Sunday 24 December 2006

A milestone coded in Java

It is all done
I now found the heart and mind to make my own coffee from a brew of Java beans, this was the last academic module which had to be fulfilled before I could start my thesis.
The chapter closed yesterday as I struggled to make a program do wild things as applets in a browser, it all worked out fine in the end.
Eight modules, with a minimum of 30 hours of study, where the advisory recommended at least 15.
To many breaks were taken but that is because of the nature of my work and the way I have financed the project, but I have learnt a lot and I would miss the fun of Discussion Questions, Discussion Follow-ons, Assignments, Project and other kinds of online interaction.
The most important lesson I learnt during the program was first to be relevant amongst your peers, then, you have to strive with yourself to excel- it is not competition, but what is worth doing at all, is really worth doing well.
Now, to my dissertation in January, having been utterly asocial, seeking hotel rooms with wireless connectivity and not relenting, being a host without a boast and many more deprivations, a well deserved rest beckons – in temperate Gran Canaria for Christmas.
To all my friends, fans, well-wishers and detractors – A Merry Christmas.

Sunday 22 October 2006

Withheld numbers should beget withheld responses

Phone vibrates with no caller recognition

Out of the blue came this phone call to my mobile and as I wont to do, if the caller-ID shows up as Withheld or Unknown, my telephone manner is different; I would always try to identify the caller before I confirm who I am.

So, the conservation went along these lines.

Caller: Hello, Hello, Hello {In quick succession} – [Definitely, someone I have never spoken to, or maybe not in a long time].

Moi: Hello, who am I speaking to? Sometimes, I say – Hullo! Who is calling this number?

Caller: Can I speak to Akinola Akintayo?

[Now, that is really someone I have not spoken to in probably 10 years or more, in fact, that could be closer to 20 from my reckoning – amazing how much information one can glean from that]

Moi: Just a moment, and who are you?

Caller: I am [First introduces himself with a nickname he acquired long after I last met him], the brother of [uses brother’s fully qualified name – I recognize who it is and get a bit more familiar], we went to secondary school together, [yes, they were 2 years my junior], we come from the same home town [Now, you tell me, I must have forgotten that].

Moi: Ah! Yes, I do remember, how are you? We probably have not spoken for the best part of 20 years of more. I am Akin Akintayo, nice to chat to you again.

Caller: How are you? How is family?

[Do I say, I have no family, I am still part of my faraway birth family or I run a large family of one? I just say fine – But I suddenly realize, whilst in the West, a family can be one plus others, he might be expecting I am married to some super-fertile wife with whom we would be taking the population of the Netherlands to 17,000,000 which being at an estimated 16,336,346 would mean she would be have to be doing multiple births of probably 10 at a time.

He being part of a twin set would not find that strange, but I have had a few more calls that have gone along the same lines asking about my family.]

My Space and communication asteroids

It is the few more calls in days that are getting to me, I have to respond to Unknown numbers, I have been unable to extract a return number and I am of the good mind of just ignoring all Withheld and Unknown numbers as I normally do.

It transpired that my good sister felt I would like to chat to some old friend and parted with my number – we’ll have words.

Having been away from Nigeria for so many years I have to adjust to the temperament of people who have recently moved up here who could turn up at your door unannounced – I did that before 17 years ago – or call so many times in a week.

Suddenly, my communication spectrum is getting crowded out by signals from one transmitter – on a separate note, it is no wonder my home answering machine has 19 messages which probably have been gathering magnetic or electron dust for probably 2 months.

Time to wipe it clean – a bad habit - but how do you respond to a situation on your answering machine that is over 2 months old? Pray, it is nothing about winning the lottery – a bank error in my favour would show up on my bank statement, I can live with that.

Tuesday 10 October 2006

Font Annoyance

Today is Patch Tuesday in Microsoft parlance; the second Tuesday of the month is the day Microsoft releases a whole set of patches, fixes and cures for the annoying bugs or the presumed inscrutable vulnerabilities on Microsoft Windows systems and products.

So, the shield in my System Tray came up and I always use the Custom Install at least to see what is being thrown onto my PC.

Well, somehow, I have a critical patch to install because some symbols in the Bookshelf Symbol 7 font have been found to be unacceptable.

How Microsoft could have been complicit in offending the sensibilities of whoever discovered that flaw escapes me.

For all intents and purposes, someone should have told the person to Get A Life rather that have millions of PCs touched to remove seemingly salacious fonts – some minds are just so below the sewer, they will see shit in almost anything.

Saturday 7 October 2006

Exasperation - an anger fuelled emotion

Swing low, swing moodily

After the project I am currently on, I do wonder if I would have to take an Anger Management course or Exasperation Curtailment Therapy. Because in the past few weeks, my moods have swung between anger and exasperation, in some cases, I expressed both emotions simultaneously that the pain of it all leads to almost hysterical laughter.

If things could get worse, this project has the propensity to plumb the depths of of everything bad about project management.

Microsoft Church

Yesterday, I took the day off to attend a Microsoft jaunt, basically, every April; highly technical people meet at some expensive hotel somewhere in America for the Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) which could pass for a big-time religious camp-meeting.

There, Technical Evangelists prognosticate and almost outdo Nostradamus about where we are at, what is being planned and what to expect. These meetings afford the opportunity to engage the people who know about the problems we know and seeking radical thinking for effective solutions.

Six months after that camp-meeting, Microsoft sends out a couple of missionaries with the precious bread-crumbs and news of those events, only this time, we are much more closer to the timelines that were first mooted in April.

Besides, we have what they call Technical Drilldowns which are talks and demonstrations which make complicated things look easy; we are more than an appreciative audience when these super-gurus visit us.

Breadcrumbs worth gold dust

So, this was my second Best of MMS Roadshow which took place just outside Amsterdam – we get invited and it is free – a day of just catching up with what is going on and after the one last year, it is the most valuable knowledge enhancement activity you can participate in, if you manage systems with Microsoft products.

One of the highlights of the day was when we were told that application dependency chains have been improved upon in a product I have worked with for the past 10 years.

Application dependency which is the way you install applications in a pre-determined sequence has been hellish to-date – you had to make changes to each application in the chain to create the desired sequence. In one of my projects, the chain was 24 applications deep; it got me thinking seriously about what could be done about it.

For years, experts in Microsoft Systems Management Server soon to be called System Center could wager that the product was developed by hired hands that had no concept of the way Microsoft did things – the interface was both stodgy and lacked intuitiveness.

Anyway, I fired off a wish list to Microsoft about Application dependency, combining ideas of different technologies that Microsoft would be aware of; well, just as I was preparing a question to ask the speaker about it, he launched into this new feature that could be found in System Center – my wish had been granted and the implementation so well thought through, it was like 3 wishes in one humongous delivery.

Rotten act after class act

The day drew to a close with a delivery from one of the local partners which was not just appalling it was outrageously lack-lustre, I scored the presenters 1 on a scale of 1 to 10 where excellent was 10 and believe me, that was generous.

How could they unleash on us such tripe after 6 hours of listening to other exciting people speak about interesting things a sloth’s equivalent of a car race?

At the Q&A session, my question just like last year, won me this time, a pair of System Center headphones and a 512MB USB flash drive, previously, I had won a pair of noise reduction headphones.

Just a little issue

The day closed with a call from work that the desktop prototype we were about to launch had an application which should not have been installed as part of the core list of applications.

Well, I would not go through the whole story of how I tried to get the people in charge to make up their minds about what applications should be where – that is however not the painful part – it is the fact that this prototype was the 17th and people have been testing this things for almost 2 weeks, online for some Smart Alec to find this issue now.

No, I did not go into apoplectic rage, I was more reserved in the I upbraided all involved; when I tried to remove the application, I found that it had been so messed up with, I decided it would have to stay in the prototype.

Basically, if the people I work for cannot be decisive or make decisions that would help experts like me achieve the goals I have been hired for, well, I would make those decisions and those decisions would be the prevailing decisions.

Somehow, one just has to take the bull by the horns and wrestle to the ground and subdue it completely – where resolution is lacking, the hired hand gains ascendancy – that is the law of the technical jungle to put it blandly.

Breeding 101 for coat check assistants

Well, really, my job as an expert is to bring it all to a head and deliver a solution.

It was time to go home and I went to the coat check to collect my things – bag was fine, umbrella was dry, overcoat was OK, and where was my hat? Tucked into the sleeve of my overcoat. Sacrilege!!!

I understand that not everyone wears hats, in fact, I have only seen a few places where the concierge knows what to do with a coat, a hat and a cane – my own personally designed hat ruined by some uncultured cretin of a coat check assistant – I was livid, but for the quality of the material, I would have had the manager of the hotel ordering a new one from my milliner’s in Cologne. Struth!

Sunday 1 October 2006

Air data going nowhere

Information overload

Sometimes I wonder where all that accumulation of information goes apart from feeding the voyeuristic and controlling tendencies of the state and its apparatus in the pretence of fighting the war on terror.

Months ago when the highest European Court declared the data exchange, or rather the whole scale one-way data transfer of confidential data of European citizens who deign to travel to America illegal, that was triumph to be celebrated by all liberty seeking persons who do not want to sacrifice their freedom for temporary safety.

It so happens that the court asked that a better arrangement with legal grounding be negotiated between Europe and American authorities.

A bloody inconvenience

That negotiation seems to have broken down, and so it should, there is no valid reason for sending all that confidential information to America within 15 minutes of take-off only to find that more than halfway into the flight, the airplane has to be turned back because the computers throw up some innocuous and suspicious information which ends being a red herring.

Having never been to America, it does not really bother me, but, I have a newfound interest to visit and tour kindled by the arrival of this month’s National Geographic which had a foldout with a large map of the United States of America.

Extradition on a whim

The next thing to be resolved is that rotten extradition treaty that lets countries throw their citizens to American “justice” and sometimes gallows without court-tested evidence and with nothing of reciprocal equivalence from America.

The whole concept should be declared, unfair, unjust and illegal, the treaties should be annulled and made of non effect.

The poorest standard

The question is why America’s paranoia should become the poor standard of protecting our freedoms, that we end up serving America’s security ends at the expense of protecting and enforcing the rights of our own citizens.

It should not be so; the reciprocation of bad treaties is not the solution, rather the principles of justice, fairness, liberty, freedom and democracy that respects our privacy and protects our confidentiality grounded in good laws and enforce by good government globally is the way to go.

I do not want to know anything about American private lives; neither do I want Americans brought over to Europe on a whim without adequate legal and due process to determining proper cause.

Thursday 28 September 2006

A project for colourful analogy

Tautology of analogy

Somehow, I have become a master of analogies when it comes to understanding and explaining topics, ideas, issues or circumstances in my profession.

The project I am currently involved in is another classic in the many projects I have embarked upon where the salient lesson ends up being how not to do projects.

Interestingly, NaijaBlog highlighted issues with poor project management in Nigeria, but I can say that it is no better in Europe.

What is amazing is that we have professional project managers with Prince 2, Princess 3, Queen 4, King 5 and Emperor 6 project management qualifications but not an iota of genius has materialised from such great learning.

All sold on a whim

The first analogy stemmed from the situation where the project managers through their boss announced to their corporate community that they would deliver a product for live deployment in 2 weeks – no problem with that – however, if the project managers have not consulted their core resources, of which I was one, about that possibility, they would have sold a luxury car without having first seen the prototype.

I have read my CV over and over again, I have not found the words miracle or worker anywhere on the CV, in fact, this blog contains the first instance of those two words in such close proximity when talking of myself.

Then, there is the other part where it appears this project which is an activity of centralising and consolidating the business and resources to one country, there are many all around the place who have basically been deliberately sabotaging the project not to talk of the fact that there are so many chiefs in the canoe, not one space for the overworked Indian to row the boat.

Stunned at the sight of Medusa

However, this is the big picture, somehow, we all have paintbrushes with the mind that we are all together painting a figure whose name starts with M, some are expecting something serene, enduring and captivating like Mona Lisa; some are so clueless, they are making a Mess; some dare to fantasise and think it would be Marilyn Monroe with the air up her skirt, however, at the unveiling, we ended up with Medusa, such that we were shocked to stone – that is real-life project management as I have seen it in many enterprises.

My weekends are my weekends

In view of the poor project management and the atrocious impediments of staff that have thwarted every purpose we have tried to assert not to talk of the how 10-minute job have taken the best part of 10-hours with no resolution in sight, someone has the temerity to request my presence for the weekend – fat chance.

I rarely do weekends at work, not for the money not for the fun, my weekends are for myself especially if the whole week has milked 10 hour days – something has to give and what should give is a revelation of rotten project management and planning, more so, those who demand so many hours are out of the door before the clock chimes five.

Did I say that?

Twice, I have blurted out an expletive in utter exasperation bordering on apoplexy, how is it that these people just do not seem to look like the ordinary man in the street?

Joined-up thinking is just as rare as joined-up writing, though in spite of it all, I would deliver a product that is fit for purpose catering for my customer base which includes the users, the administrators and the enterprise.

I have another month of doing this stuff, the lesson would be well learnt – How not to do projects.

Sunday 27 August 2006

The job just comes

Fortunate and grateful

In my career life, I have been so fortunate. In the last 12 years, I have hardly had a job where I have had to do all the footwork, rather, there has always been someone, some company, some contract in which I have worked that has lead to another opportunity somewhere else.

I realise, I am never so aggressive about looking for work even though in some cases one should be concerned about knowing when the next bank bloat would be.

But then, I learnt the most important lesson about work just when I went freelance contracting that each day you are appearing at work, you are writing your reference and laying out the paths to success or destruction of your career.

The evil men do

Two CVs came in prospecting for work from people who had worked in that company a few years before. The department manager was new and knew nothing about them so he sounded round other staff about these people.

The report was so bad, I cringed, one had spent all his time running another business rather than doing his work, the other was considered lazy and lackadaisical have done some unmentioned damage to the systems in their tenure.

Basically, this report made them unemployable, since the IT world is fluid, the dispersal of people means that this message would propagate eventual to other opportunities, to redeem themselves they have to be aware of this situation and begin to rebuild their reputations anew – what is almost impossible is rebuilding that with old contacts.

Certification is just the beginning

The lesson reinforced my views about character and professionalism at work, most especially when you are on a short-term contracts, my next job came about through two avenues; a contract that barely lasted 5 weeks and an agency I have worked for since the beginning of the year, it would probably lead on to other things.

I remember when there was a rush by people to attain vendor certifications to move from postal clerk jobs of £7.00/hour to the entry-level £20.00/hour contract jobs in IT Support. Many saw the MCSE and CNE as ends rather than means of developing new careers.

The contracts usually only lasted no more than 3 months before they moved on, having left jobs as fumblers, problem creators and unprofessionally aggressive people with eyes for the money only. By the time they had the first pay packet, they were in the car showroom looking for a show-off Lexus automobile.

I would want to believe that that generation of sorry and hapless contractors have either been eliminated from the market or they have learnt to make better use of their acquired certification to improve their knowledge and usefulness to industry.

Giving thanks

In the end, I believe my life is encompassed with favour and grace rather than sheer luck and good fortune, though in a secular world they all seem to matter.

What better thing could I have done with all these wonderful happenings than to go to church and give thanks for all the blessings that pour into my life everyday.

Monday 7 August 2006

A coffee blend bereft of Java beans

The last hurdle

Having spent two years on my masters programme towards a degree in Information Technology, I have reached the last hurdle but one. I have done 7 out of 8 modules and now this would have been the last module before my 8 month dissertation.

The module I have left till last is a programming module, just when I found out through the wording making object-oriented programming a core requirement for the degree I could get a could get a waiver, the rules changed.

This is one bridge I must cross, this is one chalice from which I must drink to attain the wisdom of sages as object speaks to object, revealing some, concealing some and at times changing into other things.

Who C, U C, I C, no way

When I first tried C++, it appeared I had entered a class where everyone had their dreams C and spoke to their dog in C++ not forgetting the C# (C – sharp) that accompanies anyone with any musical talent.

I saw it all and I just thought, I cannot compete in this class, I still dream in plain English, I don’t have a pet and I am probably tone deaf – nothing piano-nanny cannot cure with a teaspoon full of sugar.

Unfortunately, C++ does not attract as much a crowd as the alternative object-oriented programming module in Java.

Java addiction

Everyone sniffs the aroma and they are high on the caffeine of Java beans and every kind of macchiato and latte you can concoct from that exclusive blend.

After going through some tutorials, I almost got intoxicated on the stuff, I was day-dreaming of possibilities and opportunities, casting myself as a programmer that has come of age – I almost deluded myself, but it is not an impossibility.

Am I afraid of this thing? Not really, I have my deep premonitions, but I have done quite well in other modules, this is not a cinch but I intend to do well against the odds.

I need a long holiday – Now!

Now, in the impasse between contracts, I feel I need a break, going out to some sunny climes is a moot point, and Spain has been on holiday in the Netherlands for the past 4 weeks. It does not however tempt me to breach the Arctic Circle.

Anyway, I still have a thing for the Canary Islands, but cannot guarantee that I would be able to get a hotel that offers uninterrupted Internet to my room.

My mind, my body craves for a break, somewhere distant from home, the routine, the smells and the everyday people including school work.

So, Java is postponed for another 24 days, by which time, I hope there is inspiration, heart, gusto and a serious inclination to mount the Java bull and steer it in the direction of a good grade.

I really feel like a long holiday – have card, would travel.

Sunday 11 June 2006

Force-fed with Ones and Zeroes

Daytime parcels for night time delivery

Earlier in the week, I picked up a parcel notice from my mailbox. I am still surprised that courier and delivery firms have not cottoned on the fact that the working population in the Netherlands would probably not be at home between 9 to 5, at least the morning shift of 9 to 5 rather than the evening shift of 9 to 5.

I am still of the opinion that evening deliveries is a niche business proposition for any business that decides to get into that business. Basically, everyone with a landline which would be linked to an address can register with a simple code indicating they prefer late deliveries for the period between 20:00 to 22:30.

The information is then accessed by the courier/delivery company when a parcel arrives and for every evening delivery request there is aa annual subscription for the search and a charge for the delivery. The money people can sort out the best pricing model.

So, if anything as big as a thimble is addressed to me, I need to find time to go down to the main post/parcel point with my passport and the parcel notice, it cannot fit in my postbox.

Persons Unknown in silly databases

In the Netherlands, you can put two notices on your postbox latch, No to flyers and unsolicited mail and No to trash – a good deal of what I pick up invites my wife for a beauty treatment amongst other things. I have taken the stuff upstairs but I am yet to find my wife – they must know something I don’t – in my conscious life, I have never been married.

So, the day I got a cold call asking to speak to Mrs Yours Truly, I simply told the caller to stop trying to have an affair with my wife and never ever to call this number again. That serves 2 purposes, a salutary warning that would reverberate and the conscious effort to expunge my name from their databases at best or an annotation – crazy man, don’t call him.

Before my visit, I can check on the Internet to see if the parcel is on location or still in some delivery truck doing an Amsterdam tour from a postman’s perspective.

Big Parcel Big Surprise

So, after showing the post counter my parcel notice and passport the postman produced a rather huge box from UPC – my jaw scraped the ground – I stuttered in bewilderment – I never ordered that.

So, the postman said, UPC (the cable company that delivers my cable TV and Internet services) has been delivering digital media boxes to all addresses with the 6-month free offer which switches to an extra EUR 2 thereafter.

However, if I do not want the service they would return the box at no cost to me. Decision time – I agree to take the box, next problem how to ride back home with a box under one of my midget arms.

My television which is just under 10 years old, was purchased in the UK and it does not work in the Netherlands because the PAL system is really an array of subsystems that do not work together – the UK uses PAL I and the Netherlands uses PAL B/G.

I have always needed an intermediate Dutch VCR to convert the signal to one my television could show with picture and sound in sync. There was a time in the 80s when televisions had the ability to decode 7 systems, but we have gone backwards on that advancement.

The UPC MediaBox

Do the first thing I did, not knowing if the UPC MediaBox would do the signal decoding was to remove the cheap Dutch VCR which could not even do Long Play – I could not believe after I got the VCR back home that any VCR could leave a factory in the 21st Century without Long Play – well, you learn.

So, I plug in the Media Box, connect the SCART cables and the RF Input from my cable socket and switch on TV and MediaBox.

All instructions appear in Dutch, I can read more than I have ever been able to speak, so I configured the system which threw up 106 or so channels and a good few radio stations (I eventually found the setting to switch to Engels [English in Dutch]). Within 15 minutes the pictures arrive and now I have to note the new locations of my favourite channels as well as find out about the new ones.

News Overload

As I have often been called a news junkie, I was on the hunt for the additional new channels – now I have BBC World (Balance), CNN (Propaganda), Sky News (General), Fox News (Yankee Tripe), Bloomberg (Staple for Creative Accountants), CNBC (Money talk in strange English) and Al Jazeera (The missing Middle East perspective) – These are my personal views which might not find true with my audience.

Then the Discovery Channel comes in four guises and my TV has been stuck on Discovery Channel – Civilisation feeding my fascination with the Second World War.

It appears you do not have a plasma, high-definition television with ambi-light to go digital – my trusty 28” Sony Television has just had another lease of life as Ones and Zeros get forced down our necks to move us all to Digital Television in the Netherlands.

Tuesday 30 May 2006

Handicapped by technology

Becoming a less-human of modernity

At times, one does wonder if the use of technology deadens human ability to do all sorts of things, they should be able to do naturally and sensibly.

For instance, through secondary school I used 4-figure tables and in some instances 5-figure tables, when I got to polytechnic we used tables for thermodynamics amongst other subjects.

At least then we began to use calculators, but before calculators, it was amazing how many sums one could do in ones head and even more on paper.

Nowadays, I falter on long division on paper and whilst every now and then I’ll rather do the head arithmetic or the paper calculations, but I find I have to affirm my findings with the addiction to that number-crunching prop – the electronic calculator.

I could remember nigh on 33 years ago, my fascination with the hand-operated calculator the precursor to the check-out till with all the calculation appearing on rolls of paper, indeed, technology has come a long way.

In the process, I have lost the ability to do simple sums, I find that it is difficult to transcribe numbers – a continuing frustration – multiplication, I hardly do in my head when once I could do the times tables to 22 by recitation.

Now, all this computer malarkey means I rarely write, such that my once really beautiful handwriting could as well be a ciphered scrawl – it is not that bad really, but I know my writing can be a lot better if I did a lot more pen to paper stuff than tap on keys.

Becoming an asocial communicator

This leads to another aspect of socialising, I do try to make friends and maintain contact with them. However, the ease with which technology allows contact through telephony, email and chat amongst other things means that you might find time but not space.

Time is when you engage in the contact over these media, space is when you take time to meet up and “press the flesh”. My concern is that I have allowed technology to absorb my time that space is not created to engender and foster relationships properly.

On a personal level, I despair of the time I spend trying in all civility to be run long distance relationships, where I might be quite expressive emotional, but cannot expect the same of my respondents.

Even today, when I should have been celebrating a birthday with a friend who I had invited over, the reticence that accompanied rejecting the invitation was both palpable on the one hand and not clearly as forth coming as one should expect.

I suppose there are times people would rather celebrate their birthdays alone – hard as it might seem to be that articulate in a chat session.

Making time away from technology

This then feeds into other aspects of building friendship-type relationships as opposed to business ones – it leaves me open to accusations that I am incapable of showing affection, well, I am affected, could be affecting, and might be given to affectation.

I do not, however, have a pet because I understand that it would require a lot more of my time than I have to offer in dedication and concern to the level that satisfies what concern should be. Change, is journey I must surely embark on.

You might then say, what brings on this introspection? I just read that a 21-year old put a 13-month old baby he was baby-sitting in the tumble-dryer when she spilt her drink on herself – makes you ponder – the wonders of technology today!

Or rather, dense stupidity helped by technological advancement - the Philips adverts helps a lot, this is not a time of Sense and Simplicity - try - Nonsense and simpletons!


Philips claim simply makes no sense

Wednesday 10 May 2006

Causing Disabling Ignorance

First week over - thankfully

Am I grateful that my first seminar week has is over and one can start all over again in the second seminar week.

It all adds up eventually in the final end of module score, but the scoring is per weekly activity added up at the end rather than cumulative.

Having had a really long break, getting back into the flow has been difficult and stressful. I produced work which a year ago I would not have offered up for my proof-reading, talk less of submitting it for assessment.

This is just not me, but that is now done and gone.

I have a bit of a head start this week and hope to do a lot better and get on with things without ending up in a time bind.

My only big thing is the using Endnote for my bibliography, I am still struggling with the making the Harvard style of reference in the application match up to our customised Harvard offering.

I cannot begin to think of the amount of time I have expended in fine-tuning the stuff only to find that our library has not done any work on providing support for the tool.

No-hard-work man

All my life, I know was born for a labour-saving world, there has to be easier, better, smarter ways of doing things and one has to find them and utilise them.

My voice goes into a shrill at work when inertia allows people to just accept shoddy work on the prompting of an emergency in fulfilling urgency.

We then find that we have urgently implemented a solution that has just exacerbated the problem; I must be from Mars where there is a similitude of joined up thinking.

Call it histrionics bordering on apoplexy, I am your drama queen nightmare if I cannot see the benefits of brain cell activity in a situation – we have architects a-plenty whose drawings would never lift off the paper because they know nothing of the strength of materials.

Intellectual arrogance disabling ignorance

Yours truly is caught up in this papier-mâché of designs that do not work and in the whole time I have been in the company, not one architect, no, not one egomaniac technical ignoramus has deigned to visit to see how their design is not fit for use, but by some manic depressive.

Even I always want to discover where my intellectual arrogance is causing disabling ignorance and do well to overcome it. I know too many people who have been overwhelmed. Peter Drucker, I you owe big-time for this amazing insight, I cannot continue to suffer from disabling ignorance.

If only I could say to the disabled – Rise up and walk – my life would also be bliss at work.

Sunday 7 May 2006

The first word was the slowest in coming

Back to school and tardy

After a long break, I am back on the academic trail to finish my last 2 modules and start on my MSc Dissertation.

Each module lasts 8 weeks that could be utter bliss or a complete ordeal and many things factor in between. You need 8 modules for the complete Masters in IT course.

Each week consists of a seminar, which includes a lecture a number of discussion question, probable assignments and project work for individuals or groups.

The seminar week runs from Thursday till Wednesday with the requirement that students must attend by effective contribution in at least 4 days.

So, work begins on the discussion question with ideas buzzing around in my head to distraction, I probably have written a whole conference in my head by Saturday morning but nothing committed to paper.

My head on a block

Writer’s block, they call it, more like an insurmountable mountain as I am drained of all energy to do other things and the clock begins to tick towards the deadline of midnight Sunday to get the discussion question contributions out and start commenting on the views of colleagues.

You might wonder how a person who seems to blog a lot can come to crossroads on writing decisions, well, it is probably like a hangover, until you’ve tried Hair of the Dog you might be nowhere near losing the headache.

From experience, I now find that I probably need 4 hours to knock-out decent copy and whilst the suggested time of study is considered somewhere between 15 to 20 hours a week, 30 of my waking hours are out there trying to be coherent and working to remain relevant.

Miss Marple’s assistant

The fun of study comes from the excitement of learning new things and ideas that one would not normally attend to in everyday life.

Currently, as we start with Computer Forensics, I feel I have just got a bit part in Miss Marple bites into an apple (computer) and she is investigating how the worm got in there.

Cite all sites

I was driven to complete distraction as I struggled to come to terms with the new citation guidelines that have become a nightmare that I acquired a tool – EndNote to handle all that stuff.

I am amazed that a tool that popular is so counter-intuitive and stodgy, most especially when in this day and age referencing from the web accounts for more citations than conventional books.

After a good 2 days of mucking around with the tool, it all began to make some sense, but a bit more practice is required before good value and consistent styles can results.

I fired a missive of 5 long questions to our librarian to help – methinks, the change would have less people citing references if so much time is spent trying to get it up to the demands and standards of the authorities.

Associating Computers with Manual work

More so, I am amazed that the Association of Computing Machinery that has a digital library to rival any large archive still requires that interfacing with contemporary bibliographical tools be a cut-and-paste activity – I am disappointed.

A hundred years of computing history and the largest archive still follows the bookshelf metaphor of a conventional library – something is definitely wrong if computing people cannot for themselves create a labour saving activity for their own use.

Methinks, I have a project to hand, however, I need a programmer’s brain for a radical lobotomy.

Study a-plenty means blogs a-few.

Friday 7 April 2006

Brooding conception - incubating a new blog

Writing to help
Many years ago, I took up writing but mainly to help people solve problems with Microsoft Systems Management Server and advise people on studying and preparing for the Microsoft MSCE vendor certification.
I found the experience quite interesting during the year of 1999.
Apart from that, I have been involved in some in-house technical writing, guides and processes such that I find that my thoughts and ideas are all over the place but not accessible from a repository that archives and develops those things for more general consumption.
Recently, I found that I do have a body of knowledge that is getting improved upon through my Masters programme, which involves a lot of writing too, amongst other experiences.
My approach to the discussion questions has involved technical and business perspectives such that I would not laud technical advancements that businesses and CIOs are not getting excited about.
Solutions not fancy toys
We as technical people have to recognise that businesses do not require toys but solutions that streamline business practice, improve efficiency, offer competitive advantage, cost very little and offer great benefits.
That is what my technical affirmation is all about that sometimes my technical colleagues think I have gone native when I do not ham on the feature but the politics that loosen the purse strings.
To that end, I would be launching a new blog that offers content radically different from the fare you get from here.
It would revolve mainly around my professional ideas and views, encouraging debate on support, administration, mentoring, certification and the architect’s dilemma.
Breaking it down
Borrowing from methodologies and frameworks about service, management and administration, I hope to break them down into bite-size commonsense views that would help people do better and realise how technique and process are one and the same for remaining relevant to your organisation and any career path you choose.
Incubating a new blog
Now that I have decided to start up a new blog I am caught on the horns of a dilemma about getting a good name and using a good blog provider to host my material.
Blog-City does a fantastic job, I am a premium subscriber for this blog till 2010, however, I have not convinced of the service being adequate for a more professional outing.
I suppose it is down to how I run it than how it is hosted except for ensuring that features abound and are kept up to date, more bandwidth is definitely required and more file space too.
That search would continue through another week of research.
Meanwhile …
A piece of vintage Akin found on the web begins to indicate where we might be going soon. I wrote this just under 6 years ago and it still finds true today.
However, some of the links which were alive years ago, might now be dead – Alas!
It was strange when a colleague dug up a few of my write-ups in the then Dejanews now Google Groups which some jobs-worthy security guy thought was a porn site until I gave a spirited fight to show how it is more useful for helping us solve problems than for seeking temporary relief. Sometimes!
The write up was in response to comment about self-studying for the MCSE and seeking help towards the effort.
Here goes …
It is high time people realised that career development is a personal thing, not something offered on a plate as a work of kindness.
If you are in permanent employment, you career progressions is subject to the whims and caprices of the organisations you work for, if contracting, you have to take time off from earning money either to study, attend courses or take tests.
I think it is a valid point that your organisation wants to send your staff on practical "In wild training" rather than fill them with exam theory, which has no lien with real life. They should be glad for that option.
As for getting the MCSE, they should for the want of another phrase, 'get off their arses' get the syllabuses off the Microsoft sites, surf the Net and get information from :-
You do them a disservice if you are assuming they do not have the aptitude to study, read up, set aside some time to practice, and at £75 a go, pay for the tests to complete the MCSE in a reasonable 6 to 9 months. Even if it is an exam a month. They obviously cannot completely lack initiative to chart their own career progress.
This thing is no rocket science.
I did my CNE over 5 years ago, after working with the products for a while, did not have the luxury for any training or any of the resources we now have on the Net - got books worth a quarter of my monthly salary, and scrounged and scrimped to get it all done in 3 weeks. As for my MCSE, that was bliss.
Why? (Regarding my CNE)
The need to progress

The realisation that I am not brain-dead

My employer could not eventually hold me to ransom, I paid my way.
Why? (Regarding my MCSE)
Getting bored with the mundane
Needed a challenge, which was over in 3 weeks :)

Validate my knowledge (personally), not for employment purposes - been working with NT for over 4 years
As for CBTs
Try the CBTs from CBT Systems now Smartforce, they can be customised for your requirements.
Akin Akintayo CNE MCSE

Tuesday 28 March 2006

How to move from working 9 to 5

Back to coffees at dawn
So, at 7:45 am on Monday morning a senior director of the recruitment/services firm that has just secured a contract on my behalf calls up to take me to my new assignment.
This is one of the few occasions where you see a Dutch executive quite well dressed and obviously well-to-do and knowing his onions about so many issues.
It is one of those situations where I get offered an assignment based on my reputation in terms of what I have done, who I have worked with or who I have mentored. No interviews, but the curriculum vitae and reputation does all the leg work.
I am beginning think there should be ways of quantifying ones stock in terms of reputation, reliability and professionalism as opposed to just having technical know-how and requisite abilities.
LinkedIn Networking
In the last 10 years, I have had the privilege of obtaining employment more through elements of networking than initial introductions; one should probably find ways of making those links work better.
So, I was quite enamoured when a friend invited me into his LinkedIn network and I found I was one of 2 consultants whilst others were directors or owners of their business.
Which just under 20 years of IT experience, I am beginning to wonder how I can make my knowledge work for me without having to be present to enforce the knowledge and do the 9-to-5 shuffle to put money in the bank.
This is the new quest along with finishing my MSc in IT and researching opportunities for doing a research degree in the Netherlands. More importantly, finding a way to change my income portfolio to a knowledge-based enterprise from a person/personnel based profile.
Build globally and change perspectives
Day One showed promise, there seems to be a lot I can bring to the table to help out, but then it only works if those I help appreciate the perspective I have of enterprise infrastructure.
I am an architect who designs with a good knowledge of the strength of materials, drawings should be confidently realisable just as infrastructure design should have manageability, usability and simplicity at the fore.
Support staff should have a dashboard of data that allows then go straight to solving the problem when called rather than spending the first 30 minutes construction the links before addressing the issues.
I am wont to saying that the battle for the reduction of cost and the effectiveness of service is at the desktop.
If you do not have that in hand through standardisation, business application streamlining and flexible management practices, your new implementation would grown in cost of support, personnel and management.
IT cost or asset
Then, Information Technology begins to look like a major cost not an integrated business asset and the bean-counters begin to look for ways to outsource all IT.
That is where Wall-Mart has come of age; their IT is completely integrated, nothing is outsourced. That is the challenge of many a CIO and not many have seen that it is about service and not the cost.

Tuesday 21 March 2006

Wanting it badly

Expatriate's Expatriate
I cannot say I am the most integrated foreigner in the Netherlands. I have said this so much that it is becoming a kind of affirmation I am not entirely proud of, but one I have to live with.
So, this is even so obvious when I send my CV to certain global organisations in the Netherlands and it get rejected out of hand because my grasp of Dutch makes Double Dutch sound like duck quacks.
Then suddenly, a problem needs to be solved, a solution is required and some brains regardless of language ability are required - my CV resurfaces to do the job, albeit is nominally contract rates rather than the lesser paid permanent roles.
I have now learnt to be content with the fact that where my skills are required my services would eventually be acquired.
Sometimes, I wonder why I get so flustered and worrisome of short terms of unemployment.
I have been fortunate in many ways as I count my blessings and remain grateful for the providence of the great Father who in spite of my faults smiles on me as I find favour with earth and heaven.
Meanwhile, I traipsing round Germany continues as work begins on Monday.

Tuesday 14 February 2006

Beware of dog - recruiter alert

What to do…
I am beginning to wonder if my temperament and demeanour is suited to certain interviewers, interview techniques or job prospects.
My CV is generally supposed to present me as an expert in a field of expertise where the simplicity of installation obfuscates the complexity of implementing useful solutions.
For instance, in my last project, the “Customer Solutions Architect” had spent the best part of 7 months installing a Microsoft Systems Management Server 2003 environment which worked but was completely unmanageable.
Any administrator would have cried in frustration with simple day-to-day activities. A person with my experience and expertise would consider all stake-holders affected by any solution offered.
This comprises of the business, their requirements, the users, the administrators and any prevailing political and organisational influence that impacts the effectiveness of the solution.
My pitch sits squarely in realising solutions for the enterprise with due consideration of all resources provided and expected benefits. It means that one has to be authoritative, candid, truthful, realistic, resourceful and always honest.
Illiterate pimps
Starting with the interviewers, these are sometimes recruitment consultants in recruitment firms who usually have one thing in mind; the mark-up they can earn off your contract fee.
In some cases, there has been close to a 50% mark-up; it hasn’t really bothered me, because what is not negotiable is my fee at the first time of asking.
That is beside the point; it is when they have not taken time to read my CV that irks me the most. I used to be a director of a company called NextStep Limited in Nigeria then I got a call asking if I could offer programming expertise in NeXTSTEP software.
Then after 12 years of IT experience (I now have 18) of which 7 then were at a senior technical specialist level, sometimes in management, I get a call asking if I am interested in a trainee position. I have no problem with being a trainee if I am working on the launch controls at NASA.
However, apart from recruitment consultants, there are professional recruiters employed by organisations to sift prospective employees with bizarre questions and mind games.
Bouncers in the bank
The biggest bank in the Netherlands was recently on a recruitment drive which they co-sourced to an agency that was to weed out ineligible candidates along with agreeing certain terms of remuneration.
Having passed that hurdle, I met up with this male and female team of recruiters whose first onslaught was to refuse to interview till I had agreed to take a salary 15% below what had been agreed with the agency.
Evidently, this was on the paper sent to them by the agency well over a week before, and it could have been discussed with the agency who would have sought my consent or advice about going further or not.
In the circumstances, they blamed their lack of preparation on the agency where they should have paid more attention to the detail of the client to be interviewed.
Then the interview starts with “Give us an example of relationship building” – you must be kidding me.
Now, if I had only been working in IT 2 years, I would probably still be learning about how to get things done.
After 18 years, with the roles I have held and the beneficial things I have done in the organisations I have worked for … if my whole career has not been about building, maintaining and nurturing relationships, my career must have been a farce.
OK, maybe I am being a bit melodramatic, but after the salary haggling that would not have been worthy of a sub-continental marketplace or bazaar, I do not think I was in the mood for unimaginative recruiters.
They were like bouncers, you either have an invitation and we let you in, or you are going nowhere regardless of your relationship with the host.
They interview to an organisational mindset if there is one, or are just probably incompetent and answerable to no one especially when they can cover up their lapses.
At the poker table without chips
One other reason why I probably was not considered could be the fact that I decided to carry on the interview on the prospect of a better position, which they did not have to offer.
Interviewing with people who have no latitude on the one hand and then cannot recognise the skill you offer could as well be a dead-end.
So then, to another interview that is for the role of a specialist and I get the question “How do you set up a user?” – That is definitely taking the biscuit. Having worked in global enterprises, some sites have had well over 40,000 users along with their computers under my management.
They probably have not read my CV and if they had, maybe those questions are just to tug at my intellectual arrogance and the brooding “expertise complex” that beclouds the ability to deal with fundamental issues.
The truth be told
Aspects of a CV can sometimes look like they are too good to be true, then, ask for references; there is not reason to purvey falsehoods, the IT world is too small to get away with lies and sloppy work, you soon get found out.
Though it is gratifying when 10 years ago, was I walked into an interview they placed my in a room and I had to do a technical test. I then was hired within hours of that interview – I learnt that people doubted my abilities and I was baited with the test in which I attained the best ever score.
Beyond a good professional relationship with my manager which lasted 4 years including his taking over to another posting he had, we are still very good friends. Do I have to cry from the hilltops that I really am what my CV says I am? I am beyond exasperated.
At least, 80% of the work I have done in the last 10 years has been through networks formed off working with colleagues, managers or agencies – every now and then, I get a call asking about my availability for a project they have at hand.
I can fix that
All is not lost, I realise that I interview best when I am hired to fix something. At least the last few projects have involved my going in sort things out, mentor people and implement working solutions.
When people have questions, problems or appalling catastrophes requiring first a confident understanding of the issues and a good idea of how to chart from the rotten and bad through the acceptable towards the ideal coupled with availability in terms of both my expertise and time, I always get the job.
Probably, my wealth of expertise is also becoming a burden, I thrive in teams where I have something offer, something to share and something to learn. However, the mentoring aspect is gaining more significance when I embark on projects.
Projects are however, short-term, longer term contracts probably require that one be ensconced in management. This calls for a radical career re-alignment assessment; am I ready for that? 
Muzzle the dogs
Recently, it appears, I am not doing well with jobs that are mundane, routine and easy-going or barely anticipate problems, not because I am not qualified, but because I first have to outrun the dogs to get to the main door.
Sometimes the dogs make so much of a raucous the man of the house is forced to come out to calm the commotion and see who is trying to get in. Alternatively, I might just get Pedigree Chum laced with sedative, feed it to the dogs and walk right up to the door.
This is where; Mighty Mix and the dog food offer might be better appreciated than it has been in Kenya.
Once that happens, well, it is another notch to my CV.

Thursday 19 January 2006

Professional reputations in a rotten job

False facts force fiddles
Angst is never an emotion or state of mind one finds oneself grappling with. In professional life, it rarely ever features, since I project myself as an expert and authority in the field where the knowledge goods find a market.
This really became a dilemma when I took on a short term contract to help sort out some problems which were affecting the technical relationship between my employer and their client.
It so transpires that over the last year, they had been discussing the execution of this project such that many questions were asked, some answers were given and we can agree that some of those answers would make a jury take a negative view of evidence before them.
Business lies
Basically, there were misrepresentations which lead to certain conclusions that formed the basis of executing the project.
Businesses embark on projects hopefully as a business improvement or enhancement exercise knowing that every eventual benefit might incur an initial cost in resources, time and money.
In this case, the client already had a ceiling of costs for a project which under nominal circumstances would have had an implementation floor well above the projected and agreed costs.
GF≠C is ideal
For some, that would be a bargain, but we all know that even if your service terms were Good, Fast and Cheap, juxtaposing them would provide different results.
+        Fast and Cheap is usually not Good (Bad)
+        Good and Fast is usually not Cheap (Ideal)
+        Good and Cheap is usually not Fast (Acceptable)
In this case, the project manager having presented the ideal plan had the Sales People pare it down to the acceptable and they all ended up with a bad agreement, I now have to square that up to the ideal.
With the wealth of knowledge and expertise I bring in as well as being a resource to execute the project, a lot can be done, but none of which does well to approach the fundamental implementation floor worthy of any recognition.
My role however was one of either trying to resolve the prevailing problems or a complete re-design of the project, the former had mileage, and the latter was long dead in water.
In resolving the problems, some radical action had to be taken which for posterity would have my name attached till when some sensible assessment of what went wrong initially and that is corrected.
Speak for me - forever
I could speak for myself whilst on the project and in the company, but once I leave, having done what the customer required though that requirement falls way below my professional judgment, it makes one wonder who would speak up for me when another expert reviews the project further down the line.
My concerns for that lead me to consider walking away from the project.
I sought succour from mentors and friends which simply confirmed the notion that it would always be my call.
Weighing the consequences of protecting my professional integrity or probably pride by walking away, or trying to make the best of a bad situation by making myself available as a resource to implement what the customer wants with the best expertise I could offer.
Just not on
In choosing the latter, I had already remonstrated about the issues that were raised in negotiating the terms of the project
+        from the false assertion that they had experts of my calibre who had executed the project not only badly but wrongly;
+        the apparent lack of candour where claim and counter-claim pervaded the atmosphere till the real truth emerged in a forum of all parties;
+        the quest to cover-up the mess by subterfuge rather than owning up to the mistakes made
Those amongst many other little but significant issues have been addressed and would need to be reviewed again as this project hopefully comes to a close.
Egg-spurt needs egg on face
The only annoying bit remains that the in-house expert who has expertly made a hash of this project has not accepted the folly of his actions enough to leave this to the hired expert to first resolve and then handover with the opportunity to learn.
For me, it is a humbling experience which in other circumstances would have seen my walk out, the risk of humiliation looms but is distant from the fact that they all well know that I kicked up a right old fuss.
Once again, I thank my mentors and friends for their advice, soothing words and useful guidance, they are friends, indeed.
This time has been instructive, the people quite challenging and the project, well definitely interesting. Go figure!