* Posts by Grant Alexander

33 posts • joined 21 Jun 2007

Cow flatulence, gas emissions much worse than thought - boffins

Grant Alexander

My idea is the genetically engineer the cow out of the process. We just have to splice the gene for converting grass to milk into the grass and fire the cows. Graminacae mammalari would undertake the whole process in one organism.

Grant Alexander

More importantly, even though CO2 concentration has increased the temperatures have been stagnant for the last 17 years (according to the IPCC). So how big an effect does CO2 have on the earth's climate????

BOFH: Is WHAT 'running slow'!? GOD

Grant Alexander

Select * from user where clue > 0

I can so relate to the comparison of the proportion of time admins spend waiting compared to the waiting and patience level of users. We are constantly bombarded with complaints about impaired productivity due to this or that service being slow, and it just astounds me how impatient users can be.

On top of this users chafe at the idea that all installations should be done by sysadmins. They want to be able to install any and all applications they want. (Where will they get the time to do that?)

Another pet peeve is encountering a user in the corridor who greets me with "Did you get my e-mail?" I just wish I had a suitable comeback for that - because it was save me belting them repeatedly with the cluebat until my arm aches.

MS Word deserves DEATH says Brit SciFi author Charles Stross

Grant Alexander

Re: Concur with Stross. With a couple caveats.

Last couple of days I have been thinking about the "Apparition of Productivity". This is the appearance that "apps" and "gui tools" help people do useful work quickly and productively. Your examples show how this is the case. I have a few scripts I use to take Word format documents and convert them to plain text and then to html (all without opening a GUI). The time it would take me working in Word and some GUI app is many times what I can achieve with command line.

Another example is a .csv file I had coming from a supplier. I started off summarising the data in Excel, but ten moved on and wrote a Python script. The script ran the process in less time than it took to open the file in Excel.

This message has to get through to users and employers. The potential of computers to improve productivity is being eroded by users who are GUI-centric.

EXTREMELY RARE never-seen-alive WHALES found (briefly) alive

Grant Alexander

Re: Amazing

I was struck by the need to DNA test in order to distinguish between these two species. I have always used the more reliable taste test. Usually one tast of the Gray's beacked whale is enough and we chuck it out and settle in to finish of the entire spade-toothed beaked one.

Climate change blamed for rise of life-draining horrors*

Grant Alexander

And wat about the possibility that increased temperature may kill off some of the existing nasties? Or that if the AGWers get their way and we cause another ice age that something that thrives in the cold goes rampant and kills off the polar bears?

DEC founder Ken Olsen is dead

Grant Alexander

Genius, gentleman and probably much maligned

My wife was a "digit" in Wellington, NZ in the 1980s and had the privilege of meeting Mr Olsen when he made a visit "downunder". Her impression of his was he was very personable and quite down to earth.

Ken Olsen is often maligned for his opposing the "personal computer". However, as we have seen with Citrix, web based computing and "cloud" computing, he was really quite visionary. If you look at what is evolving in the IT landscape it seems that you do not need a "personal computer" with storage, locally installed applications and everything else that goes with it. Your apps can live in the cloud. Your data is secured "out there" and you are a consumer of services.

Maybe Thomas Watson was correct too in foreseeing maybe a market for 5 mainframes. Could we see a day when globally there are a few concentrated, but very powerful data centres, accessible from devices with very little horsepower of their own?

Just think about it.

New NASA model: Doubled CO2 means just 1.64°C warming

Grant Alexander

more CO2 equals greater temperatures

... tell that to those people freezing their butts off in Europe.

Something is screwy with the "science" that an insignificant trace gas with virtually zero heat capacity has such a dramatic effect. I think there is more chance that the heat generated from so many people in the world running engines powered by hydrocarbon based fuels is the cause of warming. That heat has got to go somewhere - and there's a lot more of it generated that the CO2 molecule can "generate".

Grant Alexander

It's the biological activity that matters

Just because a tree is big and old, does not mean it is absorbing more CO2 than a small, fast growing plant. In fact "rejuvenating" rain forests may result in more CO2 sequestration and liberate more oxygen. Palm oil or wheat grown on a short term rotation can result in more CO2 being taken up than leaving the senescent "lungs of the world" in tact.

Plucky Finn attempts to drive length of Finland in small digger

Grant Alexander
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I am so unimpressed....

He's on a sealed public road. If he had plotted a straight line between the start and finish and then driven exactly down that line then I might be impressed.

Windows 95 to Windows 7: How Microsoft lost its vision

Grant Alexander

How is it Windows 7?

How did we get from Windows 3 to Windows 7? Windows 95=4, 98=5, 2000=6, XP=7, Vista=8. I have been merciful and left out ME.

When one considers all the businesses that rely on MS... One wonders about the numeracy of the Marketers.

I'll stick to an operating system that has gone sequentially from 1 to 11.

CompuServe signs off

Grant Alexander
Black Helicopters

I'm all nostalgic and misty-eyed

I cut my teeth on-line in CompuServe. Kind of hard to remember, but I recall my first ventures onto the WWW and losing my way because I didn't have that helpful structure.

Kiwis deploy nut-crush powered jumbo

Grant Alexander

Could reforestation cause another imbalance?

While it kind of puts us Kiwis on the map, it does raise more questions than it answers. I remember during my forestry studies that the area of the world in desert has remained constant for many, many years. The locations of those deserts has changed from time to time. I wonder if planting up deserts could create an imbalance in the ecosystem, that nature will then correct by desertifying somewhere else. Deserts are nt wasteland, but a very valuable and valid part of the ecosystem, and anyone who suggests tampering with them on a large scale like this ought to be branded a terrorist.

And Kiwis should be so proud of this achievement because New Zealand contributes 0.2% of the world's anthropogenic carbon dioxide.

NZ judge saves girl from bloody silly name

Grant Alexander

As bad as dopey names...

are more common names spelled in "creative" ways. Again another thing that is an epidemic in New Zealand. Teachers must dread the start of the school year when they get a new batch of kids with names that are spelled in unusual ways.

The registry office should have default name that a child is given if the parents are too stupid to think of a non-abusive name. Girls default to "Anne" and boys to "David". Can't go wrong with that. Think I'll suggest it to Brian next time I see him.

Apple is Fisher-Price of sound quality, says Neil Young

Grant Alexander

Neil's right

Don't knock Neil. I am already in line for the compilation of his entire career. Can't wait. Hopefully it has the Ditch Trilogy in its entirety in digital format.

BOFH: Licensing model

Grant Alexander
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license agreement for porcelain bowl

alongside most porcelain bowls there is a copy of the license agreement for the use thereof. i wish other licensing agreements were as easy to understand and implement.

Shell waves goodbye to 3,000 IT staffers in $4bn outsourcing gig

Grant Alexander
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Outsourced from the start

My perspective on this is as an ICT Manager who has outsourced from the start. Our company has grown rapidly in the last 10 years, taking on very large new clients and expanding our number of offices, including moving overseas. In that time, I have remained the sole 100% ICT staff member. When all the hands on stuff got too much for me I resisted the management call for me to employ staff, and instead engaged a 3rd party as a service provider.

It is a very different show when you have to make staff redundant or have the new service provider offer them employment, I agree.

Outsourced IT does have its disadvantages, but for a smaller growing business the benefits of tapping into an organisation that can put an expert in most any field onto the project is enormous. We could not afford to have expert skills in all the areas we require on staff (or even highly competent amateurs), but we can access them through or supplier.

Quake rocks Britain

Grant Alexander

Kiwi comments here

Disclaimer: I am a Kiwi and live in Rotorua - volcanic and earthquake prone.

I am utterly embarrassed by the inane comments of some of my fellow countrymen. But it keeps with the pattern. A few months back there was an earthquake felt in Auckland. The media went into hysteria over it just as it seems they have in the UK over this one. And then a few lunk heads from the provinces started getting stuck into the wimpy Aucklanders with comments similar to what have been recorded above.

You Kiwis who have slung off at the Poms for being mildly agitated by an earthquake, it is better to keep your opinions to yourself.

Yes! It's the vacuum cleaner mouse!

Grant Alexander

Imagine the HelpDesk calls

User - "Hello. This mouse doesn't work. I tried to suck the last sentence I typed off the screen and it just doesn't do it."

Worse still when the user does use it as intended, it'll be the IT department's responsibility to empty the bag.

Spammers crack Gmail Captcha

Grant Alexander

passwords and logins


kevin mitnick, the famed ex-hacker now security adviser, recommends that people select very complex passwords and that they write them down, and keep them somewhere safe - like in their wallet with the other valuable paper.

too many people choose lame passwords and if we try to force people to adopt more secure passwords, there is a huge resistance. personally i try to use passphrases of a sort. the downside is i am a slow typist - but that is the price i pay for being security conscious.

When poor people pollute - the Tata Nano and eco-crime

Grant Alexander

The economicas of climate change

"Of course, the very reason we have trade at all is because we use fewer resources that way: we measure the use of resources by how much something costs and none of us buys something which we can do ourselves more cheaply."

Not necessarily a correct assumption. Personal example - I recently paid tradesmen to paint my house. The cost was probably 10 times the amount it would have cost me to do the job myself. So why did I make an economically irrational decision? Because purchase decisions are not always economically rational. People factor in other values, such as the value of time with the family, the benefit of not tying up many, many weekends in doing the job myself.

Similarly people do not make rational or fully informed decisions in the realm of the environment. I predict the net result of the choice of the 'holier than thou' westerners who want to 'save the globe' is to exterminate those poor unfortunates who live in poverty.

Some cretin somewhere has convinced a whole lot of wealthy, white, westerners that the planet is more valuable than the lives of the poor. Aren't human beings depraved.

Northern ocean filling up with CO2

Grant Alexander

maybe, just maybe...

warmer water holds less co2 than cooler water. then perhaps the oceans have warmed and are absorbing less co2, thereby increasing atmospheric levels of co2. perhaps the sun caused these oceans to warm starting say 10 or 15 years ago and some scientists have erroneously attributed the effect to the cause.

Wyse strips down thin client computers

Grant Alexander

Thin client and thin notebook user

We have been using Citrix for over 10 years. We have expunged fat clients from our system and deliver all applications via WAN and Internet to 14 offices throughout New Zealand and one office in Australia. We also deliver applications via Citrix/Web Interface to 3rd party client i.e as an ASP.

We have had a couple of thin client notebooks (MaxBook 810s) for a couple of years and just recently purchased another 2 NeoWare m100 units.

I see the argument that you could take an entry level laptop and pare it back to resemble a thinnote. However, why waste the time? It took me about 10 minutes from delivery of the m100s to get a 3G card installed and configured so that the user can work as they would at their desktop. I had to install PowerPoint viewer as one of the main uses my users have for the thinnotes is to put seminar attendees to sleep with their Powerpoint presentations. We can either hook the presentation off the server onto a USB drive and run it through the thinnote or run the presentation in a Citrix session.

My time is too valuable to waste on configuring new PCs or notebooks. Once I have the application installed on the server I can deliver it over and over with very little effort. I never want to go back to the days of configuring user workstations and installing applications locally. Break/fix with thin clients is rare, but the neat thing is that it is just a case of swapping out a device. The user doesn't have locally saved files or configuration settings that they want to preserve off their dead PC.

Similarly, the security of these things is worth the price. Because users cannot download and install garbage the devices cannot threaten my network. Even with a pared back entry level notebook, I would always be nervous that someone could potentially infect the network with malware. If someone leaves a thinnote somewhere there is no data at risk (apart from their boring Powerpoint presentation on the USB drive which no one is going to get any information out of anyway - apart from the cure to insomnia).

If I need a bit of processing capability when disconnected from the network or out of 3G coverage I use PortableApps OpenOffice on a USB drive. It works brilliantly.

Climate change: looking for a haystack, not a needle

Grant Alexander

consensus does not prove a theory

Somewhere I read the phrase "Scientific prediction or forecast by scientists?". There is a key distinction between predicting an event using scientific method and a bunch of people who have the same job title agreeing on something.

Remember that in the past there has been consensus on e.g. the earth being flat, the sun revolving around the earth, plus many many more now debunked ideas.

Even with an impressive resume a person can make a mistake and one of the mistakes that too many people make is that they are impressed by the resume.

Grant Alexander

Extrapolating trends is not much use

Too much of the foregoing debate has overlooked the patent fact that weather and climate are the result of other inputs and are not a simple case of extrapolating a trend. Weather is not a 'random event' as some have asserted, but is the result of a number of inputs.

The reason that weather forecasts are not accurate is that we have not determined the inter-relationships between all the inputs (and likely we have not identified all the inputs) that make up weather for the next week. So too with climate change. It is errant nonsense to suggest that extrapolating trends can predict what the global climate will be like in 100 or so years. So too, is it misleading to attribute all of the recent change and then predicate future change on anthropogenic activity.

As has been pointed out, if the computer models that predict climate change were at all well constructed, they would be able to accurately 'calculate' past events i.e. we could confirm the model is accurate by having it predict the climate for say the 1960s. However, this 'reality check' has either not been done or has not proved the models correct, yet politicians believe these models (and when convenient deny the accuracy of political polls - irony).

Climate models need to be based on 'cause and effect' rather than on extrapolated trends.

Could Linux become the dominant OS?

Grant Alexander

My 2 cents worth - and please give me the change...

I am a Linux user and an advocate for OSS. I have a number of years of experience supporting NetWare, Windows, Citrix environments.

I don't think the masses are ready for Linux. Linux is certainly ready for the masses, it is just that the great unwashed don't understand that yet.

To those who see the problem being the availability of games - keep your stinking games on your Windows machine. I don't want games on a computer. Computers are for work.

As for the reliance of enterprises on Excel - that is just plain scarey. I know it happens and I am doing my best to exterminate this kind of cowboy thinking from our organisation. There should be a requirement for companies to declare in their accounts their level of reliance on Excel and MS Access. However, I use Open Office to repair corrupted MS office files.

NZ parents may lose battle to keep baby '4real'

Grant Alexander

embarrassed at being a kiwi too

My countrymen have really lost it! I agree with deportation, though I'd let them off half way to Aussie.

I have suggested that the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages should issue parents of this ilk with t-shirts reading "the name i gave my kid is tantamount to child abuse". The morons would wear it with pride.

The hackneyed phrase "for real" will be "lame as" in 5 years, just as "massive" and "cool" etc etc have disappeared from everyday idiom. So the poor kid will be lumbered with a name that will date very quickly.

Grant Alexander

Messing with databases

I wonder if the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages objection with a number appearing in a name is due to a rule that has been applied to a field in their database? When designing the database the developers would have logically assumed only characters would appear in the forename fields. A reasonable assumption.

If they bend their rules, and presumably change the field type on the database, then the knock on effect to all other agencies or organisations with which this child interacts throughout the course of their life could be huge. Inland Revenue probably has a similar restriction.

How much could it cost to make every database in New Zealand 4Real compliant, and then what happens if he decides to emigrate?

Planting trees will not save the planet: official

Grant Alexander

Wow! I've learned a lot from these posts

Man has science changed in the last 20 years since I did my Forestry Science degree. (I think not!). Some people type a load of rubbish, and it is this very ignorance that is being preyed on by Al Gore and his ilk.

Anthropogenic global warming is a load of pseudo-science that has been decided is true on the basis of the opinions of politicians.

People, you need to stop listening, and start thinking. The "hockey stick" graph showing increases in global temperature in relation to CO2 is does not prove cause and effect. In fact it is strongly possible that the vast oceans of the world are releasing CO2 into the atmosphere, as a result of solar warming of the earth. Correlation does not mean effect!

You might also be interested to know that when you fell a tree the carbon trading model assumes that all the carbon is released into the atmosphere. You can't get a credit for locking the carbon up in the frame of a building or a dining room table or a ream of paper. Kyoto protocol does not recognise sequestration unless the trees are still attached to the stump.

Climate change is happening. That is not disputed. However, the cause is very unlikely to be human activity. But think about this - who has decided that the climate today is the ideal climate for anywhere in the world?

Anyway, I have a spreadsheet that shows the relationship between the increased use of Excel and global warming.

Thin clients catch VDI for VMware access

Grant Alexander

There is a niche

We have operated a Citrix environment for over 10 years now. Users have become conditioned to the 'virtual' desktop model. However, server based computing is not without its challenges. Doggie applications can really take the gloss off a pristine installation.

That's where I see VDI or even blade PCs coming to our aid. We are in the early stages of looking at building virtual PC in a VMWare environment to handle the stuff that should never have made it to market in the first place.

NZ couple fight to name kid '4Real'

Grant Alexander

Amusing names

I once read an article written by a mapping expert from the US Marine Corp by the name of Mark Greaves.

Operating systems are old and busted

Grant Alexander

And the point is...

Essentially VMWare (or a derivative or a system that preceded it like VMS) becomes the operating system.

I don't think Rosenblum was advocating that we do this tonight while all our users are home tucked up in bed. He's looking to the future and advocating a path that is well worth considering.

Unless we at least start thinking about stripping away all the dross that comes with an operating system that is designed to be "all things to all people", (jack of all trades, master of none), then we are missing an opportunity to innovate and create computing environments that are really stable and do deliver what the user expects.

I like the idea of paring back what gets installed so that only what is needed is there. All those commentators who started listing off what is needed in addition were missing that point - those are applications/features that would naturally be part of the ecosystem that the database or mail appliance or whatever is a part of. You don't need an operating system that is capable of being a dns server or an ftp server when what you really want is an ecosystem that is capable of presenting data to users.

While it might not be novel thinking, it is worthwhile thinking along the lines advocated. Who knows, someone reading this might come up with the universal kernel environment and some custom ecosystems that will eclipse the current status quo - maybe not tonight, but in 10 years.

Rivals torture consumers via Microsoft

Grant Alexander

Why search

I am totally in agreement with David. Microsoft has created the need for search with its moronic "My Documents", "My Pictures", "My Music" 'folders'. Anyone with half a brain ditches that and creates a directory and uses a proper structure. I, too have no problem locating files that I create, or even files that other users have created. Maybe I am showing my age.

But as a suggestion for those who have to, I suspect that if you reverted to 8.3 naming you might find that searching would be faster (since the OS is creating 8.3 pointers in memory "on-the-fly").

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