Friday, 15 June 2018

Is is Filmable? Red-Storm Rising

I've often asked this question "is it filmable", such as the age old argument that the Lord of the Rings was not filmable before Peter Jackson proved that theory wrong... Sort of (cough).

So what don't I think is filmable?  Well, the Tom Clancy novel "Red Storm Rising".

I really like this book, I read it every couple of years and get really engrossed in the concept of what a war in the Europe of my youth would have been actually like.

Remember, I'm a kid who played on the beaches of Skegness (in the UK) when A10 Warthogs were flying low over the coastline in dummy strafing runs, we could spent 50'cal bullets from their activities and we read up avidly about the new to service Tornado jet.

I have a vivid and expectant concept of that that war might have been, everything from blistering nuclear instant death, to a lingering radioactive malaise, to the starvation induced strangling of Britain's sea-trade by the Red menace.

We all know it never came to pass, but this novel visualizes it, you get the interspersed stories from a single tank commander, to the infantry on the ground, A10 pilots are mentioned and the desperate struggle of the high-seas as well as the personal impact on civilians on Iceland.

Could it ever be filmed?  Certainly the CG is out there to allow it, and perhaps convincingly, so technically yes this story could be told on screen.

The question therefore is should it be made?  With the current resurgence in an autocratic mind-set from Russian voters you could argue that the days gone-by of the Soviet regime are actually echo'd on the streets of Moscow today, but that feeling is tempered a much more cosmopolitan mixing of peoples and business, even organised crime.  All completely change the social-political landscape of Russia.

What was once a far-away distant disturbing land, is still very far away and still disturbing, but it's far far less distant, we can all connect to Russian news, feel the pulse of Russian politics.  We all even watched their invasion (yes I'm afraid I sit on the fence of it being an invasion) of the Crimea, literally taking it from Ukraine.

A moment of pride to some I'm sure, but a sign of things to come?  Maybe, I never felt that was a war which would go hot, I don't think anyone in the west had the stomach for a war with Russia, submarines off the coast of Sweden, incursions into Ukraine and the murder of airline passengers all passed without serious repercussions.

But you film Red Storm Rising, you put that story out there, from the perspective given in the book.  I think that would get serious repercussion and denounced in the Russian press as scare mongering, I really do.

That's why its unfilmable, because Russia.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Technology CV's and Me

I've a small gripe with technology recruiters, if an of you out there are reading this (which since I just cast my CV around, you should be).

And this is their penchant for skills lists... I have a very minimalist CV, one page of A4, it covers the primary software languages I like (C++, C, C#) makes mention of my favourite working styles (Agile/Scrum) and it has my history and pertinent academic background.

That's all... Minimal, just me, my page one shot done.

Anymore and it never, ever, gets me anywhere.  It apparently comes across as "hey look at me" attempts to garner and keep attention with the right buzz words, which I myself despise.  Or it comes over as not having a lot to talk about in the interview, as everything you want to know might very well be in this tome of a CV, and I myself reading them find that I want to ask every question I can in the interview stage, so having it all there you disengage, hurting both your interest in the candidate and their chance to explain themselves to you.

So a long CV, in someways, is counter intuitive.

But then the skills list raises it's head, no my CV does not have a specific skills list, at the top is says Software Engineer.  That tells you everything you need know.

You don't got for brain surgery and stop the surgeon to ask whether they've the right skills to use a bone saw, did they spend two years in orthopedics first, did they complete their GCSE's.  No they're a brain surgeon.

So why when I present I'm a software engineer do you get these niggly folks asking "Do you know Java?"... "Hows your skills in C#"... or "You don't have enough experience on XboxOne"....

I literally laugh, I'm a software engineer, a good one, I live for tech, I can, have and will pick up any new language, machine or skill-set desired and very quickly.  I set out in the mid 90's to train for this, I was sitting up all night long tinkering on my computers and programming long before that official water-shed moment.

Therefore I have to ask,why do you need to put down these skill sets?  Why do you need to use the right buzz words?  Well, I think there's a two fold reply to that very question, first of all you may not be speaking to the most tech savvy of individual, they might just have a check-list of the right words, or the right fit to get you over the threshold and passing that initial interview.  Phone interviews are a bit of a blessing in this way, as you get to lay down your own proof of worth quickly.

The second reply being that the folks doing the hiring don't actually know what they are hiring, either because they remain the non-tech-savvy, or more commonly (more sadly) they've never met or worked with an engineer who has a genuine passion for their topic.  Yeah sure you can program, but are you interested in it?  Quite often the answer is no.

Many programmers I meet today are below that level of going in their own time to hack around with things, they're too busy life having grown out of what they see as the adolescent pass-time of tinkering.

I however value my tinkerers, they're the soul of the literally machine, driving innovation, improvement and even just evangelizing about new-ways and approaches to enhance their colleagues.

Such individuals are rare, I consider myself to be one, and hate when I'm asked to pour my soul into soulless lines on a page, get to know me, you never know... You might learn as much from me, as I might learn from you.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

CPU Speed : That Time I got Conned

As a technologist I've always been interested in the newest kit coming out, and many moons ago this exact demand for kit made me very mad.

For you see, the previous year I'd built my first 2 ghz machine, and it was very costly.  Hyper threading was new to the market, at least in the Pentium 4 range.  And as usual I had need for more power from my machines.

So I hit the interwebs and found a machine (on ebay I think) which was 2ghz... A nice CPU was mentioned in the specification... But the memory and graphics capability were lacking...

I could make the difference up from my spares bin, so I took the dive ordering this machine as a base on which to work.

It duely arrived, I plugged it in, and was dismayed to find it clocking only around 1.1 ghz.  Baffled, I check the advert, "Dual core 2 ghz chip" was definiately there, with the sub-note "exact type may vary, select Intel or AMD preference".

Back to the machine it is dual core, but it is not 2 ghz, no where near.  So I call them up...  Not even have I explained and the phone was put down on me.

Maybe, just maybe it was a mistake, I call again... Phone rings unanswered.

Paypal dispute time as I pack this machine back up into it's box.

Except, the seller won't refund nor accept a return.  They have meticulos pictures of the machine and documents stating that it's correct and I'm trying to con them...!

The ebay resolution center rule in their favour, I'm obliged to accept the item.  I forget the details exactly, but it was a very protracted affair.  All whilst the machine say unused and I started to build an actual second 2ghz machine for myself.

After about four weeks though, I get the resolution center ruling, and accepting the fact I have this potato (it was still a good price for the potato, just not the fabulous deal I thought I had gotten)...

But one of the documents catches my eye, it said:

"2ghz speed is from our including two processors of at least 1ghz speed"

and in pencil of this digitized photo of the page they've put the processor spec and the maths... 2 x 1.1ghz = 2.2 ghz faster than they had paid for.

You know and I know that's not how processor speeds work, but ebay had accepted it, the conners at the other end of this sham had me very very annoyed by this....

However, whenever I seek people bemoaning the 5ghz tests being carried out by Intel, with external hidden sub-ambient coolers helping, I can't ever stop the phrase... "that's 2.5ghz x 2 easy"... Or thinking my current machine at home is a 48ghz speed (12 x 4ghz).

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

My Gut has Gotta Go

I have a terrible relationship with food, my childhood was pained with my mothers dreadful attempts at cooking (nearly everything was either burnt or tasteless, and the menu variety was dismal) which resulted in my binging on sugary treats, cheeses or bowls of cereal to make up the deficit in calories, fine when one was training Karate four times a week and burning the rest off in walking places as I had no car.  But a problem as I reached my thirties, with two broken ankles Karate left the options list and furnished with terrible eating habits the weight came on board.

Even the good-food I ate as a child, notably my Grandad's cooking, was heaped on me "big eats" was one of his favourite sayings, fine when I was a growing child, but later in life this feeling of needing to eat stayed with me.

Combine all this with a clear genetic predisposition to be a big lad - my Fathers side of the family are all rotund - and a sedentary job in software I'm now approaching the big four zero in age and too big to be comfortable.

Things have to change, habits, time taken to cook, and my tastes.

Habits are going to be fairly easy, if there's nothing there to tempt me, no biscuits, no cake, no crisps then I can't indulge my habit, if I swear off buying anything I can't consume it.  This will have to include Subways and McDonalds when taking a break from the office, and have to include take-aways at home.

Takeaways stray between the line of a habit and the time taken to cook, sometimes a quick meal is needed, however, I think I have to now admit there's a problem and the wife and I must pre-cook and freeze something better for us, rather than getting a pizza or curry or kfc.  This is going to be something I think we need do at the start of each month, I'll cook up a pot of pasta sauce or a baked meal, divide it and freeze portions, so instead of a take-away a week, we reach maybe one or two takeaways a month - halving that input.

Now, at one point in my life, before I met Jo, when I was deep into playing Eve-Online and World of Warcraft, as a single man, living alone, earning a good wage, I reached for the take-away menu every night, literally I'd have a dominos delivered every night of the week, five days a week, rather than shop... I can't believe how much I must have spent on that, but at the time, it never struck me as odd.  The fact now that spending £25 to £35 a night, could have been the same as a £3 pizza from Asda makes me a little sick.  I have to hold onto this feeling, we'll cut the waist line and enhance the wallet.

Finally the tastes, this is hardest, I have a very sweet tooth, this comes from the legacy of my mothers dismal cooking and from the hard fact that she never experimented, Italian cooking was not really ever seen, nor Indian, heck I was over sixteen before I had a Pizza... (seriously).  When Indian cuisine was first introduced to me, I was about twenty, had to go out on a Works Night out, and had to pick this meal... We went to a curry house, and I literally had no idea what to have, not a clue... I'd always been taught curry burns, it's horrid, doesn't taste nice...

Indian Curry, proper curries, are lovely - my favourite dish today! - yet my mother, because one of her ex-boyfriends clearly thought an Indian meal should involve petrol bombing your taste-buds and that's all her limited mind would let her remember, we never had curry at home, ever.

When I met my wife however, I also met my mother-in-law and she can cook, oh boy can she.  There's also the danger of over eating, but through this good cooking I've learned I like sprouts, like green beans and cabbage... If they're cooked right, the rub goes back to time.

But the time has come for this tum to run.

Exercise is the last spoke of this wheel of strategy, with my ankles not being what they were, and never being able to I can't take up running nor do I want to, but we did take up swimming earlier in the year, I think the swimming has to now take up time, we need to go from one 30-45 minute session a week to at least two, or three.  I'm even thinking about bugging the wife to arrange a morning swim time, so we go before work for me one day a week - this will mean going to bed early to get up early.

The other exercise is to be found in walking the dogs and exercising the pony.  With the dogs, I need to embrace the walking, do more of it, we already walk between 3/4 and a mile each night, but I think we need do this at a higher pace, to get up a sweat without killing my ankles.

And as for the pony, we need to take her out more and lunge her more.

Lunging, is quite good exercise for you, when you do it right, as you are constantly moving, and even running with the horse to let them take up the line.

Then there's the carting, the recent videos I posted of this, don't show that for a long part of this journey I was actually running along behind the cart, as we dismount to let the pony pull up hills - and it's quite hilly where we live.  So that can happen, jogging along behind the cart.

Scarily though my target weight is going to have to be split into two halves, the first is my prime target, what I must loose... Two Stones.... This has to come off of me within six months, this means losing about 4.5 pounds a calendar month, and the calorie intake for this based on my current life-style is 1200 calories a day.  I'm going to feel pretty rough on that, so the exercise levels have to rise in order to let me eat and feel comfortable but still loose this weight.

So there, that's my plan, a bit personal maybe, but the gut has gotta go.

Friday, 25 May 2018

Welcome Italian Viewers

Today marks an interesting day, we're a little after 11am my time and Italy has rocketed, for the first time, into my top ten source viewers company, equalling the United States... Welcome Italy!

I also see their near neighbour across the waters Serbia on the list for the first time!...

What are you all reading?

Is Alexa Illegally Wire Tapping Now?

My post about Google doing this was quite popular, today however the BBC have utterly trumped that measly post with this revelation...

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Introduction to C++ : Starting C++ Series Part 1

A few of you maybe aware of the book on Python I wrote, and published, last year?  And I've had at least one reader get in touch for a second part.  Unfortunately my gaze has passed over Python and returned to where I live.  The world of C++.

I have a particular problem with the C++ developers I'm meeting of late, they're either simply not C++ programmers, being an actual mix of good and bad C programmers or just not programmers at all (in one case).  Then even when they are very good C Programmers, there's been a mix of the up-take on ideas and feature benefits of modern C++ itself.

Its to and for these fair folk I have begun to write about C++, a new book, based on my own real experience but tempered with where I believe teams and individuals are going wrong when converting their skills to modern C++.

For the programmers reading here now, it starts with a chapter zero... Lets take a sneak-peek....

Chapter 0: Introducing C++

It is incredibly hard to introduce the C++ programming language without at least the most cursory glance at its direct predecessor C. C was created by Dennis Ritchie whilst at Bell Labs sometime between 1969 and 1973, in 1978 Dennis co-authored a book, the book, on the C Languages with Brian Kernighan. Together known as K&R, Kernighan and Richie's book was a great success,
spreading C into being, arguably, the most widely used programming language at the time, and still in that top ten league today.

The success of this first publication, its relative low price of entry into the fast developing world of C for an ever growing number of different machines, really did set C as the language to learn for a very long time.

"C has all the basic elements for expressing computation, it has iterations, it has data types, it has functions and that's it. It doesn't get into the game of expressing abstractions" - Bjarne Stroustrup.

So the world was until 1980, when a talented programmer by the name of Bjarne Stroustrup;  working just down the hall from Brian Kernighan at AT&T began a project. He called it "C with Classes". Intended as a natural extension to C, it inherited a large part of the C language syntax as well as many of the mannerisms of C and general purpose computing from the late 1970's.

The concept of "C with Classes" was to furnish users of C with a way to allow the representation of abstractions, if one wanted to represent a car in code they could define something called a "Car", it could have internal values to represent it's speed, direction of travel, the fuel level, everything that we think of as a car could be expressed within a class. In C one has no such way to encapsulate such functionality with any form of familiarity.

Certainly in C you can have a set of variables which represent the exact same things, you can name them to have a meaning of "fuel level", however they are not within anything known as a "Car" you as the programmer has to remember where all these values are, what they are called you have no easy of recall to get back to the values you are using, the concept of a class (what today we also call an object) was one of the major drivers behind the work being carried out.

The name however, "C with Classes" was not as succinct as one might desire, and indeed a friend of Stroustrup suggest he change the name of the language to C++, as the "++" function literally means to add one, an increment. The new language is an increment over the old.

Since then C++ has been ever evolving, in 1998 the first standard version of C++ was codified, from pre-existing attempts to unify the language by both specific vendors of tools for the language (such as Borland, Microsoft or Lattice) and industry bodies (such as ANSI). Published as ISO/IEC 14882:1998 by an ISO working group, C++98 drove home that C++ was at last truly diverged from C. A language in its own right, and something which had to be thought about differently.

I myself started to learn C++ in 1996, the difference in the community before the 1998 standard and afterwards was palpable, since then four other standard have been released. 2003 brought C++03, 2011 brought a working set of revisions ultimately called C++11, but also known as C++0x (due to the new standard taking so long to finalised, it was drafted and promised many times between 2004 and 2009 hence "0x). 2014 saw a further release as C++14, then 2017 saw C++17. The next revision is slated for 2020, it's name is yet to be decided, though good money could be placed on C++20.

From this release schedule we can see the acceleration curve, the faster and faster pace at which C++ has and is diverging from it's roots in C. It has matured, expanded and at each new update become more inclusive of functionality based on abstractions.

Today you can pick up modern C++ and it contains much more than the sum of its parts, you can express everything you could in 1978 in C, but so very much more.

Unfortunately, this success in expanding it's expressive nature, incorporating ever more abstractions and structures from computing, and every-day life, is tainted with some sadness, for as much as C++ strives and drives and builds every upwards, forever it has this seemingly unbreakable umbilical back to C.

You can pick up any C++ compiler from any vendor today, on pretty much any platform, and input a huge swathe of code written not in C++, but still written in C. You can elect to put this very book down right now, pick up a copy of the same book published by Kernigham and Richie in 1978 and produce code which works and work-ably solves some parts of the computational challenges you

However, none of that code will be expressed in the powerful, elegant, I think beautifully powerful manner in which C++ allows you to. Abstraction, encapsulation, expressive representation of the real world in code in a manner which betters your understanding of the topic (as the programmer) but also allows others, non-programmers, to comprehend the devil within the detail of programming a modern computer.