Wednesday 30 January 2013

I think I will have to wash my eyeballs with bleach

I did something tonight that I never normally do.
I watched a un-frackin-believably bad movie to the bitter end.
Despite the better engines of my nature.
Despite my brain desperately trying to climb out of my skull and strangle me I might add.
It was about a pair of Viz characters called San and Tray.
The "Fat Slags" if you don't know anything about them.

Now I like Viz.
If I see a copy I always buy it.
The Ads alone make it worth it.
"Klondike Kittens! Sh*t their own weight in gold!"
"Chessington world of sheds!"
And the like.
But then I guess I'm corrupt.
It's an absurd comic with racist, sexist and just plain stupid strips.
They make you laugh, even though you don't want to admit it.
If you've never seen it, and have any sensibilities at all, don't look for it.
In fact, don't buy it if you are any mother, father, child, dog, cat or, for that matter, any living creature.
Or not-living.
I suspect it would corrupt a lump of coal if it was exposed to it.
In any case, you'll end up with a substance resembling guacamole running out of your ears.
If you have ears.
Coal might have problems.
But would probably spontaneously burst into flames.

But it's kinda funny.
In a comic way.
Not in a movie way.
The movie was appalling.

I sat with my mouth open, totally stunned, for the entire movie.
There was a part of my brain screaming at me to press stop.
For Wotans sake.
But I persevered.
It was so bad.
Never again.

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Why do engineers feel a visceral urge to frack with things that work?

I'm old.
But seriously.
Why do engineers feel the urge to frack with stuff that works?
It's not broken, so just don't fix it.

Example 1:
Decades ago when most people wehere struggling to get to grips with Windows 3.1 I was administering hundreds of Unix workstations across dozens of minesites across Australia.
Mining engineers aren't dumb.
And they have this visceral urge to change stuff.
To fix stuff.
Stuff that don't need fixing.
So one day, around 1990 I think, I turned up at a minesite and was given the task of figuring out why this program wasn't working.
I looked at the code and thought "Ah. This is C. I know C."
I tried to figure out why the program wasn't working.
We didn't have IDEs in those days (unless you include VisualAge) so all I had was vi.
Nothing worked.
It wouldn't compile.
The error messages didn't make sense.
After about 10 minutes I looked at the code in detail and saw that it was including a header.
Which was a *massive* list of macros.
Which made Pascal look like C.
If you're writing code in C why use a pascal compiler?
If you have to macro a language to look like another you're using the wrong language.
Needless to say I fixed it...
But I asked myself: "Why the frack do people frack with stuff?"

Example 2:
On another minesite.
I sat down in front of this machine.
I opened an xterm and typed a command.
Utter garbage.
I stared uncomprehendingly at the keyboard.
It took a while before I realised that the main user of this machine preferred French.
So he had remapped every key on a standard US keyboard to a French keyboard.
Needless to say I fixed it...
I asked myself: "Why the frack do people frack with stuff?"

Example 3:
Yet another minesite.
I opened an xterm and typed a command.
Utter garbage.
I stared uncomprehendingly at the keyboard.
The user had a shed load of aliases that changed just about every Unix command to a DOS command.
Worse they had remapped every key to do something Emacsey.
Home? No... That means history -25 lines.
Left arrow? No... That means last command.
Worse was that he had aliased vi to emacs.
Is it that hard to type emacs instead of vi?
Needless to say I fixed it...
I asked myself: "Why the frack do people frack with stuff?"


And that brings us to today.
I'm ripping our humungous DVD collection to drobos.
So I have a Mac with NO CHANGES AT ALL.
My /etc/bashrc and .bash_login are minimal to say the least.
The only changes I make are to map MP3, M3U8 and M4V to VLC.
So I enlist my husbands Mac to help rip some DVDs.
Sit in front of it.
Log in.
And stare uncomprehendingly at the screen.
He's mapped every hot corner possible.
He's changed the Application menu to something incomprehensible.
He's changed just about everything that can be changed.
It's not necessary.
And it makes life frackin difficult for others.

Friday 18 January 2013

MineCraft: Crack for Engineers.

Oh Lord.
I am sad to say I've become yet another statistic.
Along with Sweden (who recently added minecraft to their school curriculum) I have now become addicted.
But fun.
But sad.
On the plus side, I would say it is a cure for alcoholism, over eating and in fact any human activity.
The dying words of a minecrafter would be:

"Just... One... More... Block..."

It started just before Christmas.
My brother came over and was frackin desperate to show his creations.
He is a frackin genius architecturally and his creations are pure brilliance.
We had steadfastly refused to even look at MC, but he persevered and we got the XBox 360 version on his insistence (read coercion).
To his chagrin it didn't support connecting to his favorite server.
In any case, in the days that followed Ben started playing.
First he ended up on this island.
With a mountain in the "way".
"Well," he said, "It'll have to go."
So dig, dig, dig.

Some 12 hours later he had excavated an ginormous cavern that you could land B52s in.
Dr No would have a conniption and envy fit.
It could easily house several Saturn 5's.
Or just a couple of Vostoks.
Multiple levels, and since we were just learning, floating candles at all levels.
Benworts or Benhalla.
Take your pick.
You get Vertigo.
Looking... Up.

Despite my best efforts I became involved.
And so we built a tunnel spanning a massive distance.
And established "KimTopia" in a desert biome.
(I have a fondness for Dune, so my village is named Arrakeen)

Exasperated at the lack of functionality in the XBox version we purchased a 'normal' client.
And then.
Of course.
We're engineers.
I built and configured a server to run MC.
On which Ben and Jon and I have created huge creations.

It's sad.
But kind.
And sad.
And you find yourself saying things like this:

"I just need to get 6 raw fish so I can train an ocelot to scare creepers. Oh and I finished the apartment block and the coffee shop for the villagers. We now have three iron golems and a shed load of kiddie villagers running and madly dashing about as kiddies are wont to do. Can you dig out that chasm and get some lava so we can create a wall to burn the frack out of zombies. I have finished getting rid of the sand and cactii so the villagers will be happy. Oh and can we make a marina for them? I have some ideas about making a version of Cardiff harbour so we can fit the Doctor Who and Torchwood sets into it. Damn but I'm tired. What's the time? 2am? Oh well. Maybe another hour. BUT NO MORE THAN THAT MKAY?"


"Damn. Just... One... More... Block...."

Bzzzzzzt.... Snore... QWERTY embedded into face....

Friday 11 January 2013

Logs in the river

What do I mean by the the title of this post?
Imagine yourself on the edge of a wide river.
Just sitting.
Noticing the whirls and eddies of the river.
You watch as it the swirls and whorls and runs towards the ocean.
You notice...
You see...
You see a tree log roll gently as it encounters some hidden eddy or obstacle and it rolls over.
You know...
You just know...
There's something there.
Right there.
Just there.
You could reach out and...
What caused that log to roll?
You know you have to be careful.
And aware.
Of the hidden obstacle that caused that log to roll over just there.

That's what it's like examining software.
Sometimes you have to just...


And watch.
And see.
Not just see, but *SEE*.
And see the logs.
And take note of the hidden obstacles.
They're there.
Just there.
Under the surface.
So when you decide to run a minecraft server for example.
Just watch.
Read the logs.
Sit back.
Sadly lacking...

Or you could short circuit the process and watch the BBC series Sherlock.
And then go back and re-read the "Collected works of Conan Doyle".

Or whatever.

Nah. Better to just randomly change parameters in the RC script right?