arrive at 3.  It does not make sense.  It cannot be true.  But all too often, the available information points to the fact that it is.

This is just one of the many types of nonsense that this blog aims to share with the world...