Older blog entries for nutella (starting at number 258)

22 Oct 2012 (updated 23 Oct 2012 at 01:22 UTC) »
IT took my work computer away, and it came back with a downgrade to Office 2003. This was unlikely due to my low-grade complaining and more due to the fact that 2007's handling of Word styles isn't compatible with our document templates used for regulatory filing. IT had also used me as a guinea-pig for some kind of migration tool (it looked like Laplink from the 1990s) and it broke several programs very badly (couldn't be uninstalled, no way to reinstall over the top) so they needed several iterations to get it right. Who know what tomorrow will bring. Why can't there be an apt tool for everything in life?

Last week, I was watching a Public Service Broadcast warning us to be ready for earthhquakes and using the message that the day before the last big quake was just another day. They should use the same approach for encouraging backup strategies. I had been backing up our home's Windows box in a half-hearted way and naturally it died before I was finished (wouldn't start one evening). This was the first time for my partner to see me disemboweling something like that, and she was amused when I hauled out the dead power supply, trailing cables like entrails. Off to the local branch of my favourite store (only been there once since it opened) and managed to get one on sale. The sales person was weirdly evocative of Marigold Farmer (although I suppose working in public would be out of character for her). After a couple of hours of cleaning (six years' of dust) and reassembling we now have a system that is considerably quieter than before. ...and yes, I'll finish the backup, tomorrow maybe...

Make it stop!
So they "refreshed" my work computer and they've given me Office 2007 (no choice in the matter). Consequently productivity has dropped considerably. I will not waste time rehashing everyone's complaints about the ribbon, but I now understand what all the fuss is about. The "quick" bar is very limited in scope so you can't recreate the fast toolbars of previous Office versions. For mouse users, everything is about two clicks further away than it used to be. I am amused that there's a roaring trade in commercial add-ons that can allow you to mimic older versions of Office. Minimum price is ~$20. I've not seen anything free.

All I can do each day is to wait until I leave the horror behind (yay Vim!).

I admit it. Other people influence my buying decisions too.
I was watching with quiet amusement the folk prebuying their new iPhones sight-unseen, just because. Then I realised that any disdain was somewhat hypocritical on my part as I am not immune from being influenced by others. I read Cliff Stoll's Scientific American article on the history of slide rules, and watched him using his during his TED talk. Now I have a Faber-Castell 2/83N, like all the cool kids. Dr. Stoll described it as "beautiful", and indeed it is, although my decades old Boots RingPlan isn't that ugly (but that one is rather worn - partly from ruler-to-rulert combat) (the Boots' model I own was made in Germany so it may have actually come from the same factory as my 2/83N). I purchased my new old slide rule direct from Germany (they seem used to people from abroad asking about them) and the price was modest, considering they don't make them any more, and they kindly included a photocopy of the English version of the manual, as well as the original German. I see the same model on eBay and other sites for considerably higher prices, so some enterprising person could start an import business to keep people like me happy.

When preparing for my O'-Levels, the school I attended taught us with mathematical tables, rather than slide rules. I learned about the latter from a friend who attended the our rival school, as there they took the other path. I have more fondness for my slide rule, which was "for fun", than my trusty book of log tables which I used nearly every day. Yes, we did have electronic calculators available, but those were forbidden during those exams. In later tests the calculators were permitted but, thanks to them using vacuum fluorescent displays, you had to have a pocket full of spare batteries just in case.

Since I was paying the shipping for the must-have 2/83N I also grabbed a "Darmstadt" slide rule "für Maschinen- und Elektro-Ingenieure", partly because it looked like an upgraded version of old-faithful Boots, but mainly because of the awesome Addiator on the back. Now, who's the coolest!

Yay! Pi in the sky!
On my way to the cafeteria today I ran in to a group of colleagues staring upwards. After being convinced it wasn't just spontaneous street theatre I realised it was for this event (more realistic picture here) (I love the description of "aircraft equipped with dot-matrix technology"). It provoked childlike levels of excitement. Those who missed it seemed sorely disappointed.

Not much else worthy of note at the moment. I don't have much time to read or watch anything fun. The main thing on my To Do list is to noot my Nook Color (a gift from my wife) as the out-of-box environment is pretty minimal (no clock, calculator, text editor etc.).

Suggestion for change to Advogato
When you open the Person page for an Advogato user, it would be good to have the blog interest-level selector (and maybe the certification selector) at the very top of the page, as sometimes an errant diary entry (such as the recent code dump by cdent) can make the bottom of the page unreachable. It might not look pretty but it would be more functional.
I was so glad to hear this. I don't know if ado still plans to retire from NIH, but at least his legacy is protected. Well done EFF, and I'm glad that Astrolabe apologised.

Oh crap! The Advogato spammers are back. I hope that some of the account holders notice - although most seem to post by RSS feeds these days.

Oh, how I hate Adobe! (Part XXIII)
The U.S. government's websites now require a more recent version of Acrobat Reader to allow you to view their forms and instructions (I have a full version of Acrobat 6.0 for Windows). No alternative is provided. I thus downloaded the latest Reader (> 70 MB!) and tried to install it. This has always been nerve-wracking as previous occasions have seen them manipulate the registry and services in nasty ways. This time I am convinced that Adobe's programmers are completely retarded. There's no facility for choosing options during the install so it deletes the previous version of Reader without asking for permission. The program starts but then, when I try to open the Preferences option it just crashes (tried multiple times, believe me). I gave up and so ran the uninstall program and, of course, it doesn't restore what it had deleted and leaves everything broken. I know that Adobe has been flirting with bankruptcy over the years and now I can see why - they employ only the incompetent. GAR!

On an unrelated note, the Advogato posters who embed video are still terminating the recent entries, and their own entries, prematurely. I haven't yet investigated further.

2011 Fades Away...
Yikes, is it really nearly 2012? I haven't posted that much this year but I have some excuses: I got engaged, I lost a very special relative, I got married and work is crazybad busy (in a challenging kind of way). Who knows what will happen next year.

I am currently reading John L. Casti's Five More Golden Rules. I don't know why I waited so long, as his earlier "Five" book is one of my all time favourites, and is what started me on the path to enjoying mathematics again. A partial trigger for reading the Casti book was The Poincaré Conjecture by Donal O'Shea. I didn't keep up with all of the topology but it is a fascinating read. That was a welcome relief as I had previously grabbed a copy of Stephen Baker's The Numerati from the library and found it way too superficial for my tastes (I think I was hoping for another Mathematical People). For lighter reading I have The Brother's Christmas present, Snuff, which has an excellent Vimes proportion (maybe another Fifth Elephant). Current favourite software program is Berkeley Madonna, mainly because it is small, fast and interactive (as well as being surprisingly powerful).

Good to see that the Advogato Recent People feature is working again (and being abused, [sigh]).

It was eerie to see this great cartoon from Jon Rosenberg as I always thought there was a chance of the scene ending like that (Roy Batty meets Ozzy).

Yvonne C. Martin
My acknowledgment for Ada Lovelace day is Yvonne Martin, recognised as one of the pioneers of Computer Aided Drug Design. Yvonne started with Corwin Hansch's group in the early 1970s and (I believe) is still active (as a consultant). When I worked at the same company I always enjoyed conversations with Yvonne and always learned a great deal - especially how to be more pragmatic and less fluffy. Often she would tell me to stop wasting applying computers where they didn't belong. Long may she continue to publish!

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