Saturday 17 November 2007

Techies have kids too

Without a bang!

One cannot say that Microsoft TechEd IT Forum in Barcelona ended with a bang, the last session stretched to 16:30, everyone collected their bags and many had checked out of their hotels in the morning and made their way to the airport for their flights back home.

There was no social after-party and it did not appear any had been arranged impromptu; I can understand that many companies having lost the physical presence of their techies for a week but kept them on leash through their Blackberrys, phones and ubiquitous laptops would not countenance the idea of a free weekend in the beautiful city of Barcelona, especially if they are paying.

Many were missing their young families already and that is if they did not have duties stacked up for them to do the moment they land back at home.

There were some that brought their families but they never had them for company except after the sessions which ended late everyday.

Techies have kids too

One sight that impressed and amused me was a session called Internet Safety for Kids delivered by Laura Chappell, usually when a session is full, the spillover is a monitor outside the door with probably 3 people observing the session, I even attending one like that.

This session had a large spillover, with people sitting on the floor outside, I would suppose this means a larger forum and place needs to be setup for such a seminar, next time. More importantly, if no one has ever noticed, techies, geeks and propeller-heads are flesh and blood, like you and me, they breathe, they feel and they are human-beings affected by everyday things.

Wait for it! Techies have kids, nieces or nephews and they are just as concerned about technological advancements at work as they are about the safety of children when they roam the Wild-West of the Internet.

Besides, many are engaged in other activities as de-facto consultants at home, to neighbours, to schools and other community services that require learned people pro-bono to ensure their systems are safe and the users are even safer.

Internet Safety for Kids is where you can find information, material and detail about this presentation.

Server Core Command Prompt

I have always said I cannot be a UNIX geek because I do not have long enough hair to grow a pony-tail if any at all – Windows Server 2008 is taking us back to the days of the command prompt with a lightweight but extensible base installation called Server Core.

Yes, you get a command prompt, you can use a Graphical User Interface if you elect to install a fuller version of Windows Server 2008, but this was geeky and we all need to dust off our command-line skills as a demonstration of edlin showed how long we had been in this line of work.

Anyway, it means respect has arrived at the door of Windows experts and now Linux town-criers who think the world revolves around their geekery might suddenly find themselves grudgingly admitting Microsoft buffs to the fold of nerds.

Advent of the management techie

If anything, all that I learnt at this forum was everything we do from this time on requires serious planning; point-and-click does not deliver solutions and technical people need to take on a management perspective of business needs and goals, and then tailor solutions to meet them.

Well, that has never been far from my mind and perspective, but there are many technical people who need to review how they see ones and zeroes and what makes a business gain competitive advantage through IT solutions.

Preparing for Microsoft TechEd IT Forum 2008 already – over and out!

Friday 16 November 2007

The Vista from my Windows

Melee with meals

The past 5 days, one can say life has revolved between the hotel and the daily conferences which could be exhausting to say the least.

Despite the issues I have with the hotel I ventured into the hotel restaurant last night for a meal because I could not be bothered trawling the whole of Barcelona for a restaurant and a table for one.

As I got there, there was no way of knowing that one room was meant for groups and the other for non-groups, waiter spoke no English and reeled out probably 20 sentences to me on Catalan and I just looked at him like I had just seen an alien.

Eventually, someone came round to show to be some nondescript room with no atmosphere and left me there as if I was in detention. I managed the entrée and touched the main course, refused the desert, which left them worried that I did not like the food nor the service - this time someone from reception came up to chat and find out what was wrong.

Well, what I hated was the fact that being a lone eater the room should have had a bit more atmosphere, a waiter about, probably some music and maybe more people - in the end, eating alone takes away from the pleasure of dining and definitely, in my case, the food would not go down.

It is amazing that one is in Barcelona, an international city that once hosted the Olympics and has quite a big tourist throughput but very few people in the hospitality industry speak any English.

I believe

I attended 4 sessions again and Microsoft might just have won a convert and that is what I said about these events. They are like evangelistic crusades with apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists and pastors preaching the gospel of Microsoft and performing miracles in the name of Microsoft.

The wonder, the excitement and hypnotism - you get carried along, carried away and voluntarily brainwashed as the mass hysteria consumes every opportunity to resist the urge to succumb - when I get back home, I would be installing Windows Vista.

I came here a sceptic and would be returning a believer; the cynicism has been cast out with evidence of glorious vistas of operation, performance and technical goodies you cannot ignore.

The jewel of the conference has to be Mark Russinovich; a super-geek that looks nothing like the geeks you know - the man knows the internals of Windows and how to look under the bonnet better than any Windows mechanic I have ever seen - he makes tools for every single thought or idea he might have had about extracting information from Windows about what is going on.

He leaves you wanting to go home and get your hands really dirty, solve problems by really finding out why the problem is there, break it down and then fix it up nicely, whatever session he has going, I think I would be lapping that up.

Blogging for whatever

I attended an afternoon session about blogging, and I have been thinking about how to do a bit of technical blogging and veer a bit away from the general stuff that I regularly write about.

I have not decided if I should host that on a separate blog and leave that in this setup; the panel views differed on that matter, but the most important advice was to keep your personality within what you do.

Obviously, people blog for all sorts of reasons, some are fully technical and others are light-hearted - there is a broad spectrum of opinions and views.

Quality and quantity really depends on what you are writing about and they are relative issues, it appeared my blogging frequency was a lot higher than those on the panel, but then I suppose if I had to write purely technical stuff, I might not be delivering stuff with this kind of regularity.

Someone asked about blogging trolls, people whose existence is exemplified by rotten commentary and rude inserts - we agreed that each person's blog space is purely theirs and people who do not respect that principle do not have to be acknowledged.

Whilst I accept anonymous comments I expect people who leave negative insulting comments to also present an identity, if not, I just delete the stuff. If you cannot stand by what you have to say, you are a non-person and non-entity - whilst I would know your IP address, it is a waste of time giving such people time.

If I do go technical with some of my blogging entries, I would suppose it would still revolve around my experiences with analogies, allegories and inferences - I suppose that is the best way to blog - your views and well-researched opinions about how you observe things or how things affect you.

TechEd IT Forum a must

On already with the last day of Microsoft TechEd IT Forum and I am already planning for next year - thankfully, I do not have to run the gauntlet of corporate inertia in arranging for these conferences, I would expect any technical mind that manages and builds infrastructure in the enterprise should be here.

If only CIOs and IT Managers realised that this is no freebie holiday jaunt but an essential element career development that their staff should enjoy. I mentioned this at work months ago, but it all fell through for them and many other projects do because of the lack of adequate exposure to how things are done implemented elsewhere.


Mark Russinovich

Sunday 11 November 2007

Microsoft does micro-courtesy

Do Not Disturb!

If I ever have a tombstone, it would probably read – He always expected …

I expect that if I put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on my hotel room door that is exactly what it means – the sign is even generous enough to announce that stated intention in Catalan, Castellano and it defaults to English, just in case the housekeeping staff forgot.

Having burnt my candle on three ends last night, the last thing I wanted was for some stranger to walk in on my sleep and wake me up for reasons other than if there was a fire that required evacuating the building.

It transpired that I was disturbed twice and just as I was about to remonstrate, I found that my “Do Not Disturb” sign had disappeared.

In fact, I spoke to at least 3 other guests on my floor that had these bizarre walk-ins upsetting their Sunday morning lie-ins, just because the signs they put on their doors had evaporated, self-destructed or for some other funny reason like a kid collecting door signs.

I would hate to think that the housekeepers took it upon themselves to become this villainous beside the fact that the lady tried that English trick on me too; speaking Catalan slowly with a very loud voice; I did not understand a word but she felt she was communicating loud and clear – she should try that trick in English.

Open for seating at least

Organising a conference for 5,200 delegates in a foreign city can be a logistical nightmare, and from tomorrow the Microsoft TechEd IT Forum for Europe kicks off in Barcelona and we were advised to visit the conference centre to register from 10:00AM on Sunday – smart idea.

However, I having arrived the day before, I was not that travel weary but finding the place was not as easy as it should have been, the organisers assumed everyone would approach the conference centre from one direction, I happened to come from another angle, so the signs to the registration area were not that evident.

So, I got my conference kit and wanted to look into all I had collected, I saw quite a few people sitting on the floor, which I felt was just not on. I then asked the registration desk if there was some place to sit down and I was told the conference was not yet open and they did not have full access to the building till tomorrow.

Tosh! You cannot invite people to a place to register, some of whom are on the tail-end of a long journey and not provide seating – it should not be a requirement per se, it is just a matter common courtesy. I am sure there is a breach of certain health and safety rules in that framework as there were some areas cordoned off for seating the speakers but none for the delegates.

You could see the organisers speaking into their walkie-talkies and scrambling to arrest an uncomfortable situation, in fact, I am surprised no one else had asked that this be done or considered.

I expected something to be done about it and then I was offered the “favour” of being allowed in the speakers corner; sometimes the most mundane things get overlooked when even in Jesus’ time, some cities risked the wrath of Sodom and Gomorrah just for not being good hosts.

When I left the centre, there were more people allowed into this “hallowed corner”, but for all Microsoft’s greatness, this aspect of micro-courtesy or the lack of it is a structural logistical error and leaves much to be desired – I hate to think of what might have happened had I the need of the lavatories.

I must be getting old-fashioned, I probably am too staid in those ways, but common courtesy costs nothing, generates goodwill and keeps people happy; when we begin to lose that from the big picture of all our activities, a whole chunk of humanity deserts us.

Friday 2 November 2007

Dusting off my marketing literature

Never changing recurrence

Did I attend a meeting twice and find that one of the people who should have done something came to the meeting without having progressed any further?

It was the very last straw that broke the laden camel’s back, as I returned from Stockholm on Wednesday evening, it had come to a head for me, it was already reminiscent of every other endeavour we have tried to undertake – someone just cannot be arsed to do something.

At which point, I phoned my project manager and informed him that an email would be arriving the same night with the decision to seek other challenges.

Anyone would have seen this coming, the question would have been when; only that some had thought I had settled into a complacency that allows for these things to be ignored or treated as par for the course – they know different now.

Done or almost done

I would clear my desk at the end of November if no one has been hired to understudy me and take over what I am doing, else, I would consider suffering this ordeal till the end of the year.

Maybe, I am too demanding in my requirements that people deliver on what they are supposed to do, probably, I apply too much logic to scenarios requiring immediate resolution, apparently, I am impatient with organisations that are so clogged up in bureaucratic morass, we cannot get anything done.

This would normally not be evident because large organisations are able to cover a multitude of sins because their sales figures allow for other management deficiencies to be excused.

In any event, this job no more represents a challenge and more a running frustration; it would require a root-and-branch realignment of perspectives to change things, however, since I am just a contractor/consultant, my kind of professionalism might be creating business disruption in what is essentially the corporate culture of this organisation – it is time for me to move on.

This might momentarily leave my team in a bit of a quandary, but I hear from certain sources that a fresh-from-school guy might be hired in my place – and really, you can get anyone to do the job; but getting someone who really knows what to do, why it is done and how to fit it in that organisation requires experience – that is what I am selling to anyone who wants real solutions to chronic problems in the enterprise.

Friday 21 September 2007

Of Personality Tests and their worth

Knowing me again

I seem to be a fan of personality tests to give meaning to traits I have not been able to properly articulate or affirm what I already know. I have found that I exude greater self-assuredness if I review my personality profile before attending an interview.

Many years ago, I heard a sermon based on Philemon 6 and it indicated that my faith could be strengthened by my acknowledging every good thing that is mine in Christ; basically, it is the personality profile of a Christian confident in understanding salvation and what it brings.

I am not preaching here, but there are many aids out there that are tailored to help people realise more of what and who they are to be able to go out and make a difference in their lives and communities.

I also learnt a long time ago that I am the best representative of myself in areas I need to be represented; this becomes quite important in crafting Curriculum Vitae, attending interviews, performance reviews and various kinds of presentations.

I usually use the Keirsey Temperament Sorter (KTS) which has a comprehensive professional service administered by the Advisor Team for a fee, but today I came across the Advanced Global Personality Test (AGPT) which has 126 questions as opposed to 70 in the KTS.

Though, I am not convinced the questions are as thorough as they can be, but for a free test, it is good enough. Am I a rebellious, non-conformist, conflict-seeking, individual, pugilistic, religious fanatic? I think not, but what can you read into these scores?

Advanced Global Personality Test Results
Extraversion |||||||||||||| 56%
Stability |||||||||||||| 60%
Orderliness |||||||||||||| 53%
Accommodation |||||||||||||||| 70%
Interdependence |||||||||||||||| 70%
Intellectual |||||||||||||| 56%
Mystical |||||||||||||| 56%
Artistic |||||| 23%
Religious |||||||||||||||| 70%
Hedonism |||||||||| 36%
Materialism |||||||||||||| 56%
Narcissism |||||||||||||| 56%
Adventurousness |||||||||||||||| 63%
Work ethic |||||||||||||| 56%
Self absorbed |||||| 30%
Conflict seeking |||||||||||||||| 70%
Need to dominate |||||||||||||| 56%
Romantic |||||||||||||| 56%
Avoidant |||||||||||||| 56%
Anti-authority |||||||||||||||| 70%
Wealth |||||||||||| 50%
Dependency |||| 16%
Change averse |||||| 30%
Cautiousness |||||||||||||||| 63%
Individuality |||||||||||||| 56%
Sexuality |||||||||||||||||| 76%
Peter pan complex |||||||||| 36%
Physical security |||||||||||||||||||| 90%
Physical Fitness |||||||||| 37%
Histrionic |||||||||| 36%
Paranoia |||||||||||| 43%
Vanity |||||||||||| 43%
Hypersensitivity |||||||||||| 50%
Indie |||||||||| 33%
Take Free Advanced Global Personality Test
personality tests by

Saturday 14 July 2007

Thinking Bloggers - My Thoughts

List, Lust, Last, Lost, Lest

One of my readers selected me as a Thinking Blogger a few days ago, I am honoured to be accorded that accolade and as things are in the sphere of blogging one is supposed to continue the chain of electing Thinking Bloggers.

I do read a lot of blogs even though I keep my list of regularly visited blogs very light, I learnt from years ago when ICQ became the rave - in hardly a week, I had 50 people in my contact list of which 90% only exchanged a basic greeting before they moved on having found me utterly boring.

Well, some people have so evolved that they can fully express themselves lewdly in a chat window whilst getting themselves off on fantasies and unseemly stories - I own up, I am too underdeveloped for that kind of experience.

Since then I have managed and pruned my contact lists on MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger and now my BlogScope to point-blogs from where I could navigate to other blogs.

As I write this, certain thinking blogs or content have gone into abeyance, like Ayoke's Exodus, her blogging stomping ground can no more be found, though it was at one time the front for a flower shop; Nkem at African Shirts has been quiet for over a month - I could not imagine a journalist going off blogging, well - then Ababoy went offline for a few months, by the time he returned, he probably spent hours thinking up a new name for his blog. It happens.

All these awards, just in case we all become irrelevant.

The Thinking Bloggers - few of the many

Chxta's World - Cheta is a young man in studying in the U.K. you can expect a thorough analysis of any topic he decides to write on. There seems to be an engineering precision in the way he finds balance for his opinions - I met him once when I was in the U.K. - I can learn a lot about Nigeria from him.

Chippla's Weblog: Thoughts on Issues - I can safely say that many blog readers who have read Chippla always wait for an objective opinion from Chippla to complete the perspective of any issue of discussion, especially when it comes to Nigeria and Nigerians. Like Chxta, he has an engineering background and writes with amazing clarity. His fascination for things that fly can be addictively interesting - Met him a few times, utterly pleasant company.

Jeremy at NaijaBlog - I cannot remember how I came across this blog, but this Englishman who has settled in Nigeria got me thinking about Nigeria and into a circle of interest about Nigeria that I had once lost. Does he provoke? You bet! Is he controversial? He could be. His philosopher head however does get you thinking on many levels. It is a pleasure to read him.

Black Looks - Sokari, her profile says, she lives in Spain. She covers hot-button topics about women, race, sexuality and social issues. Sometimes, I think she is too activist or left-wing for my sensibilities - is there something about opposites attract? - I find myself going back there to read and think. I like her stuff.

Cultural Miscellany's Katherine - A lady who is living an exciting life of changing careers, developing relationships and all those things that keep you sane and human. I have placed a few comments on her blog that reach deep down into my personal experiences - She makes me think, quite deeply too.

As usual, the chains in the blogging world are not supposed to break; the link has now been passed on to my selected thinkers to share their thoughts about other bloggers that make them think - Not more than 5 - Five is the number.

Monday 9 July 2007

Making Skype a nuisance

Anytime some new technology is introduced on the Internet it tends to create utter nuisance.

Be it chat programmes or instant messaging programs, every silly stranger wants to get on your list and converse with you about things that do not concern them.

So, this evening my Skype goes off, thinking it was a friend I ran to pick up the phone but ended up in a chat conversation with someone who was just beginning to irritate me.

The conversation went thus. (Pseudonyms used).

[22:03:23] Mitah.28 says: hello

[22:03:42] Akin_NLD says: Hello

[22:03:47] Akin_NLD says: Who are you?

[22:03:55] Mitah.28 says: i'm Mitah

[22:04:22] Akin_NLD says: I do not know you - why have you contacted me?

[22:04:57] Mitah.28 says: just for cominicaition

[22:05:13] Mitah.28 says: do you have problem

[22:05:33] Akin_NLD says: I see, do you just pick strangers in the street and converse with them?

[22:06:18] Mitah.28 says: why

[22:06:34] Akin_NLD says: I don't have a problem and I do not use technology to barge in on other people just because they are there.

[22:07:49] Mitah.28 says: you dont want to cominic aition with antone

[22:07:58] Mitah.28 says: anyone

[22:08:32] Akin_NLD says: I want communication with people I know or people who share my interests - complete strangers are just hard work

[22:09:13] Mitah.28 says: tell me where are you from

[22:10:20] Akin_NLD says: I think that is none of your business, you have not told me anything about yourself, nor have you taken time to find out if I want to converse with you

[22:11:50] Mitah.28 says: you want to talk you about my self or what

[22:12:28] Akin_NLD says: What a nuisance

[22:13:34] Mitah.28 says: no thing

Really, do people just approach strangers on the street and strike up a conversation without prompting or is it the technology that allows people to become busybodies and a complete nuisance?

Friday 8 June 2007

Need to finish this Masters course

The course itself

Having completed the core part of my academic studies for a Master of Science in Information Technology, I have found that I have somewhat ground to a halt in terms of commencing and completing my thesis.

So far, the coursework covered Computer Structures, Project Management for IT, E-Commerce, Security Engineering, Computer Communications, Advanced Topics in IT (Human Interfaces, Distance Learning, Agents & Wireless Computing), Computer Forensics and Object Oriented Java Programming.

Privacy, Security and Trust

Throughout the course, I have been quite sensitive to the issues of security and privacy, one area I felt I could work in was an aspect of developing algorithms for creating and determining levels of trust beyond just challenge/response authentication.

For instance, we know the standard answers to questions like address, date of birth or mother's maiden name. All this kind of information can easily be taken from your rubbish bins especially if you do not shred all traceable material that you throw away.

Shred it all

I always shred every addressed paper before recycling, windowed envelopes in the Netherlands have postcode franking pertaining to a particular address, our entrance bells would usually have our names then link that to the fact that it is business envelope a particular company.

You can begin to build a profile, or at least, you have given the miscreant a head start of sorts.

However, if the questions change to knowledge-based information like what buses go past your house? If you have lived somewhere for 5 years, you can hardly be oblivious of that. Probably, your age you next 2 birthdays or colour of your front door - use the responses, response times and correctness to establish a threshold of acceptable trustworthiness proving you are communicating with the said person.

What to do?

All sorts of ideas running around in my head but I have hit the proverbial writer's block, I do not think I would be able to develop enough material in this area for an M.Sc., it appears the ideas and material are more suited for an M.A. or M.Phil - this because I need to develop test scenarios for the theories I propound.

Being a freelance consultant, it I difficult to latch onto some project where I work and adapt it for the purposes of a Masters programme, in fact, since there is no sponsorship the free agency can have you a bit listless.

I suppose another concern is simply that my coursework puts me in line for a distinction; I must get an A in the thesis to confirm that - the times that drive us at time can be so silly.

Like some friends would say, get on with it, I suppose it is now time to finish this thing and move on to the next project.

Wednesday 23 May 2007

HTC Trinity - Connects, Works & Pleases

Mobile Phone does kitchen sink

Managing a new gadget is not that easy, only last month after failing to get Orange Netherlands to provide me with a smartphone in English for the past 18 months, I went out and got me one from one of those Internet outfits that do SIM-less mobile phones.

After reviewing everything I could find on the market, I decided on the HTC P3600 (codename HTC Trinity) smart phone in Bakelite black which gives you all kinds of connectivity including Wi-Fi and a flaky GPS functionality.

I had hardly switched it on and I was updating the ROM and many other things as I got accustomed to the keyboard and other interesting functions on the device.

Previously, I had used Bluetooth to transfer all the phone contacts on my SonyEricsson T610 phone to Microsoft Outlook; it was then a seamless transfer unto my new device.

Backup it up, do it now

When I consider how much data gets stored on mobile phones, it does not bear thinking of, the circumstance of losing all that data - in fact, I once had an Orange SPV 200 phone which allowed me to store all my phone data on an Orange server, unfortunately, out of a 2-year contract, I only got 6 months of service out of that phone.

It wasn't till about 3 weeks of usage that I found the Block Recogniser input method which uses the Graffiti script recognition that I mastered as a user of the HandSpring Visor Deluxe many years ago, but getting to write the G was a bit of trouble for quite a while.

By then, I had bought the Full Screen Keyboard from SPB Software House which seems to function for none of the applications I use; I am also shy of Pocket Word after typing in almost 2 pages of text only to find that some quirk in the device would not save my document. I now use the InkWriter/Note Taker application which I can open in Microsoft Office Word on my desktop and that is fine with me, lightweight functional and effective.

Mini-SD in playlist creation

Only yesterday, I had to acquire Storage Tools from SoftWinter because the 1GB mini-SD card suddenly disappeared half a gigabyte of music files and there was nothing I could do to retrieve my files; imagine, I lived with that for almost 2 weeks, it had become a seething nuisance I could no more entertain; after copying the data I could find to disk, I ran the Storage Tools analyser which started creating 16KB CHK files; well that was trouble I was not willing to entertain any further either.

A quick reboot saw me reformatting the mini-SD card and then putting back the data I had backed up elsewhere, just a quarter of my Classical Music library and we were ready to go.

I launched the Window Media Player 10 Mobile for Pocket PC application and could not find a way to create a Playlist, in fact, many forums had indicated you had to create an ASX file and then upload that to the device.

That was not going to work for me, I had randomly selected the files I wanted on my device, I needed to be able to create the Playlist on the device itself, before long I was installing the Playlist Manager freeware to handle my music files in situ - I created the Playlist but could not get the device to use it.

Whilst the device was playing back some music, I clicked on the Now Playing option, then on the Menu and found the option Save Playlist..., clicking on that, I was able to give the playlist a name and it automatically loaded all my files into the new Playlist and there I had it. One can create Playlists on a Windows Mobile 5.0 device, if you know how to do it.

Live Searching the wrong country

So, this morning as I ended up in the Microsoft home page in the USA, there was a picture of a fresh faced developer you might not be too familiar with along with an advertisement for Live Search for your Windows Mobile device, a facility that gives you information about services, directions, traffic and businesses and in your area; but when I checked, it only had information for the USA and the UK, nothing for the Netherlands.

Fresh developer

It would appear Microsoft has a competitor to Google Earth called Microsoft Virtual Earth all on my mobile device, it would appear, for now and for the near future, I have a mobile phone that works, no need for an iPhone just as I have had no need for an iPod.

Meanwhile, as I explored the world at my stylus-tip, I scrolled down to Africa, I homed in on a location that brought back memories of childhood - to be continued in another blog.

Wednesday 21 March 2007

John Backus - invisible face of FORTRAN dies

Punch cards like a hole in the head

I remember my friends who were studying Computer Science at the University of Lagos in the 1980s as they rushed to get their Hollerith punch cards of programming code to the Computer Centre ensuring the cards were in a certain order.

My first few lessons on Computer Science talked of those cards and the lecturer did in many ways lament the way he never got to touch the computers, but as we got to the topic of key-to-disc systems, the polytechnic acquired a number of Apple IIc and Apple IIe computers and we started programming in BASIC.

Formula Translation

Then in the second year we moved to FORTRAN 77, with the restriction of 80-column lines and the inability to compile our code because the lecturer who should have known better gave us a Pascal compiler instead of one for FORTRAN, it was well into the second semester when that error was noticed and corrected.

In the end, at examination time, we still had to write code on paper rather than offer a fully functional programme compiled on computer - my interest in computers however was helped by programming first and not having to do punch cards - FORTRAN was such good fun, sometimes, I wish I had the opportunity to do more after I left school.

A good friend and classmate went on to teach himself Cobol then won a scholarship to study in Russia, I dabbled with Pascal, took C courses and lately completed a module in my Masters programme using Java in Object-Oriented programming, but my enthusiasm for programming never matched the days when I was at the Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro.

Nameless but groundbreaking

What I even find quite interesting is that we always knew the prime movers behind most programming languages, Cobol - Grace Hopper, Pascal - Niklaus Wirth, C - Dennis Ritchie or C++ - Bjarne Stroustrup - of FORTRAN, it was developed within IBM but no face really appeared behind it, somehow, the innovation has been subsumed by the corporate personality.

So, I read this morning about John Backus, the developer of FORTRAN who died at 82 on Saturday and realized the name was not in anyway familiar, however, the obituary reads like someone who changed the way we use computers by simplifying the way to program computers.

He was a wayward student, he got his act together, formed an eclectic team and came up with something radical, then still worked for IBM all his career and in the tight computer circles he was recognised for the work he had done.

The FORTRAN interview

Then, I do remember when I was interviewing at the British Consulate in Lagos to visit the UK and the consulate officer asked me to name three programming languages since I worked with computers, I said, FORTRAN, Cobol, Basic and for measure added Algol.

He laughed and then shared a joke with me about asking the same question of a computer consultant running projects for a major bank in Nigeria, the consultant answered English, German and French, he was denied a visa, but my interview became a general discussion as we laughed and joked about other "consultants" and their funny answers, the ice had been broken and FORTRAN played a part.

Sunday 11 March 2007

Skype to the rescue

Scratch cards and phone cubicles

The first time I got one of those telephone scratch cards to make International calls to Nigeria, I was completely clueless about what to do, then I once walked into one of those international telephony shops in Antwerp, the system did not work for me and the support was dire.

A number of those telephony shops on the Antwerp main street in front of the Central Station now have Police Notices, one can only wonder why - the suspicion is that they might have been havens for all sorts of nefarious activities from Advanced Fee Fraud to Money Laundering.

Anyway, I have had the comfort of my landline to call anywhere I want in the world without worrying about the bill. There have been times that I have made those calls on my mobile phone if situation requires that I do.

The loss of the international telephony service from my landline is definitely not good, most of my contacts are in the UK and then I have friends all around the world including Papua New Guinea (PNG), you say Papua What? Well, he went there and I would only visit to rendezvous at Darwin in Australia - the whole thought of natives picking their teeth with my bones is not in the least endearing.

That is what happens if your knowledge of faraway lands is based on fable, folklore, generalisations and rumour.

Skype, it is

So, I have got me Skype - Internet Telephony, the whole works - ability to call landlines - €0.017 per minute - over most of the globe, call forwarding to my mobile, private phone number in the UK such that with Skype Pro all national calls are free and a Sitecom Skype-compatible USB handset.

Since, I always travel with my laptop and I always try to get online anyhow, Skype is an added capability that means, I do not have to pay exorbitant hotel phone bills or outrageously rip-off mobile roaming charges.

I think I have adopted this technology at the right time; for those who really do need to have completely free calls, get on Skype and get your friends on Skype too, that way, you create networks of free communication for as long as you want.

Wednesday 24 January 2007

If only I had an iGadget I liked

Managing MP3s

I am hardly a gadget freak, most probably a technophobe of sorts. I find that I only get gadgets that particularly suit a purpose I have and sometimes no one has been thinking along those lines.

Years ago, I had a number of speech and sermon files which were fragments of talks that needed to be kept in a particular order and played back in that same order to make sense of what was being said.

At first, I put the MP3s on CD but that could only take so much, I needed a device that could handle gigabytes of information, read MP3 tags, allow album arrangement and sequencing by track number.

There were so many MP3 CD players and hardly any hard-disk based portable players that offered all that functionality until I found the Creative DAP (Europe) or Nomad II that appeared to do everything I wanted then – this was before the iPod days and before long 6GB of disk space was insufficient for my needs.

I never got a new MP3 player, but a good friend gave me a 20GB player soon after, I have not asked for a bigger one, but it met my requirements. The market is now filled with entry-level 512 MB MP3 players, that would never have fulfilled my requirements 7 years ago.

Eventually, I found out about the SLiMP3 which allowed you to manage your MP3 files on a server over a network which then linked into your amplifier, there has been much evolution but no revolution.

A phone that works

Everyone who has a mobile phone probably has all their numbers on that device and hardly a backup of that information on some other storage medium be it a computer or on paper.

Indeed, I have not been satisfied with the snail’s pace of development in the home phone; you have integrated answering machine, remote access, possible Short Message Service (SMS) and hands-free functionality.

I have just over 200 numbers on my mobile phone, but there is probably only one phone on the market that allows you to transfer the information from your mobile phone to your home phone.

You either spend six Saturdays clicking each number into the home and all you need is a few names with letters that require a multi-press and FOILS is a matter of clicking 16 times and then an 11 digit number with all the OKs, each entry is the development of repetitive strain fatigue.

It makes you wonder why more devices do not exist to backup you mobile phone data to your PC and a USB cable can used to upload the information to your home phone, in fact, the date should be in your computer address book where it can be corrected, uploaded to your mobile phone and transmitted to your hands free home phone by infra-red, blue tooth or some other wireless means.

The iPhone is a revolution

I have been with Orange for just over 4 years, in the first 3, I had a contract, but now, I have a rolling renewal which is more-or-less a monthly contract.

This is because, I cannot find a decent phone to do what I want because mobile telephony companies prefer to maximize their profits than provide services that are beneficial to their customers.

There are very few phones that take advantage of WiFi connectivity, and where they exist, they are inflexible dud systems, the sophisticated devices cannot be found on the vendors’ shelves.

For instance, I want a phone that serves as a fully functional portable PDA and it does not have to be a BlackBerry where charges for having that kind of device for personal use are prohibitive.

Customer service rating - 0

When I did find a phone I could tolerate, it was running a Dutch operating system, now, Orange is at least a European company and I could not persuade anyone I contacted in that company to one phone configured in English even if it involved shipping it from the UK. There is a lack of initiative that pervades that company.

Worse still is when the latest version of one phone is available in one country and not available in another even though it is the same company and Orange has been a culprit in that matter many times.

In fact, mobile phone companies are going the way of the record and film companies, their inability to innovate and capture the essence of changing demands even provide groundbreaking devices means that outsiders would capture that market and change the face of it before they catch out that they have lost what used to be their niche.

I probably would never get an iPhone, just as I do not have an iMac, iPod or iGadget, but if this amazing innovation gets Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola to make useful products like HTC is introducing to the market and then take on ideas like iPhone such that I should never have to click the 7-key four times to start to say Sorry, we would have come a long way.

Extortionate prices

I am also seriously irked by the fact that with Orange in the Netherlands, France and the UK, I still end up paying prohibitive rates for making and taking calls when I am not in my home country.

These companies are dragging their feet on what should have the European Commission really laying down the law for competitive change on roaming charges. I cannot even tell you that WiFi connections in hotels average €22.00 for 24 hours with Vodafone being the most expensive at €29.50 when I am in Germany – it is utterly extortionate that one has to pay these prices in Europe for rotten phones and un-integrated infrastructure.

The sooner iPhone rocks this cosy boat, the better it would be for customers, now, iPhone does still have its issues, but the goal posts have moved and there is now a new paradigm in mobile communications coming to you in June.

More so, Apple struck a deal with Cingular in the United States where Cingular had to modify their services to accommodate additional features like the voice mail system, the whole methodology needs to change and thanks to Apple, we would yet see change in this rather tired market.

Tuesday 9 January 2007

A Blogger from Blog-City

Why am I here?

I do not intend to start a secondary blog from my blog on Blog-City, but this allows me to enter comments on blogger sites that do not allow anonymous comments.

Update August 2010

My blog host has decided to close the service from January 2012, so I am busy moving my whole blog here.

Saturday 6 January 2007

I'm a prankster - Tee hee hee

Gosh! I forgot where I got to link to this site, but I answered some questions and I am a prankster - Never! I won't hurt a fly, I'll kill it.
the Prankster
(23% dark, 34% spontaneous, 31% vulgar)
your humour style:

Your humour has an intellectual, even conceptual slant to it. You're not pretentious, but you're not into what some would call 'low humour' either. You'll laugh at a good dirty joke, but you definitely prefer something clever to something moist.

You probably like well-thought-out pranks and/or spoofs and it's highly likely you've tried one of these things yourself. In a lot of ways, yours is the most entertaining type of humour because it's smart without being mean-spirited.

PEOPLE LIKE YOU: Conan O'Brian - Ashton Kutcher

The 3-Variable Funny Test!
- it rules -

If you're interested, try my best friend's best test: The Genghis Khan Genetic Fitness Masterpiece

My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online dating free online dating
You scored higher than 3% on darkness
free online dating free online dating
You scored higher than 13% on spontaneity
free online dating free online dating
You scored higher than 30% on vulgarity
Link: The 3 Variable Funny Test written by jason_bateman on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Thursday 4 January 2007

Always include a number to call

No stop - Go direct

Homeward bound, one needs to rethink this whole pleasure of riding the seeming comfort of the German InterCityExpress (ICE) trains with a stop-over at Duisburg between Amsterdam and Berlin for the direct but less comfortable InterCity (IC) trains.

On my way to Berlin it was just a 20 minute stop-over but on the return, I did not realise the wait would be 73 minutes. So, one has to kill time somehow.

The need to get online is compelling though Duisburg unlike Cologne does not have the DB Lounge facility which First Class passengers can access for free beverages, comfortable seats and Internet access.

The Spartan waiting rooms in Duisburg however do have stickers indicating T-Mobile Hotspots are available for wireless internet connectivity.

I prefer blackberry muffins

I do however, have to travel with my laptop most of the time because I am still blowing raspberries at Blackberries, I prefer to determine when I am online and when I want to be contacted and if I want to be connected rather than having a device that syncopates with my breathing that being alive means one is available.

For years, I have refused to accept business phones, bleepers and alert systems because they unconscionably encroach on your private time as some people might tend to take liberties because of this.

No number? Oh! Bummer

So, to kill time at Duisburg, I put my laptop on, engaged a wireless access point but could not get an IP address, there was something wrong with the service in the station.

Some, one would expect a phone number would appear on the T-Mobile Hotspot sticker, just in case one has enquiries or something goes wrong – Zilch!

You cannot be serious (With McEnroe disdain), how do they get informed of service failure if there is no way to contact them?

It smacks of technological hubris which imagines their systems would never fail such that no one would ever have to call for anything.

The absence of a contact number is to my mind a failure of the service even if it is working and if the station information desk of personnel who never learnt English - that we were communicating with Annoying Sign Language - do not have any information about T-Mobile services in their station, the cretin who came up with this idea is deserving of a payslip without the figures.

73 minutes of being rather cross and suitably not amused, one should learn to, as they say in common parlance – chill.

Wednesday 3 January 2007

The mobile phone and our society

Mobile alarm so alarming

When I return home I need to check if my apartment block has a corporate fire alarm apart from ones people install in their homes. It so happened that one night there was this shrill sound going off at intervals of 5 minutes and both my friend and I wondered where the sound was from.

I thought, it was a fire alarm and my ears perked visited adjacent floors but could not make out where the sound came from, very much like searching for a cricket that strays into a house, the shrill sound they make is just never directional.

Eventually, we found it was my friend’s mobile phone setting off a reminder alarm for him to take his pills, yes, a mobile phone that had screwed up its alarm tone and ended up with a fire alarm tune.

This exemplified that problem and the technology of mobile phones, they are no more the clunky bricks which had traditional phone rings and were the training weights of the yuppies of old.

Wring tones or ring that neck

Ring tones are big business now, phone play back all sorts of sounds, but the social re-engineering of these devices has even adults choosing the most dastardly tones which playback with eardrum piercing volumes when some unassuming acquaintance calls.

Thankfully, mobile phones are not allowed on flights, we the science of keeping them switched off is suspect, but the idea is good. Some trains also have mobile-free zones, but how do you deal with someone who has just bought a phone and is trying out every tone in a quiet train? Some people!

Happy slapping joyriders

Then in 2000, mobile phones were equipped with digital cameras which have now improved with more accessories, greater resolution, Carl Zeiss lenses, using some Multimedia communications mode to transfer the pictures.

They also allowed for motion picture recording which in itself is benign till another social consequence resulted in kids in the UK going out to mug, molest and beat up people in what became called “Happy Slapping”.

Sometimes, I wonder about the words we use for social misconduct in England. Happy Slapping is no happy event for the victim, more for the criminal nor is “Joy-riding” increasing the joy of a victim when the criminal has stolen your car and written it off in an inconsiderate adrenalin-rush chase.

One such happy slapping lead to the death of a victim and the recording became evidence of the crime which lead to convictions, but why does this have to happen at all.

Beyond propaganda and to the truth

These mobile phone cameras came into their own when the officially sanctioned, edited, doctored and propagandist silent recording of Saddam’s execution was trumped by a live vision/sound travesty of shame – yes, the uncensored democracy of photo- and movie- journalism where the participants are the public has arrived – we are the Time Person of the Year 2006 – even professionals cannot retain the scoop on any news event that occurs in the dimensions of time and space.

This is the new concealed weapon set to record anything without your knowledge and ready to be published on YouTube or some other less reputable site, you have to smile all the time, because you might be on camera and if you do misbehave, never become a celebrity, maybe there is a cautionary element to restoring social graces with this development, I would not know as reality television now helps to depict the worst of the Homo sapiens-sapiens species.

Multifunction life tool

As if that was not enough, they added radio and music playback of MP3s, that is fine, then you uploaded your music, put on your headphones and carried your entertainment with you on your mobile phone.

Games, Internet surfing, email and your mobile phone is a comprehensive Personal Digital Assistant, your whole life is stored on the device which you rarely backup and just imagine it gets lost and you are completely bereft of your contact to the world, you become a castaway island in a sea of sharks.

However, the death knell of the filofax has not been completely sounded, there are people who have backed up their data on paper despite the fact that some mobile operators now allow you to backup your data to their servers, a good way to expose your life, I would say.

Mobile phone ghetto blaster

Anyway, it is now commonplace to see that mobile phones are no more personal, the kids playback their music without their headphones as they congregate to loud music coming out of their mobile phones for their entertainment to the chagrin of fellow passengers on the bus, train or tram.

Some sort of ghetto blaster now incorporated in a mobile phone, what next? You ask!

If you dare to shut them up as I have on certain occasions asking them to use headphones, you do risk a happy-slapping, that is what we have acquired with added mobile phone sophistication, people losing their ability to be considerate members of a community as the personal space of their mobile phones garners a more public interference with our peace and wellbeing.

The loss of social consideration

Obviously, mobile phone companies and their innovators would blame all this anti-social behaviour on the people than the phone, but if they did not have tools that allowed them these abilities, they probably would not exhibit such rotten behaviour – this a topic of social scientists – how the mobile phone has changed our common societal values and why something has to give.

Many a time, I have hoped that the nuisance of a mobile phone can be solved by drowning the thing in water, and for now, I would suppose mobile phones do not come with a water resistant guarantee – there is hope.