Plan for the day

1. Get a cup of really good coffee, and a good technical book or two I should have read a while back. The question is: Something applicable or something theoretic, or both? Basically comes down to a choice between reading about web circuses [registry entries and XML files and bears, sigh] or finishing that book on artificial intelligence.

2. Reinstall Windows XP on my system at work. Really don’t ask. [I did all the backups last night]

3. Reinstall everything else. Do this all day long. [On second thought, reading about web circuses is more than I can take today. AI or maybe security…]

4. Come home to a great crock-pot dinner of Curry Stew and rice (yum).

5. Watch Tivo’d programming with the wife. Lots of good stuff stacked up after the Olympics.

“No wonder the third world hates us.”

Home Defib

EDN has an article on how home defibrillators work. “Clear!” In twenty years, probably sooner (with all the baby boomers), these are going to be as required in homes as smoke detectors are today. The calm voice of Peter Thomas (Nova) helps you through the procedure.

I’d rather stay in shape….

Elron again

In the laugh-or-cry department, Anne McCaffrey has won the L. Ron Hubbard award for Lifetime Achievment. No word on whether she had to convert or not. (Well, it’s a serious award, with folks like Niven and Pournell and Tim Powers as judges. Huh; you wave money at a writer, and…).

The Old Guard (1)

Once upon a time there was a young programmer named Zeke. Zeke had grown up on large mainframes, the size of a dozen refrigerators sitting side by side, where every byte was chiseled carefully out of the finest magnetic ores by generations of wizened Bitmakers, strung lovingly in its memory frame, and polished and given regular checkups by men in spotless white coats. Zeke knew that if his programs wasted any bytes, that he would hear about it from the men in white, and that he would have betrayed the eternal and holy struggle of the Bitmakers to provide the best, most reliable memory that customer money could buy. Zeke strove for perfection, studying at the feet of masters.

Several decades went by. Zeke polished his technique, and his programs performed wonderous functions in their alloted space, no more, no less, more finely crafted than that of any other programmer in the skyscraper that Zeke worked in. From time to time there came rumors of a new generation, water-cooler talk of technologies where kilobytes didn’t really matter, where systems programmers lit their cigars with punch cards and burned communications bandwidth with wild abandon. Pretty much everyone in Zeke’s organization thought that these things were wrong or impossible, or that if they were possible, that they would be unreliable and that paying customers would never stand for it, or that the customers would be back, tails between their legs, begging for the comfort of the old, reliable systems.

Sales margins began to slip. Early on, making computers had been like printing money. But, slowly at first, and with quite reasonable explanations from the sales force each quarter, the amount of money from the installed base started to dwindle. Sales were harder to make, concessions to the customers were more significant, and the expense of keeping a skyscraper full of engineers maintaining thirty year old technology began to be more visibly a part of the costs dragging the company into oblivion.

One day Zeke came to work, and in the exact center of the blotter that lay in the exact center of Zeke’s immaculately clean desk, was an exactly typed pink slip with his name on it, and a large severance check.

Zeke packed his meager desk belongings into the company-provided box and went west.

Cheap entertainment

Man, is this a security hole. Plug in some number, like 804846. Yes, Rajeev Walavalkar moved from Maryland to Arizona in early August. He owns a Toyota Camry. I imagine that you could plug other form names into the query and get even more interesting results. Sheesh. Even a little validation (a phone number, a zip code, some encoding of the shipping ID?). Call their main number and you can human-engineer them until the cows come home. Which is useful, because their service is pretty miserable.

These shippers are idiots for other reasons, reasons that I won’t get into at the moment. Let’s just say, it’s more satisfying to battle Evil. Evil knows that it’s doing wrong, Evil is smart, Evil is an honorable opponent. But what can you say about battling idiots?

“I slew two dragons today, honey.”
“That’s nice, dear.”


“Phew! I slew fifty morons today, and chipped my sword.”
“You shouldn’t use your good weaponry on those thick skulls, dear.”

More on these turkeys later. Once my blood pressure goes down.