Thought of the day

Whilst the following was said in the context of mobile ad-hoc network (MANETs) I believe it can hold of many situations that life throws at us.

Efficiency and quality are of equal importance!! Both come from experience, not from study. Study as you go, don’t assume that you’re ready for the real world because you studied first.

—Jon Davis

Realisation of the Day

A common mistake people make when designing a computer system completely fool proof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools 🙂

Is technology making us less human?

Guardian story Social networking under fresh attack as tide of cyber-scepticism sweeps US where a number of academics have done studies which conclude that Twitter and Facebook don’t connect people, but on the contrary they isolate them from reality got me thinking about this and wonder if Technology is making us less human!

MIT professor Sherry Turkle’s new book Alone Together (which seems interesting and is something I have not had the bandwidth to check out), is leading an attack on the information age. It does seem to agree with the recent articles like Is Google making us Stupid? I don’t quite understand Facebook (even though I have been more on it recently); my views on Facebook are quite well known, especially in the context of privacy and security. If I talk to a friend who could be in Delhi or San Francisco, I don’t feel as connected having a dialogue with him or her over Facebook as I do when talking on the phone, IM or even email. Often people thing just because they have posted something on Facebook, that is the end of it – it almost seems at times, I am too lazy and can’t be bothered, so will post a message and get it over with – or as they say in Punjabi – “syapa mukao”. 🙂

In a related note, but a little different context I do think the vast information available to us is making us more stupid and we are forgetting the ability to learn, grasp, understand and appreciate the basics and fundamentals. When something is a quick Bing or Google away it makes us all very complacent. It also means that for us sitting down and reading something which is more than a few paragraphs is getting very difficult. I know I can also see this happening first hand. And I notice it every day at work – especially as the newer and younger generation joins the workforce; things that I would take for granted or appreciate does not seem to be the same. Of course and sites like LMBTFY and LMGTFY don’t help.

I was quite stuck by this paragraph from the article Is Google Making Us Stupid?

The process of adapting to new intellectual technologies is reflected in the changing metaphors we use to explain ourselves to ourselves. When the mechanical clock arrived, people began thinking of their brains as operating “like clockwork.” Today, in the age of software, we have come to think of them as operating “like computers.” But the changes, neuroscience tells us, go much deeper than metaphor. Thanks to our brain’s plasticity, the adaptation occurs also at a biological level.

I think it would be good for me to get a copy of Alone Together and then maybe post something back (feel free to comment below if you have read the book and got any feedback). Of course I do see the irony in the fact a geek like me talking about possibly to using less Technology.

What Baby App?

Any suggestions for any a good iPhone App for tracking Baby feeds, sleeping, pumping, etc. that the wife can use?

Below is a list of what I was able to find online; some of these on reading the reviews seem better than others but no one specifically stood out. Anyone with real world experience?

As of now, we are leaning towards Total Baby.

How to best use TFS?

So you have a team (somewhat like mine right now) which is inexperienced with TFS and not very sure about this whole branching, merging, shelveset thinggy and extremely nervous when using it.

So, what will you do? Well you might try and train them, show them how to use it, write documents showing how to use it, have processes in place, try and use some tools to help, etc.

But, what do they do? Well this seems to be along the lines …. 🙄

Being a coder - made easy

Byte order marks and CRLFs?

It continues to surprise me that people who write software for a living these days (i.e professional developers) have no understanding of what byte order marks are and how they relate to different encodings. Most developers I interact with have no clue – including of course how EF BB BF differs from FF FE. Also so few of them have a understanding of linefeeds and how that differs from Unix to Windows.

If this is the trend, then it probably is not a good sign of the times to come.

Is it time to relook at Facebook again?

I still don’t get Facebook – despite being on it. If I want to talk to someone I will call them, email them, text them, meet them, have dinner with them – get the picture?

I am quite worried about the security and privacy elements of it – or rather the lack of it. Those who know me well (anyone?) 🙂 know I was not always this paranoid but after attending a few Security courses – I cannot bury my head in the sand anymore.

The main issue I have is the commercialisation of the information and it will just get more as Facebook heads to compete with Google – it is my information after all and I don’t feel comfortable sharing so much of it – even after locking it down and setting the various privacy settings. It is very easy to exploit. Take the example where Facebook changed the settings where Google by default would be indexing a lot of this information. And it is you and I as users who had to login and explicitly change a setting to stop it from doing that. Furthermore, despite all the security measures that Facebook might have in place (and they don’t mention how internally within the company walls is the information protected) all it takes is one disgruntled employee (or soon-to-be-ex-employee) to take it all and walk out the door!

The secondary issue I have is the fact that more and more of the information, friends, contacts, etc is marketing and spam (a lot of what we see on Twitter as well). I personally am (thankfully) seeing much less spam on emails these days; but on the flip side I see a dramatic uptick of spam on social site. Not sure if this is because our email spam filters are finally smart enough to work, or perhaps the spammers found the social networking sites to be richer pickings?

It is good to know that there are others out there with the same concern and with some sites such as Suicide Machine allow you to “all your energy sucking social-networking profiles, kill your fake virtual friends, and completely do away with your Web2.0 alterego” [sic]. Of course, all has not been peachy for Suicide Machine at the same time. 🙂

If you are thinking like me and really giving it a go then suggest you seek some help as well to make it easier.

The irony of all of this however is that I will be posting this it to my Facebook wall and also tweeting it.

Thought of the day

Premature optimization is the root of all evil; on the other hand we cannot ignore efficiency.
     – Knuth and Bentley

OneNote Screen Clipping

I have been using the Screen Clipping functionality for years in OneNote (if you don’t know what I am talking about then press the Win + S key – of course you need OneNote installed). It always copied it to OneNote, from where I would copy the image and paste it wherever needed. I did not know until today there is an option where you can select it to go to the clipboard as well. Duh! Why did I not think of checking this out sooner – bets me.

Right click on the OneNote tracy icon, select Options => Screen Clipping defaults as shown below.

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Tried and failed to upgrade to CS 2008

As some of you noticed my blog either looked different for at some point recently or for a while it was not even available and it was all a terrible mess. As you might know I am running this on Community Server 2007 (CS 2007); CS 2008 was released some time back I thought maybe it is about time that I upgrade to that. Now you would think that it should be a painless process – boy how wrong one can be!

After weeks of trying (whenever I could take out time from a very hectic work schedule) I just could not get it to work. Even though the upgrade was “supposedly” successful (as shown by the screen shot below) nothing was working. After some digging it seems the Themes were the main culprit; Telligent has completely re-worked the theme engine from CS 2007 to CS 2008 and in the process anything (including the Default theme in CS 2007) breaks.

I have to admit I am not loving CS anymore. At one point, the idea of running a .NET based blogging service (.dotText if anyone remembers) was a cool idea. The geek in me could customize it to my hearts content. But since the release of CS and the whole commercialisation of it; the product just seems to have gone off on a tangent and more geared to the corporate world and they don’t seem to be interested in individuals like me. Now, don’t get me wrong I am not against commercialisation (hey we all need to pay our bills), I am all for the fact that this this scales up very well and someone like Avanade would probably use this for their “blogging engine” (actually being the geeks that we are, we might end up building one in our spare time). Smile

But for me it now has lost it magic! So, I am interested in knowing what other options are there if any? I would like it to be open source and I would like to host it on my own domain. Any ideas?

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CS 2008 Upgrade1

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Here is one of the many errors that I was getting:

Error:

25/07/2008 17:05:13 — Updating posts for reindexing and search
25/07/2008 17:05:13 — Upgrading role icons
25/07/2008 17:05:13 — Moved 0 of 1 role icons into centralized storage
25/07/2008 17:05:13 — Upgrading rank icons
25/07/2008 17:05:13 — Moved 0 of 0 rank icons into centralized storage
25/07/2008 17:05:13 — Upgrading user avatars
25/07/2008 17:05:13 — Moved 0 of 0 avatars into centralized storage
25/07/2008 17:05:13 — cs_UserAvatar table truncated
25/07/2008 17:05:13 — Upgrading user files
25/07/2008 17:05:13 — EXCEPTION: Could not find a part of the path 'C:\AltooFaltoo\temp\blogbackup\weblog\filestorage'.
   at System.IO.__Error.WinIOError(Int32 errorCode, String maybeFullPath)
   at System.IO.Directory.InternalGetFileDirectoryNames(String path, String userPathOriginal, String searchPattern, Boolean includeFiles, Boolean includeDirs, SearchOption searchOption)
   at System.IO.Directory.GetDirectories(String path, String searchPattern, SearchOption searchOption)
   at System.IO.Directory.GetDirectories(String path)
   at CommunityServer.Upgrader.FileUpgrader.UpgradeUserFiles()
   at CommunityServer.Upgrader.Part4.MoveFilesToCfs()

Beware of Installing Vista SP1!!

If you got a fingerprint reader on your machine and are running Vista then think twice before installing SP1! About 7-8 months ago I got a new tablet (Lenovo X61) which is a pretty sweet machine with Vista pre-installed and all was well until I installed SP1 and then the thing won't even boot.

I tried to get into safe mode but no luck; I tried repairing – but no luck. I got in the repair console and tried to manually "fix" the MBR, but not luck. Sad In the end I was screwed – royally – especially as I did not have a backup. I did have my machine being backed up by WHS which is what I was hoping would save me (more on that later).

In the end I had to do a fresh install of Vista (I choose to use a slipstream version of Vista with SP1 already on it) and then install all the relevant Lenovo specific apps that I needed. Of course getting all the other dev apps and getting the data back on it was

So, if you are running Vista and are thinking of SP1 here are the steps I would suggest you do:

  1. Make sure you got loads of time – don't do this if you got a critical deadline the next day for which you need to use this machine.
  2. Backup your data
  3. Check your backup!
  4. In case you do need to do a fresh install Keep all relevant discs/iso's at hand – don't forget the drivers!
  5. Install the latest drivers for your fingerprint reader (check both the vendors and the manufacturers site).
  6. Install SP1 (while praying)

I must say that no other machine has a fingerprint reader and I did not have any issues installing SP1 on any of those. Also this post is specific for x32; I do not have x64 running anymore so can't say how that will behave.

Visio 2007 Rant

I have been seeing some unexpected application crashes with Visio 2007 and they usually happen when I close the application. I do have Office 2007 SP1 installed but that does not seem to have fixed any of them. The error seems to relate to one the COM add-ins but disabling that does not seem to resolve the problem.

This particular error was a new one for me. After doing a lot of work on a Architecture document – when trying to save the document (for the first time) I see this error – not only is it not very inspiring but also scared the living daylights out of me.

I am quite skeptical now of using Visio 2007 Sad

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PS – I was able to recover diagram and did not lose much.

Thought of the day

Wise words from Jim (when teaching CDS):

"Keep it Sequential Stupid"

Rotten Neighbors

I think we need something like Rotten Neighbors for the UK Big Smile.

What is it? If you have a rotten neighbor then you can tell the world about them. You can browse to your neighborhood and plot your own marker with a complete description Here is an example from in the neighborhood where I use to live in California.

Art of Code Reviewing

This is a true story and happened on one of my projects (which shall remain nameless). Below is the feedback from one of the client as they were doing our code reviews.

Line 66: there seem to be a few too many words starting with "f" in the salutations comment. [This is really picky – the commenting standard in this file has otherwise been really good so far.]

And incase you were wondering what was the code in question, here it is:

/// <param name="salutations">The selection of Titles for which to choose from for a Contact</param>

So, what is the problem you ask? Who said there was a problem. Geeked

MVP Threatened

This surely can not do any good? Jamie who created TestDriven.NET is involved in a legal dispute with Microsoft. This is not he Microsoft I know and work with on almost a daily basis! Hopefully common sense will kick in.

On a separate note, Steve Jobs vs Bill Gates – who is the saint and who is cut-throat villain of Geekdom? Cult of Mac at Wired has an interesting read on the subject.

Carbon Neutral – Be Greener

I am quite surprised on how ignorant many people (like I was) are about understanding how the day-to-day activities contribute to Global Warming and the issues we face on this planet. As much as we wishes, unfortunately there is no backup or Undo feature Sad. To understand how our daily lives contribute towards global warming check out the Carbon Calculator and then read up on how you can offset those emissions and be Carbon Neutral.

However, personally I am not a believer of offsetting, while it is a step in the right direction it is not the solution.

Affect vs Effect

Yes, it is one of the simplest rules of grammar, but I still get confused – I call it Writers Block Wink

Technically my mother-tongue is Hindi, and I can speak the “street version” of it and while I can read it – you honestly don’t want me to. The fact that most fellow Indians around at that time are in splits and rolling on the floor might give you a clue. Well I am not particularly proud of that, the fact remains I suck at Hindi and no matter of dressing can fix that. On the flip side, my English is quite strong and for the most part I can read and write it just fine, some of my spellings and grammar sure can do with a refresher (hey but Word helps).

This grammar usage (or rather the lack of it) was highlighted by two things – one writing a book and two, Meenakshi actually starting to read this blog (more on that another day).

I did find these two sites which help people like me in helping find out the difference between Affect v Effect:

  1. Blue Book of Grammar
  2. Writing Tips

If you want to hone your Hindi skills then check out BBC Hindi.