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.