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.