Minimum Computing Power

There is a lot of hype about computing power, technology and what we _really_ need to everyday compute. We find a similar push with cellphone technology too… but what exactly do you really need?

I’ve just finished setting up Feisty… i am impressed. It really does just work. Out of curiousity, i ran a quick check to see what kind of computing power something funky like Feisty would need… and then compared to the current new generation in the Windows world…

Ubuntu Minimum Requirements
(the recommended minimum)
500 MHz x86 processor
192 MB of system memory (RAM)
8 GB of disk space
Graphics card capable of 1024×768 resolution
Sound card
A network or Internet connection
Note: All 64-bit (x86-64) PCs should be able to run Ubuntu. Use the 64-bit installation CD for a 64-bit-optimised installation.

Vista Minimum Requirements
1 GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
512 MB of system memory
20 GB hard drive with at least 15 GB of available space
Support for DirectX 9 graphics and 32 MB of graphics memory
DVD-ROM drive
Audio Output
Internet access (fees may apply)

Uhuh.. not pretty.

Importing Data into SQL Server 2005

i must say i was quite surprised, in a negative kind of way, by the SQL Server 2005 Express Edition feature set. I took the leap and migrated databases from MSDE2000Sp4. All is well in the Express Management Studio and it ticks over for about 90% of the tasks i need to perform… but then there’s importing data.

Ya think i could locate _anything_ to import a flat file [.CSV] into a table? And bcp doesn’t count.

Eish. The MS forums are a tirade with respect to this issue, so i’m not going to add my rant 🙂 What there is though, is a pretty nifty solution i found on the jackol’s den

INTO theImportTable
‘Driver={Microsoft Text Driver (*.txt; *.csv)};
‘SELECT * FROM data.csv’)

And walah! 😀 Oh, and if you get an error like:

Ad hoc access to OLE DB provider ‘MSDASQL’ has been denied. You must access this provider through a linked server.

You can make changes according to MS Support.


Religious Fervour

it is ironic that the only people Jesus ever fought with were the super-religious types. here were a bunch of people who really followed the details of the letter but completely missed the boat. i guess they favoured the process over the people. and Jesus rectified that, but He also never said to throw out the process, did He?

We live with these Christian traditions that are in danger of institutionalizing themselves [if not already] to the degree that the people are no longer the point. It’s about the order of service. It’s about maintaining and defending the traditions of church, with scant regard to how people respond to them. And yes, there are examples of this not happening: this is not about those examples.

There’s this checklist which defines who is and who isn’t a christian, as if it’s actually quite important to be one in the eyes of the world. And we’re challenged by the world, and ourselves, to maintain and represent christians around the world, in truth. and as noble and true as that might ring, that is completely not the point. yet it is 🙂

first priority is your own salvation in the eyes of God; not man, not church, not even your own pastor. not even a prophet can declare your state of salvation. God alone has that right, and what a good thing that is. and you will know because He will declare it to you. also, believing you are a child of God is quite different from knowing you are one. kinda like marriage. before you enter into a covenant relationship with someone, you have all sorts of fancy ideas and presumptuous notions about what it is. you might even believe you’re married [co-habiting] but then you actually get married. it’s no surprise a relationship with God is any different. afterall, marriage is His institution. so unless you’re enjoined to God in a covenant, talking like you are is not going to help anyone, the very least of whom is yourself.

so church traditions and the order of service are setup to establish a form of godliness, but deny the power of God. they might never have been intended that way, but they become that way. give it enough time, enough apathy and pretty soon all you got is a framework that exists to define what is christian and what is not.

does that mean you throw out the framework? no. it’s all about attitude and no amount of re-engineering of the process is going to realign your life with God. you’re just going to establish yet another framework or framework version 2. so instead of trying to make up your own, use the one that God provided, from the beginning. afterall, we do need a framework of sorts with which to worship God otherwise it’s too loose for us to grasp, or be intentional about. fortunately, God did provide us with a framework, a process which we can use to facilitate our worship of Him. it starts with a sabbath…

uhoh. sounds like legalism 🙂 well, if God’s instructions are too legalistic, then so be it. but then perhpas we should not be so ready to defend our own traditions against God’s wisdom and commands. then we have a bigger problem than just the letter. it is ironic though, in all this, how religious we can get about being “not religious”. of course, the advantage of religiously supporting a “no religious attitudes” policy is that it’s open to everyone…

It’s Never About The Process

Ever. Yet it’s so very important at the same time.

We drive processes quite hard, with good reason and positive intent. The process facilitates the change we desire and fosters an environment of learning with the goal of eliminating pain. Not a headache type pain (although it could be) but an organisational pain. And so in our pursuit to make things better, we create or adopt a process to either get us, or keep us, on course. But it’s not about the process and this is where i believe we have to be careful…

It’s too easy to get sucked into promoting or defending the process, above all else. And by process i am largely referring to the processes we use to deliver software. But this pervades far more than the engineering domain since it’s a social problem at the core and thus applicable to any socially organised group. It’s supposed to be all about the people, afterall it’s what sparked off the process in the first place. So throughout the process, the thing what’s most important is how the people, who are supposed to be positively impacted, respond. And to always keep in mind the difference between who they are and where they are.

And this is the part where English is a bit inadequate. In other Latin languages, there is a distinction in the verb “to be” that highlights the difference between the eternal and the temporal. It’s why you can never say in Spanish, as an example: I am hungry. You can never be hungry, you can only have a hunger. Moreover, there is a difference between being a programmer, and being a programmer. The simplest way i understand the difference is that being a programmer means it’s a calling, whereas being a programmer means that is your day job while in essence you’re really a bass guitarist who needs to pay the bills. In English it’s the same sentence: I am a programmer. And that’s the shortcoming in the verb “to be”. The consequence of which, methinks, is that we don’t distinguish often enough between the eternal and the temporal in our speech and leave ourselves open to interpretation, and more, blind ourselves in our ambitions.

While monitoring the process, and the way the people are responding to the process, we need to understand the difference between who they are as people in the eternal sense and who they are as people responding to change. What is more important in a social setting, is who they are in an eternal sense. This is the foundation for relationship, team work and ultimately, success in achieving the goal of the collective. Who they are as people responding to change is another dynamic. The former is more often fuzzy criteria for selecting team players, the latter for eliminating team players. And this is where the process fails: when selected team players are eliminated because they aren’t perceived as having integrated successfully enough into the process we establish. We choose process over people.

And at the same time, the process is super important. You cannot choose people over the process either since without the process, it would be hard to achieve anything, no matter how talented. And the subtle trigger lies in attitude. Let’s take the Agile Manifesto as an example. We value individuals and interactions over processes and tools. That is an attitude you need to manifest, not simply a great idea. And a time will come when the individuals and interactions (that are valued so highly) will sorely challenge the processes and tools: which you choose, if you choose, and the sum response to that crisis will define just how great an idea that really is 😉

Ubuntu Adventures

So far, everything’s going well. Ubuntu Edgy [Feisty coming soon] is installed and updated. Wrapped my head around keeping my computer updated and how to manage it. Also, tried out Kubuntu, but opted for Gnome instead and installed Edubuntu on my wife’s machine [dual boot with XP Home]. And it’s got everything you need.

Come to think of it, our computing needs [home users] are actually quite simple:
Email, web browser and some document creation software. Most applications and interaction take place on the browser anyways, so the rest is.. well, a lot less complicated than it’s made out to be. I know a lot of folk will disagree on that, but of all the thousands of applications we have at our disposal, a very small percentage are actually required.

And i think that’s part of the Ubuntu appeal. It has everything you need to compute. Off the bat. And then of course, you can go wild and install a thousand applications, if you really need to.

For Edgy and Dapper [spread over ubuntu, edubuntu and kubuntu] installations, instead of fighting to get WPA-PSK working with 4 different wireless cards, i changed the router to WEP with a MAC-filter. The path of least resistance 🙂 And it works like a charm. Feisty apparently has some added support in the WP-PSK direction, so we’ll look at that pretty soon…


How The Other Half Compute

i’ve been a Windows junkie for a long time now. Made my living living, eating and breathing Windows. From ’98 to XP, and now Vista, i been using, coding, configuring, patching, coding [did i say that twice ;)] everything Microsoft. Funny though, my roots in computing go back to C, Borland nogal. Anyways, Microsoft-related work paid quite well, so it’s what i did- and continue to do. However….

Because i work within the education arena of software, it’s only inevitable that i’d come across a project like edubuntu, and from that, get infected by a whole other world. and slowly, but surely, things are getting infected, in a good way 😀

But the challenge remains.. how do i migrate into a linux world? And why even bother would be a good challenge to pose… indeed why? Equally inviting, why not? More on that later.

First step, replace XP with Ubuntu as the primary OS for all regular “work”. Writing documents, emailing and IM, are OS-independant tasks. Developing, so so much.. but we’ll see [he says with a glimmer in his eye].

Fortunately, and i do mean fortunately, most of the implementation tools we use to develop are non-ms. Our choice IDE, as an example, is SharpDevelop. And interestingly enough, it won hands-down as IDE of choice against VS.Net [Express Edition]. It’s just soooo much more productive 😀 And in case you’re wondering why not the full fledged VS.Net product: we compared apples with apples and the apples in this case, was $.

Hey! We live in Africa. We certainly cannot afford them shiny-looking price tags.

The adventure begins….

nogal is, as far i know, purely a south african term pronounced nau-chul, with the ch being closer to the classic Scottish ‘ch’ as in loch ness that anything else. kinda like you’re clearing your throat. anyway, it resembles the english equivalent: nonetheless.


Battle of the Browser

indeed, there is much ado about what when it comes to browser market share and it does seem that IE and Firefox dominate the limelight. Anyways, while they sort themselves out, i was prompted to give Opera a try. The result: pleasant. It’s light and responsive and, well, refreshing. No pun intended :) Overall, “neat” [to borrow an americanism], in all senses of the word.

now it’s just transferring all those stored passwords.. hehe



i guess it’s pretty shocking to open up the “papers” after a lekker weekend of busy-rustig and read about Kenneth’s murder and then carry on with the day “as normal”. Not like i knew him personally, but met him briefly after one open water swim here in Cape Town in 2005. In my own words, he seemed a pretty “cool dude”. And could he swim! Man, it was poetry in motion the way he glided through the water and i totally respected his talent and ability. Too sad…


the “O” word popped up today and i can recall reacting rather negatively to the concept. having recognised my emotional response :), i’m trying to gather my thoughts so i can examine the role of overtime in a production environment with reasonable judgement. and in scanning through many articles, my reaction is more accurately against planned overtime, than overtime in general.

Indeed, when a project starts planning for overtime consciously, there are bigger issues that will lead to some demise, sooner or later. Something’s always gotta give. An interesting extension to this concept is subconsciously, or even unconsciously, planned overtime.

Subconscious planning is probably based on a mix of the following [and not limited to this list]:

  • good intentions
  • a desire to please
  • ego and pride
  • manipulative characters
  • messiah-complex
  • politics

You’re subconsciously factoring in a hero-effort *somewhere* along the lines, and you know it. Maybe you’re just not stopping for long enough to be upfront about it? You have the experience, you know about chaos, and you really should be more accurate by now. But you override sound reason. And that’s where unconsciously planned overtime differs. You didn’t know at all that what you were planning would involve a super hero push to try and rectify the quickly deteriorating project. Basically, inexperience in the domain you’re managing.

And i guess that’s how software got it’s reputation for being so overtime-driven. Unconscious planning in the early days was due to not knowing just how hard software [your project] really can be. But we’ve learned that and moved on from there. We have the statistics and collective experiences of many to testify: overtime kills. So, today, if you’re putting in overtime, you got to ask: what kind of planned overtime are you dealing with?

Of course, there’s always gonna be unplanned overtime. Power failures, natural disasters, trauma, sudden massive economic instability and similar left-field events are not usually factored into _any_ project. But they also don’t occur every day, or every week, even every month. These are rare occassions. Not your run-of-the-mill experiences that justify a demand for working overtime.

So where does overtime fit in, apart from natural disasters? For me, it would be when the team decides they want to do something _extra special_. Something out of the ordinary to take advantage of a window of opportunity or close a critical gap. And if your software is always full of critical gaps… 🙂 need i say more? It’s that extra burst of special energy that contributes significant value, and therefore requires that extra special commitment.