Author Archives: Paul

Startup developers and rockstar coders

When you meet a fellow coder This panel is lifted from a slightly longer Commit Strip cartoon but it sums up, beautifully, the reality of start-up culture and why the emphasis on small “disruprive” companies is so misplaced.

The point to bear in mind when discussing start-ups is that these are companies, operating in low-risk environments, randomly chucking stuff at the wall to see what sticks.

If you want to develop yet another social media silo, feel free to found another start-up and good luck to you. If you want to write software that people are going to depend upon, you need to do it properly.

For an example of what I mean, go read Charlie Stross’s take on the Mt. Gox collapse.

flattr this!

Cue Monty Python

The Freethinker has picked up a report about barmy bishop, Alexander Shumsky who has called the World Cup a homosexual abomination because (apparently) the players wear gay shoes.

He said: “Wearing pink or blue shoes, [the players] might as well wear women’s panties or a bra.

And they should sing as well. They should sing…

I’m a footballer and I’m OK
I sleep all night and I work all day

He’s a footballer and he’s OK
He sleeps all night and works all day

I cut down trees, I eat my lunch
I go to the lavatory
On Wednesdays I go shopping
And have buttered scones for tea

He cuts down trees, eats his lunch
He goes to the lavatory
On Wednesdays he goes shopping
And has buttered scones for tea

He’s a footballer and he’s OK
He sleeps all night and works all day

I cut down trees, I skip and jump
I like to press wild flowers
I put on women’s clothing
And hang around in bars

He cuts down trees, he skips and jumps
He likes to press wild flowers
He puts on women’s clothing
And hangs around in bars…?

He’s a footballer and he’s OK
He sleeps all night and works all day

With apologies to Monty Python. Original lyrics lifted from Rapgenius.com (you didn’t think I’d type all of that by hand, did you?)

flattr this!

No-one escapes from Tweedy’s Farm!

Sunday proved to be a busier than expected day. I stepped outside in the morning to find myself face to face with the leader of the local Poultry Liberation Committee.

Consequently, much of the afternoon was spent checking and raising the fences and trimming wings.

We await her next move.

flattr this!

Squatters

Eve was home with the boys on Thursday and, when I returned, I discovered that someone had set up house in the stump.

flattr this!

Selling soap powder, or: Ed Miliband and the problem with politics

Andrew Rawnsley has this to say about Ed Miliband’s ongoing electoral difficulties:

Like his old boss, Mr Miliband believes that politics is “a battle of ideas”, and so long as he arms himself with enough of them he ought to win against a Tory party he regards as ideologically beached. His interest in ideas is admirable, just as it was in Mr Brown. But it is a huge weakness – in the case of Mr Brown it was a fatal one – not to deal with the fact that modern politics is also a battle of presentation and perceptions.

Close, but modern politics is not also a battle of presentation and perceptions, it has become primarily a battle of presentation and perceptions.

flattr this!

Quote of the Day: Afraid of every fucking thing in the world

When I see a picture of some dude hoisting some big damn gun about, often with appallingly poor trigger discipline, the first thing that comes to my mind is not look out, we have a badass on our hands, but, rather, here’s a dude who’s afraid of every fucking thing in the world. The big damn gun is like the eyes on the wings of a butterfly or a pufferfish sucking in seawater — a way to look bigger and maybe not get eaten. By whom? By whomever, man, I don’t know — when you’re afraid of every fucking thing in the world, I guess you spend a lot of time worrying about getting eaten.

- John Scalzi

flattr this!

Stump

Some friends recently dug up an old tree stump and, for reasons probably best not explored, asked if we wanted it. Of course, we said yes and said stump was duly acquired and unloaded. The plan was to leave it until the weekend and then start trying to figure out if there is anything we can do with it.

I think we’ll manage.

flattr this!

Keeping Qshell sessions alive

Not a lot of people realise this, but the IBM i has a POSIX compliant shell environment, known as Qshell. It’s relatively basic (compared to both BASH and the native i command line) but it can be quite handy when I need (for example) to grep a source file.

One thing that has always annoyed me about Qshell, however, is that it doesn’t retain any history between sessions. Given that my workflow will involve starting at the i command line, performing a task in Qshell, and then returning to the command line, the lack of a history lead either to unnecessary typing or copying and pasting commands into and out of a text editor.

Today I noticed that the F12 key can be used to disconnect a Qshell session without actually ending it. And when I next enter the QSH command, I find myself back in the same session with my history intact.

This isn’t going to help with finding commands I typed yesterday, but it will allow me to avoid unnecessary retyping within the same day.

Footnote

Why use grep to search a source file rather than the more usual FNDSTRPDM command?

Incompetent contractors is the short answer. Incompetent contractors who introduced an unknown number of divide by zero errors is the slightly longer answer.

In RPG, the division operator is / and the comment symbol is //. I could use FNDSTRPDM to search for all the slashes and then manually scroll past all the comment lines. Or I could shortcut this process with the following piped grep:

grep -in '/' /qsys.lib/sourcelib.lib/qrpglesrc.file/program.mbr | grep -iv '//'

I’m lazy. I grep.

flattr this!

First steps in programming

For those that don’t know, Big Trak is a programmable tank. It was popular (with me, at least) in the 1980s and reissued in all its retro glory a few years ago.

Big Trak, if you don’t remember, was an amazingly cool-looking 6-wheeled tank that you could program yourself to move around whilst firing its photon beam. Happily, not much has changed with this new version, which means you can not only relive the fun you had as a kid but, if you’ve got children of your own, pass it on through the family.

A few simple instructions can make your Big Trak go forward a certain number of lengths, fire, and then come back to you. The onboard memory will store up to 16 commands in one go, which means you can easily have your faithful tank-servant completing some complex manoeuvres in no time.

I have one and Alexandre is fascinated by it. So much so that he can now code up the basic manoeuvres himself…

Turning is still a challenge, but we’ll get there.

flattr this!

That Linux feeling… on Windows

I have been trying to get along with Windows Powershell at work for the past couple of months and, while it is a huge improvement on the more traditional Windows console, it is nowhere near as functional as the Bash terminal I spend most of my time in when at home. So I started poking around online and ended up on the Cygwin.

Cygwin is:

  • a large collection of GNU and Open Source tools which provide functionality similar to a Linux distribution on Windows.

This does sound good, but it also sounds like potentially much more than I need. I am, after all, only looking for a terminal that I can use to edit and shunt text files without being driven to curse my keyboard.

Luckily, I do have a small Windows partition on my own laptop, so I thought it would be worth giving it a spin at home before screwing up my work laptop enough to attract the attention of the helpdesk.

Before I go on, I shall reiterate that much of the Cygwin functionality os of no interest to me. I really am just looking for a functional terminal environment that I can use while at work.

The install was easy enough. This being a Windows application, it’s just a case of downloading the setup.exe file and clicking on it. You do need to hang on to this file once the install is completed, though, as it also provides the package management functionality for Cygwin. As someone who frequently bins everything, this felt a tad odd to me – but it’s not a problem.

The install creates its own file structure under C:\cygwin64 which took me a moment to find. That said, it makes sense that the *nix environment isn’t mixed up with the rest of the Windows stuff. It’s easy to find and, once you are aware of this, the Cygwin terminal starts in the expected folder.

And onto Vim. This is installed by default, or appears to be. Even though the initial screen says Vi Improved, it does look like Cygwin is actually installing Vi by default.

So I added an alias (alias vim=vi) to my .bashrc and renamed my .vimrc to .virc and then things went a bit wrong as Vi is unable to support any of the functions in my default .vimrc. So, back to the setup.exe file I went where I found and installed vim-minimal.

This does not seem to have helped as I am still seeing a whole bunch of comman not available errors.

I was also rather unnerved when I tried the ftp command and saw my password being echoed back at me as I typed it.

At this point, one of the twins came in and wanted to play Cat and Mouse and I’d had enough of being in Windows, so tinkering was abandoned. But, based on first impressions, the Cygwin Terminal is going to struggle to meet my needs.

The search continues.

flattr this!