Wednesday, September 26, 2007


From a comment on Coding Horror blogpost on Egoless Programming:
A woman goes into a shop to buy a hat. The hat maker takes a length of ribbon, and deftly folds and twists it into a beautiful hat. "How much?" she asks. "Two hundred dollars," he replies. "For a length of ribbon!?" she exclaims. He smiles and just as deftly disassembles the hat, and hands the ribbon to her. "For the hat, two hundred dollars. The ribbon is yours for nothing."
And the followup:
To use this analogy, I think programmers are like the hat maker. In the olden days of programming, it was the art of creating the hat that excited and impressed people. These days, it is the collection of hats they have created.
I like this way of thinking.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

My Last Word on the Subject

I hope this will be the last time I feel I have to comment on the Stepney/Coughlan/McLaren/Ferrari industrial espionage 'case'. The FIA have now released the transcript of their recent hearings, and the BBC have their take on it. It's much more readable than anything I can put together just now, but it does take a similar tone to my thoughts on the subject that the penalties dolled out by the FIA are simply dis-proportionate and mis-guided.

They're all at it, it's just that the FIA wanted to make an example of their favourite whipping boy: McLaren.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


The FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) has a WMSC (World Motor Sports Council). It is their main court for handling disputes within motorsports. It has just handed down one of the most extraordinarily punitive punishments in its history to McLaren (the F1 team previously leading this year's excellent F1 Constructors World Championship). They've removed all the points so far scored this year, excluded the team (but not the drivers, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton) from the remainder of the Championship, and hit them with a $100 million fine. The impact of this will be that McLaren will start next year right at the bottom of the pit lane, with limited garage space, and little help with transportation costs - just as if they were the old Minardi team!

The crime? Gaining competitive advantage from having proprietary Ferrari design and performance data. Now, bearing in mind that F1 teams are always monitoring the competition - at tests, at races, and so on, and that staff move between companies quite frequently, definitely taking knowledge, if not actual documentation, with them, and bearing in mind that McLaren & Ferrari cars are designed by different people with different design philosophies and theories, I find it remarkable that the FIA should be so remarkably punitive.

Not only that, there are numerous precedents of industrial espionage cases between F1 teams that have never, ever, resulted in such extreme measures.

Worse, Max Mosley, President of the FIA, said, "But that they had an advantage is almost beyond dispute." (my emphasis)

What is a regulatory committee doing issuing such commercially damaging punishment for a relatively common-place, but not often publicised slightly dirty side to F1 racing (and probably every other competitive motor-sport).

I hope McLaren take them to the cleaners in the real civil courts, and put the frighteners on the kangaroo court that is the WMSC.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Two Worlds ... wrong location

I live in Europe, and I've just received a copy of the PC version of Two Worlds as a gift from a friend in the US. It installed just fine, but when I run it, I get the following message:
This version of the game cannot be run in your location.
Please email for help.
Not only is this classic 'annoy the legitimate end user in some misguided effort to stop piracy', but the work around suggests I should re-configure my operating environment to 'trick' the game into believing I live in the US, and confusing all the other programs on my system that need to have accurate time stamps - such as my virus checker!

This is unacceptable. If it weren't for the fact that this was a gift, I would be taking the game back to the shop, forthwith!

All the companies involved in this product: Reality Pump (warning: Flash site. Ugh!), Zuxxez Entertainment, TopWare Interactive, and SouthPeak Games should all take a long hard look at their strategies for (avoiding) annoying legitimate customers.

UPDATE: What's worse is that I've now had time to try the workaround, and it simply doesn't work around anything. So now I've mailed the 'support' email, instead of the 'legal' email.

FURTHER UPDATE: It works now. However, I have to keep my PC in the EST timezone (in which it clearly does not belong), and I've created a user specifically for use with Two Worlds so that I don't have to put up with US locale on everything else.

FINAL UPDATE: This post of mine seems to be the most popular (via Google Analytics) to date, especially coming via Google searches, so I'll say 'Hi!' to everyone coming in via this post in particular, then point out that, if you're having this problem, and want to know more about how to configure your PC with my solution, check out the comments (there's only 2 atm). Finally, I must say that I've really enjoyed playing Two Worlds after all the grief I had, so it was all worth it in the end. It plays quite like Oblivion, but without all the Blue Screens of Death! Have fun!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

My Better Half is Wonderful

First, a little background. Now that the children are back at school, I thought this week would be a nice quiet time to take a short holiday. It is, however, last night I had a meeting to go to, and came back from a long night that ended in an unfortunate upset. I'll say no more about that, apart from to indicate I wasn't involved personally, I was just there at the time.

So, I came home very tired, annoyed, and quite disappointed in some people. At which point My Better Half came into the picture, and rather than just avoid it, or tell me to ignore it and go to sleep, she said, 'go get a cup of coffee and stay up 'til 3AM playing computer games.' She knows I occasionally do this - mostly by accident, and never before with the accompanying cup of coffee!

So I did.

But wait, it gets better.

This morning, rather than expect me to get up and help with getting the children out to school as I normally do (come rain, shine, feast or famine), she said, 'would you like to lie in.' What normal person would say no? I certainly didn't say no!

Three hours later, already relaxed from a decent rest, I wandered up to my study to read Slashdot, etc., and 10 minutes later there's a call up the stairs. I went down to see what my dear wife wanted, and she handed me a plateful of scrambled eggs and bacon on toast, plus a cup of coffee.

Now I'm sitting here, relaxed, happy, on holiday, and with a tummy full of goodness. What more could a man want in the morning?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

'Microsoft' and 'credibillity' ...

... should not appear in any sentence that suggests Microsoft has any! (Mind you, did it ever have any to lose in the first place?)

Once more Microsoft's FUD engine has swung into action with specially crafted press release regarding their failure to win fast-track approval for OOXML (their proprietary document format that they claim to be open) from the ISO. As reported by Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet, amongst others.

So, as if ballot stuffing (in Sweden) and dodgy lobbying practices weren't enough, they go for spin, suggesting that a 74% vote is better than a unanimous vote (for ODF), simply by counting the constituencies differently.

Now it's time for all ISO voting members to fully reject OOXML not only on the grounds of it's serious technical and licensing weaknesses, it's proprietary nature (being controlled by a single organization with no interest in interoperability), but on the grounds that the sponsor of OOXML is deliberately and maliciously mis-representing the outcome of ISO processes, in order to further their own interests.

This kind of behaviour should simply not be tolerated.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Dedicated to...

anyone who's spent too long alone with a Windows PC: