Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Confusing pounds (force) with kilograms (mass)

An article I read today in the Atlantic stated that man has left 400,000 lb. of material on the moon. This is incorrect in a way; that's 400,000 lb. on Earth. Due to the reduced gravitational force on the Moon, the weight on the moon would only be 66,200 lb. If you convert the 400,000 lb. to 181 metric tons (181,000 kg.), which is a unit of mass, then you can use that for the mass on the Moon as well as mass does not change with gravity.

There are two ways to rewrite the sentence that bothered me: "The moon, in particular, currently hosts nearly 400,000 pounds on Earth or 66,200 pounds on the Moon of man-made material." If you want the sentence to be short but correct: "The moon, in particular, currently hosts nearly 181 metric tons of man-made material."

In researching this point, I ran across two other sites that don't understand the difference between force and mass. This excerpt from the National Geographic (who should know better) is wrong: "Even though your mass would be the same on Earth and the moon, if you weigh 132 pounds (60 kilograms) on Earth, you would weigh about 22 pounds (10 kilograms) on the moon." No, your mass would be the same; if your mass is 60 kilograms on Earth, it would be 60 kilograms on the Moon as well.

The Moon Connection Web site has it wrong as well. I have sent correction requests to both sites.

By the way, there are many moons in our solar system but only one Moon. If you are referring to Earth's Moon, it should be capitalized.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Taking a break

I'm taking a break from posting and updating old posts. I'll be back; I may post if something really gets me excited.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

I want a touch screen on my laptop

I'm a big fan of John Gruber and Daring Fireball, but this time I think he's wrong. He's right in that I don't need the same user interface (UI) for both a phone/tablet and a personal computer but I do want a touch screen on my laptop. I played with Microsoft's Surface on Thursday and touching the screen seemed natural to me. Sure, I still want the trackpad for the fine work (I don't use a mouse with my laptop) but I'm used to a touch screen from using my iPhone. If I had a choice, I would rather have a touch screen than a Retina display.

And if I could have a numeric keypad it would be the icing on the cake (Hey, it's my blog, so I can ask for anything). By the way, I noticed the two-finger method worked on the Surface; did Apple license their patent to Microsoft?

My current laptop is a MacBook Pro (with the 2.66 GHz Intel Core i7 processor). I expect my next laptop to have a touch screen. If Apple isn't going to provide it, then I'll have to buy one from someone else. I may go the Hackintosh route but I may not; Windows 7 is working well for me.

I like the annual improvements in the Apple products, but I do worry that they're not improving enough. Why, on my iPhone, when I am reading an ABC News story on Chrome do I get a request to install the ABC News app, when I already have it installed? Why can't I make Chrome my default browser (I like it better than Safari and it syncs my bookmarks between my iPhone and my laptop)? How is it that Chrome can automatically update itself when other apps can't?

Project tracking packages

This request came from a colleague:

"Bruce, do you have a suggestion on a tracking software for projects and/or tasks that would cover things like:
  • Entering tasks, requests, and projects for tracking and scheduling
  • Attaching notes, documents, any other information that would be related to that category
  • Report on what’s open as well as what’s closed (to determine common areas of requests)

"I used something called dotprojects in the past..."

My response to her:

Project tracking for my IBM i clients is something that I need. Many years ago, I started custom programming a system that would not only track projects but generate scopes and interface with billing. Many times, I will quote a specific number of hours for a project, say 52. When I do, then I bill by the hour up to the quoted amount  plus 20% (62.40 hours for this example). Above the maximum, I eat the rest.

Two of my clients use JTrac for tracking projects. It's open source and only requires a Java Runtime Environment to operate. However, I'm not aware that anyone has ported it to IBM i.

One of my clients uses ServiceNOW (NOW not tomorrow!) but it's set up for incident tracking rather than project tracking. If you don't code the incident correctly, it will automatically close it on you. Also, it is a bit expensive; it cost the client over $100 per month to provide me with access.

I will look into dotProject. Something that runs on your laptop would be a good first step but I'm looking for something my clients can access as well.

I agree that spreadsheets have the flexibility to do the job but are a pain to handle. As far as tracking documentation, I set up a folder on my laptop for each client with the documents for that client. My goal is to burn a CD each quarter and give it to them for their use.

Any solution I come up with will likely be accessible through a secure (SSL) web site. I will try to make it available to you, although pricing is unknown at this point.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Hostess closes: Blame management, not the unions

Hostess Brands announced today that it was liquidating due to a strike by its workers, represented by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union. Forbes magazine is reporting that this is a case where several owners have raided the company for its assets, leaving an empty shell and millions of dollars in pension liabilities behind. It's too bad that 18,500 people are also losing their jobs.

Courtesy of the AFL-CIO.
Will Twinkies survive? I don't know. All I know is that they're not good for you and I've only eaten one or two my entire life.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

From the ridiculous to the sublime

Every once in a while, I get a day that has a bunch of good as well as funny news. Today was such a day. As some would say, I'm going to cover the ridiculous to the sublime.

I'm starting with a picture of the front of the Life section of today's edition of USA Today. Can you read the main headline? Neither can I. Flipping the paper over does no good, either. You have to open it up; then you can see it says "Knightley, Wright have a long history with history."

Next, we have the report from Maine Republican Party chairman Charlie Webster that "In some parts of rural Maine, there were dozens, dozens of black people who came in and voted on Election Day." They just showed up and voted. The people in Maine know all of their neighbors, who apparently are all white, and these black people certainly weren't their white neighbors. Where did they come from? Where did they go after they voted? Charlie wants answers and he wants them now!

We can't laugh at him any more because Charlie has now apologized for his comments. He says he is not racist because he plays basketball with a black person.

For our third item today, there's news that the U.S. Air Force has scrapped a $1.03 billion Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) project, claiming there is no useful functionality from the money spent and it would cost another $1.1 billion to get something going by 2020. Funny thing, this project was bid out at $88.5 million in 2005. Wouldn't you love to be one of the contractors involved? You work hard for seven years, getting paid each step of the way, and then you get to walk away without having to make the thing work. It happened to me once on a $10,000 project and it was a disappointment because my project was going to work and be rather slick besides.

Today is America Recycles Day. Here in the Cincinnati area, we get a lot of help from Rumpke Recycling, which seems committed to recycling as much as they can. Today is also The Great American Smokeout. For the life of me, I can't see the connection.

Finally, news from Norwood, Ohio about the generosity of Police Officer Matt Evans after investigating a report of money stolen from Sharpsburg Elementary School. This money was going to pay for a field trip to watch a Cincinnati Cyclones hockey game. After taking the report, he withdrew money from his personal account and anonymously donated it to the school. He wanted to keep his generosity secret but now the secret's out. A tip of the hat to Officer Evans who doesn't want to be reimbursed. Instead, he says to "make sure to pay it forward." I'm going to donate $20 to the Norwood Police Association.

Citing confidentiality agreement, MindShift declines...

Run that past me again: "But a MindShift spokesperson declined to comment on whether the company's data center was used to support Project Orca, citing a confidentiality agreement with the Romney campaign." In other words, MindShift did sign a confidentiality agreement with the Romney campaign. This agreement bars them from disclosing the services they provided to the Romney campaign. Wow!

5-Hour Energy can kill you? Who knew?

I read a recent report of Monster energy drinks causing five deaths over the last year from an excess of caffeine intake but I didn't realize is that 5-Hour Energy is blamed for 13 deaths over the last four years plus an additional 17 reports of heart attacks, convulsions and, in one case, a spontaneous abortion. The manufacturer doesn't report the caffeine level of one "shot," but Consumer Reports says that it's 215 mg.

Caffeine levels in energy drinks range from 160 mg to 500 mg per serving.

I have reduced my caffeine intake to 93 mg per day (two cans of soft drinks) mostly to reduce my blood pressure.

It seems that caffeine in high doses may not be good for you, especially if you want to live long and prosper.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The BBC doesn't know how to round

What's wrong with this picture?

The BBC doesn't know how to round.
Everybody else seems to be able to handle it.
2.77 million is correct as is 2.8 million (rounded to
two significant digits). 2.7 million is just wrong.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Explosion in Indianapolis

At 11 p.m. CST on Saturday, Nov. 10, an explosion rocked an Indianpolis neighborhood killing two people and destroying 31 houses (i.e. causing enough damage to the homes that they will have to be torn down and rebuilt). Two people have been killed, according to news reports. This link has the CBS story on the explosion.

My goal with this post report the cause of the explosion once the authorities have made this determination. I will update this post as news comes in.

At this point we can rule some possible causes out:
  • It was not due to a plane crash (source: Firefighters; WTHR TV).
  • It was not due to a bomb or a meth lab in one of the houses (source: Unnamed Congressman; CBS News).

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Evangelicals: Time to leave the national stage

Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, sums up the recent Presidential election this way: "I think this was an evangelical disaster." Evangelicals had their heyday in the 1980s and '90s but now the country is moving on. This election shows that they've been marginalized and it's time for them to leave the national stage. Mohler blogged about this on Nov. 7 and National Public Radio ran a story about this on Nov. 8.

My concern is that many Christians are getting further and further away from the teachings of Jesus Christ. What is the good of having a prophet if you allow his or her views and teachings to be manipulated and distorted?

If you are a questioning Christian, your first step is to read about The Jesus Project, an attempt to take a scientific and unbiased look at the life of Jesus.

To be continued...

Friday, November 9, 2012

How did the rich people vote?

The Wall Street Journal has posted the charts I wanted to see. My question, "How many people earning $250,000 or more voted for Obama?" Of course, these are the people who are looking at a income tax increase if Obama has his way. Guess what? A full 43% of these rich people voted for Obama. Hmmm...

Update Nov. 10: An analysis of the 10 richest counties in the United States shows that eight of them went for Obama.

Did Romney's ground game cost him the election?

The Presidential campaign was primarily waged by a person with no business experience (President Barack Obama) against a highly experienced business person (Governor Mitt Romney). But, according to Mark Cuban, Obama was the one with the better ground game. Cuban thinks it was a deciding factor in Obama's victory.

Reinforcing Cuban's comments, Breitbart ran a story yesterday about the failure of the Romney campaign's analytics platform, Project Orca (Huffington Post, Nov. 1). It was supposed to tell the Romney campaign which supporters had voted and which should be called to encourage them to vote. Its failure on election day left the Romney campaign in the dark as to what was happening in the field.

Some of Breitbart's information came from this blog entry from the Aces of Spades HQ blog, which appears to be written by a Romney volunteer who was planning on using Orca on election day.

Note to my readers: Usually, only one news source or blogger breaks a story. Once a great story breaks, other news sites and blogs run their own versions, some of which are just rewrites from the original story, others with additional information. I try to track down the original source. In this case, Breitbart claimed to be first ("exclusive") but I'm not sure I believe them. Still, I don't have any proof that Breitbart wasn't first.

Others that ran versions of this story after Breitbart, in alphabetic order:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Last Republican winner without a Nixon or a Bush?

The Washington Post asks, "Who was the last GOP president to win without a Bush or Nixon on the ticket?" To expand this: Who was the last Republican to win the presidency without George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush or Richard M. Nixon as either the presidential candidate or the vice-presidential candidate?

Hint: You have to go back before the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

To see the answer, click on this link.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

60 years ago: UNIVAC predicts the President

60 years ago on election night, a UNIVAC I computer was used to predict the outcome of the presidential election. The computer predicted the correct outcome early in the evening but its operators were skeptical because the race between Democrat Adlai Stevenson and Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower was perceived to be too close to call at that point.

Here is the full story from National Public Radio.

My election prediction today

Before 10 a.m. EST this morning, while all the polling places were open, I bet a Republican friend that not only would Barack Obama win the Presidency but that he would win at least 300 electoral votes. Will I get a free lunch at Skyline Chili? Stay tuned!

I also predicted that we would have an announced winner before midnight Eastern Time.

Update: I was correct on both counts (based on ABC News projecting Virginia going for Obama). Obviously, the vote counts need to be finalized and the provisional and overseas votes counted, but if Fox News can say that Obama is the winner, it must be accurate enough as is.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Two distinctive houses for sale in Cincinnati

I did something today I rarely do: I stopped at an open house. I've been driving past this house several times a week, watching the remodeling in progress, since my mother moved to Cincinnati in February. This house is distinctive because it has five front doors. I asked the Realtor®, Doug Spitz, about this and he said that it's a decorative touch and it's not like the house had five small apartments originally. The house is located at 1615 Spring Lawn Ave., Cincinnati (Northside) 45223, which is at the corner of Spring Lawn and Hamilton Ave. At the open house, there was a lot of interest in this house; there were at least 10 groups of people at the open house in the 10 minutes that I was there. Price: $280,000.

(Note: The U.S. Postal Service, which I consider authoritative, says the street is "Spring Lawn" but Dusty Rhodes, the Hamilton County (Ohio) Auditor, says it's "Springlawn" (see screen shots). Somebody should get these two on the same page.)

While I'm on the subject of houses, I'd like to mention the church-house for sale at 4117 34th Ave., Cincinnati (Oakley) 45209. Since it's converted from a church to a house, it has a nice performance space that would be ideal for a musician or other types of artists (art gallery, theater?). My connection: one of my friends is a friend of the owner. This house has a Facebook page. Price: $284,000.

(Once again, we have a difference in street names. The USPS says it's "34th Ave." while Dusty says it's "Thirty-Fourth St." [34th St. is in Covington, Ky.])

These two houses are interesting opposites yet similar in price. The former is for someone who wants luxury living in a small space and the latter is quite a bit larger but could be a lot of fun. Both are in the City of Cincinnati and close to downtown.

Financial Disclosure: I do not have a financial interest in either of these houses and I will not receive or accept any compensation when either house is sold. It is not likely that I will purchase either house. It's my blog and I can feature houses that catch my eye if I want!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Extended file names in IBM DB2 for i database

If I told you that I could use an exclamation point (!) in a database file name in an IBM DB2 for i database, would you call me crazy? But I just did it on an IBM i server running V4R5.

First, let's review the standard rules for file names:

  • They are from one to 10 characters long.
  • They must start with a letter or one of these special characters: $, @ or #. ($, @ and # have been considered letters by IBM at least as far back as the announcement of the IBM System/360 in 1964.)
  • The remaining characters after the first may also be numbers, underscore (_) and period.
  • Spaces (blanks) are not allowed as part of the name.
  • Names are not case sensitive and lower case letters will be converted to upper case letters.
So far, no exclamation point. What's the trick? If you include a double quote ("; one character, not two single quotes in a row) as the beginning and ending characters of your file name, you can put any characters in between, except a double quote, and still have a valid file name. You must have at least one character between the double quotes and the total number of characters, including the double quotes, is limited to 10 characters. I like to think of the whole string, including the double quotes, as the file name.

Here are the rules for extended file names:
  • They are from three to 10 characters long.
  • They start and end with double quotes (").
  • They must include one to eight characters using any characters except for a double quote.
  • Spaces (blanks) are not allowed as part of the name.
  • They are case sensitive. Lower case letters will remain in lower case.
I just created two database files with names of "a!+&=^]z" and "A!+&=^]Z" (including the double quotes). Despite the letters being the same except for case, these are two separate files.

I tested this on V4R5, but it should be available on any later version.

Will you ever need to use this trick? Who knows! But it's available in case you do.

Updated Nov. 12: Corrected the extended file name minimum length from one character to three characters.

(IBM i is also known as iSeries, System i and AS/400. The database is also known as DB2/400.)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Apple still doesn't apologize

In Great Britain, Apple was required to run an advertisement and post a copy online mentioning that they had lost a court case to Samsung over claims that Samsung had copied Apple's design of the iPad. The first advertisement did not meet with the court's approval so Apple issued another advertisement today. I wrote about this on Oct. 26 and noted that Apple did not issue an apology. With the new advertisement, I am still right as it does not contain an apology either. So my original post, updated below, stands.

From my post of Oct. 26, 2012 with updates:

We have a problem with the technical press in the United States: They're like a herd of sheep. One of the sheep will bleat out something that sounds reasonable and the most of the rest of the sheep will repeat and amplify the bleating. You need to understand that a lot of what pretends to be journalism in this country is just click bait: An attempt to get you lured in to read a story so that the publisher can make money on advertising.

One recent example is the kerfuffle over Maps in Apple's iOS 6. The technical press went wild but many users, including me, don't care. In addition, one source, not realizing that the new Maps requires a fraction of the data of the old Maps, falsely claimed that Apple users had almost stopped using the new Maps.

We had another case last week. Search Google news for "Apple apology" and you will get almost 40,000 results. Many headlines are like this one from the Los Angeles Times: "Apple loses appeal, has to buy ads in Britain to apologize to Samsung."

Today, Nov. 2, Apple reissued its statement to comply with the court order and, again, there's no apology to it. It's just a bland statement of the ruling of the court.

The Washington Post still doesn't understand. The headline yesterday was "British court: Apple must reissue apology to Samsung." Considering that Apple didn't apologize either time, especially not in the statement today which is presumably in full compliance with the court's ruling, the Post is exaggerating.

Will the sheep in the technical press admit they made a mistake? Don't count on it.

The trick here are to distinguish the sheepherders from the sheep. There are a few blogs that can separate the bleats from the informed opinions. I will post later about these blogs.

Spam on LinkedIn has dropped dramatically

In September, spam on the LinkedIn groups that I subscribe to showed up at least once a day. I dropped some groups and sent a message to LinkedIn that they needed to help the group owners deal with spam. For whatever reason, spam in October on LinkedIn has dropped dramatically. I kept a log in October and I only saw five spam messages.

In November, I'm going to subscribe again to all the IBM i (also known as System i, iSeries and AS/400) groups that I can find and review them for this blog, including how much spam they have.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

YouTube's blatant ripoff problem

I heard recently about YouTube blocking a popular cat video because the soundtrack infringed on someone's copyright. On Aug. 6, 2012, videos of the Mars landing from NASA were blocked because a newspaper chain claimed that it owned the copyright to the taxpayer-funded videos. Even though YouTube blocks videos that maybe it shouldn't, there still appears to be a problem with popular videos being blatantly copied. Here is an example I ran across today.

I wanted to watch the "Banned iPad mini Promo" video, written by John Elerick, which is a funny spoof on a real Apple video for the iPad mini. So I did a search on YouTube, and below are screen captures of the first 11 results of that search. The first result, with 364,000+ views, is the correct, original video. The fourth result, by Natobus, is also original. The second, third, fifth, sixth, tenth and eleventh results (six copies!) are blatant ripoffs of the first entry. The eighth result is a copy of the first result with Chinese subtitles which at least adds something to the original. The ninth result is an original explanation of how Natobus made the fourth result.

Okay, I'm a good citizen, so I wanted to help Mr. Elerick and YouTube eliminate these blatant ripoffs. No dice. Since I'm not the copyright holder, there is no way for me to complain. It's Mr. Elerick's job to play Whac-a-Mole® and try to eliminate the ripoffs. (For some reason, Chrome wouldn't even let me post a comment. Let's ignore that for now.)

But what if the license on the original version allows them to make copies? The license on the original video says "Standard YouTube License." The best thing I could find for a standard license is the general Terms of Service. The terms say, in section 5B, "You shall not copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license, or otherwise exploit any Content for any other purposes without the prior written consent of YouTube or the respective licensors of the Content." [emphasis added] To me it appears that the copies violate the YouTube Terms of Service unless the copiers received written permission from Mr. Elerick.

YouTube has a blatant ripoff problem.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Senior System Analyst wants to become a consultant

A LinkedIn user wonders about converting from a full-time employee to a independent contractor and is not sure about the billing rate he should use. He also wants to know about taxes and insurance. Here is my response:

My rule of thumb is that your starting hourly rate is your annual salary divided by 1,000. For example, if your annual salary is $80,000 then your hourly consulting rate would be $80 per hour to be equivalent. The big catch are the middlemen and they may bill you out at a rate they set and then pay you 50% to 90% of the proceeds. Note that many companies try to pay you less as a contractor than the equivalent employee would make. You shouldn't let yourself get suckered into this. However, you may have to take a pay cut to get established.

You will need to figure the taxes, insurance, etc. yourself or with your accountant. If you can't do this, you should not go out on your own. Many contractors are covered by their spouse's insurance because health insurance by itself can run $750 to $1,000 per month. But consider that, beginning in 2014, you may need to either provide your own insurance through your company or pay a penalty under the Affordable Care Act.

You should definitely line up an accountant before you go out on your own, not after. The accountant (I recommend a certified public accountant [CPA]) will help you decide the form of your business (C corporation, S corporation, LLC, etc.). Note that many companies will not contract with you unless you are a corporation or LLC this will help protect them from an IRS determination that you are an employee. The important thing is to this part correctly up front and not to wait until April 14 to think about this.

One of the requirements to be an independent contractor is that you pay yourself a salary and file all of the various employment tax returns required. In Ohio, you must keep track of your pay by municipality and file city and possibly school district tax returns for every city that you work in. Currently, I am filing in four cities and one Indiana county. My rule of thumb for your salary is about 50% of net billings.

With any client, you should offer to provide your own computer, typically a laptop. Having your own tools separates the independent contractors from the employees. The client may prefer you use their computer but at least you made the offer. Many times, I set up a separate virtual machine on my laptop for a client with their settings and policies.

Finally, get a copy of the "20 factors" and read them. The technical term for this is IRS Revenue Ruling 87-41 but this has been updated since then and it's not clear that the IRS even uses them in that form. The point here is that if your client is requiring you to be at work at a specific time and leave at a specific time, you may be considered an employee and not a contractor.

You may think that I'm trying to dissuade you from going out on your own. Au contraire. Although many contractors in the computer business have left due to the recession, some contractors have more job security than the people on staff. I was at a company once and heard that the staff was being cut by 10%. I went to my contact and said I felt bad that I was being kept on while others were being let go. He said, "You don't understand. They're paid out of the expense budget and you're paid out of the capital budget. There's a big difference." As it turned out, none of the IT people were laid off after all.

Let me know (through comments or direct email) if you have any questions.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mars chocolates to the rescue!

On Oct. 4, I bought a bag of m&m's with peanuts from the United Dairy Farmers store #138 at 5540 Dixie Hwy., Fairfield OH 45014. Nothing unusual for me except that this was the first time I had bought this particular candy at this store. The first m&m was okay, but the second tasted stale. It was fairly clear that most of the few m&m's that I ate were stale. The date code was 101, so I looked this up on the Internet and found that the m&m's in this bag were manufactured the first week of 2011, almost two years earlier. The good news: I didn't get sick from the stale peanuts.

At this point, I had two choices: Complain to UDF or to Mars. The sad thing is that UDF is not the company it used to be. Staffing at many stores is being cut below the minimum I would expect. They just built a beautiful new store in Norwood (4344 Smith Road, Norwood OH 45212) but neglected to include public restrooms. (When I'm traveling and stop for gas, I usually need to use the restroom. Don't try that at a UDF.)

My concern was that if I called UDF, nothing would happen. So I called Mars using the toll-free number on the back of the bag and talked to a nice person who checked the date code and agreed that that bag should not have been on the shelf and that she would take care of the situation. The next week, I received the well-written letter and coupons in the mail.

Two weeks later, I found myself back in UDF store #138 so I thought I would check the m&m's with peanuts on the shelf. The date code was now 220 (manufactured May 13 to May 19, 2012), which is well within the shelf life of this product.

I would like to thank Mars for being so courteous to me on the phone and sending me the great letter. The coupons are a unexpected bonus.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Eight people in Norwood, Ohio talk about politics

The Wall Street Journal wanted to talk to a diverse group of voters about the election, the economy and other topics. They started with Ohio, a swing state, then picked Hamilton County, a swing county, then drilled down to the City of Norwood, the second largest city in the county (after Cincinnati) and ended up picking my block in Norwood. Neil King, Jr. interviewed eight of us from four families and wrote a story for today's edition of the WSJ, "Fearful Ohio Voters Careen Between Competing Camps" (subscription required; pictures by Andrew Spear).

In 1968 Andy Warhol said, "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." I'm going to enjoy my 15 minutes and then get back to work.

Apple doesn't apologize after all

This post was updated on Nov. 2. Click here for the revised post.

We have a problem with the technical press in the United States: They're like a herd of sheep. One of the sheep will bleat out something that sounds reasonable and the most of the rest of the sheep will repeat and amplify the bleating. You need to understand that a lot of what pretends to be journalism in this country is just click bait: An attempt to get you lured in to read a story so that the publisher can make money on advertising.

One recent example is the kerfuffle over Maps in Apple's iOS 6. The technical press went wild but many users, including me, don't care. In addition, one source, not realizing that the new Maps requires a fraction of the data of the old Maps, falsely claimed that Apple users had almost stopped using the new Maps.

We have another case today. Search Google news for "Apple apology" and you will get almost 40,000 results. Many headlines are like this one from the Los Angeles Times: "Apple loses appeal, has to buy ads in Britain to apologize to Samsung."

So, today, Apple issued its statement to comply with the court order, and there's no apology to it. In fact, it is almost the opposite, including a quote from the judge that the Samsung devices are "not as cool" as the Apple ones.

Will the sheep admit they made a mistake? Don't count on it.

The trick here are to distinguish the sheepherders from the sheep. There are a few blogs that can separate the bleats from the facts. I will post later about these blogs.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Vote Yes on Ohio Issue 2

This map showing Congressional districts was drawn by politicians. Can citizens do a better job? Of course they can. Vote Yes on Ohio Issue 2; I did.

Twin Towers selling six paintings through Sotheby's

When my wife and I toured Twin Towers in Feb. 2012, we were impressed with the art gallery housing classical paintings. It turns out that six of those paintings are fairly valuable and are being auctioned by Sotheby's on Nov. 8.

The most valuable of the paintings is "LA BRANCHE DE CERISIER (THE CHERRY BRANCH)" which is expected to fetch $1.5 to $2 million.

(Sotheby's issued a press release on Sept. 18 about the sale but, for some reason, it's not with the other press releases on their website. I have asked them for help with this.)

Although the sale will raise money for Twin Towers, it will hopefully also get these paintings into a museum environment with the proper controls for their preservation. And the paintings won't really disappear from Twin Towers; they will be replaced by high-quality reproductions.

More details as I get them...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

IBM i Programming Manuals V7R1

International Business Machines Corporation has a lot of information to index and so it's not surprising that folks get lost trying to get basic documentation. Here's my guide to a starting set of manuals for ILE RPG programming. This page is tailored to IBM i 7.1 (also known as V7R1M0); I will develop pages for other versions of the operating system as time permits.

Note that these links will display or download the manuals in PDF format. (Depending on your browser, you may have to right click and select "Save As..." to save the manual.) I suggest that you do so and use them from your computer hard drive. In some cases, IBM includes the manuals in HTML format and I leave it as an exercise to the reader to find those.

All of these manuals are written in American English. Supposedly, there are versions written in other languages but I couldn't find them quickly. Let me know if this is a problem for you and I will see what I can do.

ILE RPG Reference 7.1 [PDF] This is a reference manual; it describes the language but really doesn't tell you how to use it.

ILE RPG Programmer's Guide 7.1 [PDF] This manual explains how to do things with ILE RPG.

Of course, you will need to work with files. For database files, there are four manuals:

Database SQL Reference 7.1 [PDF]

Database SQL Programming 7.1 [PDF]

Database Programming 7.1 [PDF]

DDS for Physical and Logical Files 6.1 [PDF]

You can use either SQL or DDS to define your files and their characteristics. They are somewhat interchangeable.

For display files, use DDS for Display Files 6.1 [PDF].

For printer files, use DDS for Printer Files 6.1 [PDF].

Next, you're going to need to code Command Language (CL) programs for your ILE RPG programs. The manual for that is CL Overview and Concepts 7.1 [PDF].

Finally, there's the Integrated Language Environment part of ILE RPG. (ILE reminded me of the linkage editors we had in the 1970s so I jokingly refer to it as "Integrated Linkage Editor.") You can write useful programs without knowing a thing about ILE. But, when you're ready, you'll want to look at ILE Concepts 7.1 [PDF].

While researching this blog entry, I did find a master list of version 7.1 manuals. Go to the IBM Infocenter at this link and click on "PDF files and manuals".


Monday, October 22, 2012

Do you really think Romney has changed?

To my women, gay and lesbian friends,

If you think Mitt Romney has changed his stripes and think you could vote for him now, think again. Here's what a Romney administration would do:

● Work to overturn Roe vs. Wade and make all abortion, including cases of rape, incest and the possibility of the mother dying, illegal. Remember, if the mother has problems during birth, her life is expendable but the fetus's is not.

● Work to make contraception harder for women to obtain. Employers will be able to craft their healthcare plans so that contraception is not covered. However, Viagra will still be covered in full.

● Reduce or eliminate free and reduced fee healthcare to women. Planned Parenthood will be defunded; will another organization step up to provide the healthcare that PP does now?

● If a couple can't have a child naturally, the Roman Catholic church will push to have certain successful fertility treatments, such as in-vitro fertilization, banned. Also, surrogate parenthood will be banned.

● Gays and lesbians will not be allowed to adopt, either as single parents or as couples. Gay marriage? Forget about it.

Don't be fooled by the new, centrist Romney. He is now at odds with his own campaign and the Republican Party. If he is elected, will he go back to "hard conservative" Romney? Can you take that chance?


Bruce Hobbs

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Getting a better knowledge of ILE RPG

I'm willing to answer questions occasionally. The question today is "How can I develop my programming skills and get a better knowledge of RPG IV?"

First, get and read "The Modern RPG IV Language" by Robert Cozzi, Jr. (the link takes you Barnes & Noble; the Nook version is less expensive). A confession: I haven't read this book but I like what I've heard about it.

Second, download the "WDS RPG Language Reference" (SC09-2508) and "WDS RPG Programmer's Guide" (SC09-2507) from IBM (select the appropriate version based on the version of IBM i you're using). I'm going to post a guide to IBM manuals soon but, until then, start with the IBM i and System i Information Center and you should be able to find them. (Note that the current country is at the top and you can change it if you wish.) The Language Reference is the authoritative manual for everything you want to know about RPG IV (also know as ILE RPG) but it doesn't try to tell you how to do something. The Programmer's Guide is more of guide of how to do things. Update Oct. 23, 2012: I have written a blog entry on the programming manuals you need for version 7.1.

Third, you should use an interactive (non-green-screen) editor for your programming. The choices are too complicated to go into here. In addition, I recommend that all new programs be written in free format.

Fourth, understand that writing code is not all there is to programming. You must understand file operations against the database and how locking works (both of records and objects). And you will need to be able to figure out how best to write the code for each specific project.

Finally, there are some things you should not learn about. The RPG Cycle is one of these. Originally, back in 1965, you needed to know the cycle. Today, not at all. If you have to maintain a program using the cycle, track down a old timer like me with a good memory and I will help you (at the standard billing rate, of course).

Another thing is rather important to me. In college, I was taught structured programming (also known as GOTO-less programming), as advocated by Edsger Dijkstra, and have not written an RPG program with a single GOTO in it since 1976. But IBM, not caring what one of the greatest computer scientists advocated, added additional non-structured operation codes to RPG. The basic concept of structured programming is that every section of code should have one but only one entry point and one but only one exit point. If you write an RPG program for me, you will not use these operation codes:

CABxx   (Compare and branch)
GOTO    (Go to)
ITER    (Iterate)
LEAVE   (Leave a do/for group)
LEAVESR (Leave a subroutine — Allowed only if just before an End Subroutine)
RETURN  (Return — Allowed but only once per program or procedure and used carefully with *INLR or *INRT)
TAG     (Tag)

After reading the book, manuals and this information, you should be able to develop your programming skills. After writing 100 programs, you might get fairly good at this!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Mitt Romney doesn't understand emergency care

The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch interviewed Mitt Romney recently for a possible endorsement and ran the story on Oct. 11, 2012. They quoted Romney as saying, “We don’t have a setting across this country where if you don’t have insurance, we just say to you, ‘Tough luck, you’re going to die when you have your heart attack. No, you go to the hospital, you get treated, you get care, and it’s paid for, either by charity, the government or by the hospital. We don’t have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don’t have insurance.”

What he just described is socialized medicine. But we don't have socialized medicine in this country as the Republicans would never allow it.

Wendell Potter explains what really happens at the Huffington Post: "Romney is absolutely right, people who are uninsured don't have to die in their apartments. They can indeed be rushed to a hospital, and the hospital is obligated to treat them. … Many of the uninsured die in the hospital, in the emergency room, because they could not afford to get care earlier when it might have saved their lives. Instead of going back home to their apartments, many of them, unfortunately, go to the morgue."

I'm surprised that Romney's lack of knowledge of health care in this country hasn't gotten more traction. Perhaps it's because his lack of knowledge in so many other areas is competing for our time in the news cycle.

Do you want to know how many Americans die each year because they are uninsured compared to the same types of people who are insured? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated the number of additional deaths at 44,789 in 2009. That's more people than were killed in car crashes in the United States that year.

(Sorry about the delay in posting; I was having trouble finding the original story on the Dispatch's Web site.)

How NOT to start an Internet business

On the LinkedIn group Linked Dayton (registration required) I saw this discussion: "New Consultant directory online at: List for free!" Actually, this was the title; there really wasn't a discussion.

I was skeptical, so I checked it out. After entering some information, including selecting the United States of America from a list of every country in the world, I found no computer programmers listed for either Dayton or Cincinnati. My response to the group: "No computer programmers in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. This is crap."

I received a private message from the person who posted (name withheld to protect the guilty) explaining that I needed to register as a consultant. My response: "Sorry, you can't just start with an empty database and expect people to fill it for you. You need to buy some lists and launch it with data already in it. People will try it once and, if they don't get useful information, will never try it again. ..."

In addition to putting some data in the database, he needs to reduce the scope to the U.S.A. at a maximum and reduce the number of categories from over 200 to a more reasonable number.

I'm sorry if I come across as rude or arrogant, but I really am trying to help this poor guy get a clue. Yes, I am a fan of Shark Tank, especially Mark Cuban. How did you guess?

Being Christian means you don't stumble

This is from Facebook group "At the Feet of Jesus."

So you're saying that, when a Christian with a Holy Bible on his desk* steals my 401(k) money, that's okay because "I stumble and need Christ to be my guide?" If you follow Christ, then why are you stumbling? Why are so many Christians breaking the law these days (God's law or man's law, take your choice)? We need more Christians who actually follow Jesus Christ instead of some warped notion of things he never said. We need more Christians who can be "clean living" and not stumble.

* I no longer trust any businessman with a Bible on his or her desk. I've just been ripped off by too many Christians.

Friday, October 19, 2012

I voted today

I voted today at the Hamilton County (Ohio) Board of Elections, taking advantage of the free parking on Broadway in front of the building. I consider myself an independent and will vote for both Republicans and Democrats. Excluding judges, which are supposedly nonpartisan, 38% of my votes were for Republicans and 62% of my votes were for Democrats.

I voted for Obama/Biden, Sherrod Brown for Senator (a no-brainer) and Brad Wenstrup for Congress (Ohio Second District). Brad sounds like a Reasonable Republican (hard to find these days) and his opponent failed to complete the League of Women Voters questionnaire.

For Hamilton County races, I usually voted for the incumbent. Hamilton County government has downsized during the recession and the incumbents have already had to do more with less. I figure that if they're dedicated enough to continue with cutting their own budgets, they should be given the opportunity to do that.

One exception that I voted against Tracy Winkler as she mentioned her church in her League of Women Voters profile and she's endorsed by the Citizens for Community Values, both real no-nos for me.

The Hamilton County Sheriff was hard to choose as the venerable sheriff serving since 1987, Simon Leis, is not running. It appears that both candidates are qualified but Jim Neil got my vote because he was endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police. Politics Extra, a blog at, explains the reasoning behind the endorsement.

As a general rule, I don't think judges should have to run for election and I usually vote for the incumbents when possible. However, for justice of the (Ohio) Supreme Court, I voted for two challengers, Mike Skindell and William O'Neill. This is due to the First Energy controversy. Although I can't tell you for sure that anything improper happened, it still sounds fishy to me, especially the timing of the donations.

State Issue 1: Call for constitutional convention - No. Let's not waste tax dollars on this.

State Issue 2: Letting citizens choose legislative and congressional districts - Yes. Both Republicans and Democrats make a mess when they do it.

I voted for three local levies (18 City of Norwood, 50 Senior Citizens and 51 Mental Health) as I usually vote for levies like this. It so happens that none of these will raise my taxes.

If you have any question about a race that I've skipped, send me an email or write a comment and I will explain my vote for that.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Details of the Romney-Ryan tax plan

"For a detailed explanation of how the Romney-Ryan tax plan is able to cut taxes by $5 trillion without raising taxes on the middle class or exploding the deficit, simply click" on this link.

At the risk of piling on, Brian J. Antal, president of the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society, was not happy that Paul Ryan showed up at the Society and pretended to wash dishes that were already clean. More details from The Washington Post.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Proper reference to the Fortune 500 list

From time to time, I see references to the "Fortune 100" or the "Fortune 400." There is no "Fortune 100" or "Fortune 400". There is the Fortune 500 list and the Fortune 1000 list. The proper use is like this: "Procter & Gamble is one of the top 100 companies of the Fortune 500."

(While I'm writing this, a photographer is taking my picture. Why? Watch this blog for details! Update Nov. 10: Andrew Spear was taking pictures for the Wall Street Journal. I was featured, along with seven other people, in a cover story on Oct. 26.)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Clearing the peony bed

It is the time of year to clear out the peony stalks and put them in the trash (you're not supposed to compost them). After clearing out the stalks and weeds, I added a bushel of compost from the Earth Machine (bottom of bottom picture). Yes, there is one weed left; it has nice flowers and I have a soft spot for weeds with nice flowers.

The bushel of compost represents about 20% of the capacity of the Earth Machine and maybe a year's worth of kitchen scraps and some lawn clippings. I don't put a lot of lawn clippings in because I'm trying to maintain a balance between the green and the brown. To keep the compost bucket clean, we sometimes put paper towels in the bottom and they compost nicely.

One thing that doesn't compost at all are the labels on fruits and vegetables because most of them are made of plastic. I recommend that you remove all the labels before composting.

We bought the Earth Machine from the Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District several years ago. The other recycling container we bought from Lowe's and we use it only for yard waste. Lowe's doesn't seem to sell it any more maybe because it's so inexpensive (just a piece of plastic with holes in it and six sticks).

The peonies are heirloom and over 40 years old. I'll post about them in the spring when they're in full bloom.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Launching my blog

Tonight, I'm launching my blog. I'm not expecting people to read this blog daily. Rather, I hope people find a page here or there through a search that provides them with helpful information.

Topics which I intend to cover are news items of the day, politics, stock information and IBM i articles. I plan to post at least once per day every day of the year.

Well-thought-out comments by intelligent people are encouraged. Other comments will be deleted.

I reserve the right to update postings. I will do this by writing a new post then updating the original post to refer to the new one. This will provide a historical record but allow me to update my posts.

I actually have been blogging for a while, if you consider Facebook as a blogging site. By blogging here instead, I'm going to make life better for my FB friends.

Want me to write on a topic? My email address is shown so drop me a line.

At this point, there is no monetization involved. This means that I will not receive any payment for any posts that I make. Since I'm not protected as a journalist, I will ask all sources to give specific permission to use their information.