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Archive for August, 2005

Life And Death Balances Around the Letter E

August 30th, 2005 No comments

OK, so I write software for a living. I’ve always known that there are people out there who write some very critical software (e.g. Hospital heart monitors, Aeroplane control systems, etc, etc), but I’ve stayed clear of that so far, and instead my stuff is fairly non critical.

On Thursday of last week, I wrote a recursive procedure for something. We don’t use them very much on our project as there isn’t much need, but for my purposes, it suited it to a tee. I’d spent ages working on it, to make sure that it did eventually reach a base case, and therefore it wouldn’t end up looping infinitely.

Unfortunately, when I ran it, it blew up the database (to be more precise, the “Before Image” of that Webspeed Broker reached the maximum extent – for those of you who know Progress 4GL and Webspeed!). I eventually tracked it down to an error in the procedure which was causing it to loop infinitely. I was quite annoyed as I’d spent ages making sure this wouldn’t happen.

Anyway, I tracked down the bug to one line. Instead of checking if a date was greater than an input date (“GT” operator), I had checked if it was greater than or equal to the input date (“GE” operator). It’s amazing how much effect that one letter has.

Today, I was thinking, “Bloody hell, I blew up a database with one letter. What if I’d been writing Aeroplane controls. I would have killed several hundred people.” I know that those kind of software projects are formally specified, and have code reviews, etc, etc, but the potential is still there for this sort of thing to happen. Hopefully, this would have been found in testing, but things do slip the net (and quite frequently).

I’d better learn to type more accurately…..

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An Interesting Bit Of Info

August 23rd, 2005 2 comments

This is an interesting bit of information, as it presents a graph of KDE’s CVS (and now SVN) commits (per month) since the project started. (Click on the graph picture to get a bigger version)

It shows the standard peaks and troughs as you would expect, and the fact that the number of developers working on the project has increased, etc, etc.

The really interesting thing is this: The project founder “Coolo” has peaks and troughs in the number of commits per month (as is to be expected), but his peaks and troughs seem to roughly match those of the entire project commits.

So what goes on in those months that seems to completely flounder KDE development?

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"Good News, Bad News"

August 18th, 2005 No comments

I’m reading a brilliant book at the moment, called “Good News, Bad News”, by David Wolfenscroft (I think!).

I didn’t realise it at the time, but the author is one of the script writers of “Spooks” on the BBC (I believe it’s called “MI5” in the U.S.) which is a series that I absolutely love.

Thing is, I’m not far into the book, but already I’m loving it. There are a good number of surprises, and the pace is just perfect.

I’ll let you know what it’s like at the end!

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PC Building – Case LEDs

August 18th, 2005 No comments

The other week, when I was assembling the components for my MythTV box, I stumbled into a little problem.

When I was connecting the switches and LEDs on the case to the motherboard, I had no idea of the polarities of the wires! I read the labelling on the wire, but the was no polarity on that, I tried to find the anode and cathode on the LEDs but could get my head far enough into my case to see, and there was no markings (about polarity) on the connector blocks (but there were on the motherboard!)

Now, I’ve done Electronics at A-Level (about 5 years ago!), so I am aware that the switches should really work no matter the polarity, but the LEDs certainly won’t. Therefore, I don’t want to risk either blowing the LED (that would be a pain), or blowing the motherboard (that would be a very big pain, and expensive!) – I figured that basically blowing the LEDs won’t blow the motherboard, but I’m not willing to take that risk.

Fortunately this morning I’ve found the answer here (just under Figure 16):Just install these wires to the connector with the same name on the motherboard. On the wires we marked “polarity required” you will need to match the positive (+) and negative (-) markings on the motherboard. The white (or black) wire should be installed to the pin marked as negative (-) on the board.Bingo!

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Bad Planning…

August 15th, 2005 No comments

Damn, I useless at planning!

I remembered over the weekend that I’m supposed to go see the Dog Racing, on a work’s social night, on Tuesday but that I also had a hair cut arranged on Tuesday night as well! Guess I’ll just have to go hairy for a few more days!

Then, I realised that late last week I had booked “Foo Fighters” tickets on Saturday 17th December, which is the day after my office Christmas party! That’ll be fun!

I really should sort out some way of getting a shared calendar going that syncs between Sunbird at work, Sunbird at home, KCalendar, Outlook, my iPAQ and my mobile phone. That way I’m pretty sure that I’m not going to screw everything up!

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“Cain” Parts List – Motherboard, CPU and Memory

August 13th, 2005 No comments

To decide on these pieces, I really stuck to a simple principle: The machine needs to be fast – it’s encoding and decoding video plus doing everything else a computer does – so I needed a fast CPU and lots of RAM. I also needed consider the form factor to fit into the case that I had chosen – so it had to be MiniATX.

With that in mind, I’ve gone with an Athlon XP3200+ (Socket A – mainly because they are cheap), and 1GB of RAM from Crucial Memory. To select this, I looked for a motherboard which supported everything that I wanted (400 MHz Front Side Bus, USB, SATA Hard Disk, Onboard LAN and Sound, plus more!) and matched it to a CPU speed, therefore I went for the Gigabyte GA-7VM400AM-RZ, and an AMD Athlon XP3200+ (Barton architecture).

To select the RAM, I went to the Crucial Website, and used their memory selector, which found exactly the right type of RAM that I wanted.

The motherboard can support up to 2GB of RAM, in 2 x 1GB sticks, but I went for 1 x 1GB which gives me the ability to upgrade it at a later date.

When the motherboard was delivered, I got a little worried as the port layout on the back of my case didn’t match the port layout that was on the motherboard. Fortunately, the back plate on the case was removable, and the Gigabyte had provided a replace panel which fit perfectly (although the replacement panel was a bit thin and cheap feeling – this I’m not too worried about as it isn’t really going to be seen). This was a bit of luck that it happened like this, so I really should urge you to check out the port layouts of both the case and the motherboard when purchasing – it will save a lot of worry (trust me!)

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My Experiences With EBuyer.com

August 13th, 2005 No comments

Recently, when I posted a list of parts on line for my MythTV project, most of my components had come from EBuyer.com and I said that I had found them the cheapest place to buy from. While that still seems to be the case, I now feel that I should issue a very big warning, if you are planning to order from them.

Although I’ve spoken to several people who have used them for years and have never had a problem with them, on my very first order from them
(i.e. the parts for my MythTV system), they screwed up so incredibly badly that I have a very large reluctance to order from them ever again.

Having paid extra for items to be delivered before the end of the week, only one (out of 14) items arrived by this time, and even then it was only a 22 pence floppy disk cable (I had nothing to plug into either end!). I then got another delivery on the following Monday, but this had an item missing. When I complained I was told it could take 3 days to investigate. Once this had happened, I was told it had been dispatched and therefore they would not send out another. I then complained again, they agreed to send another one out (but only because I had checked with the delivery company that there was only one box in the delivery). More than two weeks after I had paid to have all my items delivered by, I am still without one component (the CPU fan, so I can’t even turn my newly built PC on!). There is now also a
question as to whether they have charged me the £480, for my order, twice!

I managed to find the name and business address of their managing directors, and then wrote them a letter. About a week later I got a reply, but only on their website – they did not have the courtesy to write a letter in reply, or to even send me an email (which would have been bad enough) – all I got was an “eNote” on their website.

I would advise anyone who is thinking from ordering from them to have a good hard think – I would personally recommend spending a couple more quid to get better service.

Please don’t think that I am alone in my problems with EBuyer – if you do a search for them on the Internet, there a large numbers of people that have had problems with delivery
and being overcharged.

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Bloody Long Sunday

August 8th, 2005 No comments

Jesus, what a day.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Tom suggested that several of us enter a lottery to get tickets to the UK leg of the "Red Bull Air Race". Fortunately, I was lucky enough to win a vehicle ticket (i.e. the ticket is for your vehicle, not the number of people in your car!), so we decided to head along.

So yesterday, we ventured down to Longleat (a bit of a long trip), for what turned out to be quite a fun day out. None of us had any real interest in planes, but watching the pilots through those things around was pretty damn amazing.

The nightmare began at the end of the day. It took us 3 hours to get out of the car park (about a 200m journey!), and we then ended up queuing pretty much all the way to Stonehenge.

In all, the journey home took as about 8 hours! Ridiculous. It was a shame, because I actually enjoyed the day a lot, it’s just that the journey home has put a bad taint on things!

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