Laptop dancing

This is a bonding exercise with my stepson. We’re sitting about five feet apart in the living room tapping away on our laptops. And I’m doing it wirelessly.

His is/was a pretty decent nearish state of the art 16th birthday present. Mine is a retired company laptop with a small crack in the lid bound together by brown parcel tape (which I removed to see exactly that it was meant to be holding together). This is mostly an exercise to acquaint myself with the keyboard and layout. It’s pretty good for writing on. Better than the desktop ornament, anyway. I’m pretty certain Best Beloved is on the main machine in our room as I write this. We have finally achieved the goal of all twenty first century families, each of us being on his or her own separate computer and not talking to anyone else.

When the firm announced one of its periodic purges of no longer maintained equipment, I put myself down for a laptop on the offchance. I thought I could do with a typewriter to replace my 10-year-old, much loved but essentially defunct IBM Thinkpad (which I bought with money received for His Majesty’s Starship. A true writer’s laptop.). This came with hard disk wiped and a copy of Windows XP – nothing else. Then Bonusbarn pointed out we have some wireless adapters knocking around and I thought why not?

And so, apropos of nothing, I thought I would share my thoughts on the saga of our Home Secretary and her avant garde art movie loving husband. First off, it’s pretty clear what happened. She gets phone, TV and everything as a package from a single firm, as do we. She gets a monthly bill stating everything, as do we. It runs to several pages but that’s just the way it’s laid out. The bill includes movies watched. So far the biggest surprise we’ve had is that Bonusbarn watched Pulp Fiction at 2 in the morning over halfterm (we’ve since tightened up the parental controls). Ms Smith must wish she shared the experience. Anyway, she’s a busy women. She can’t remember the last time she manually went through the phone bill. She Has People Who Do That. She threw the pile of paper at a People and said “that’s the bill, deal with it.” And sadly they did.

What absolutely no one seems to be obsessing on is that somewhere in the House of Commons is a mole leaking paperwork like this to the papers. That is a disgrace and this person must be hunted down and destroyed. Though it’s probably not a priority in the House of Speaker Martin, where the historic privileges of our elected representatives that were literally won in blood are secondary to who gets to wear the nice robes.

Also worrying is that the national domestic budget is in the hands of a woman who can’t check her phone bill. Not even to weed out the business calls. I’m sure she racks up a hefty phone bill in the course of her duties, and naturally it should be claimed as an expense, but I can’t believe every single call was work-related. Or maybe she just makes domestic calls from her sister’s flat.

I would have liked to call this post “the porn ultimatum” but sadly the Sun got there first. I don’t often say this to the Sun, but, nice one.

Ada plus One

Yesterday, 24 March, was the first ever Ada Lovelace Day. This is what happens when I don’t keep my ear to the ground.

Ada, as I’m sure you already knew (I did – hah!) was the daughter of Lord Byron who because of her work with Charles Babbage is often credited as being the first programmer. From the day’s official website:

“Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology.

Women’s contributions often go unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognised. We want you to tell the world about these unsung heroines. Entrepreneurs, innovators, sysadmins, programmers, designers, games developers, hardware experts, tech journalists, tech consultants. The list of tech-related careers is endless.”

What an excellent idea. Thanks to Pennski for bringing it to my attention.

I won’t blog at length on the general awesomeness of anyone, (a) because I don’t generally and (b) because I’d feel the need to ask permission and that takes time. But I will mention a few (by no means all; omission from this list implies absolutely nothing) of the several IT-related women I have known. In alphabetical order to avoid any hint of favouritism or bias:

  • Joella, former colleague, who was a reporter and then editor onInformation World Review. This means that for >50% of the 1990s she and her lovely but somewhat vague editor were the totality of UK-based IT reporting. (Correct me if I’m wrong, Jo …) She also, more recently, introduced me to the blogging concept.
  • L, former colleague, now working for Oxford Uni. Twenty years before we met she was working for Locomotive Software, proof reading their manuals, which would include the manuals that came with my Amstrad PCW all those years ago. I think that’s where she met her husband. She now programs Javascripty sort of stuff.
  • S, head of my division but I’m not crawling. Now responsible for heading communications and customer support on a 40Gbit/s optical network that links every university in the country, she started here in the mid eighties when it was basically two cans and a bit of string.
  • T, fellow writer, longest acquaintance of all the above, bisexual witch and freelance IT consultant. See where a degree in theology from Durham can get you?

Next year I may mention some others …

Smugness lost and regained

Lost: Just as I was looking forward to another session of doing immeasurable good for very little personal loss, the National Blood Service tell me I can’t give blood platelets and be a blood donor. It’s one register or the other. I’m sure that’s the first time they’ve mentioned it, and since they signed me up for the platelets at a donor session you’d think they could have worked it out. But no. When I phoned today to postpone tomorrow’s session, and mentioned I’m giving blood next week, the lady reacted as if I’d said I wanted to come round and have her on the spot. One of them had to go, and as giving platelets requires a trip into the JR and blood requires popping round the corner from the office, it wasn’t a hard choice to make.

Regained: Firefox crashed on me (irritating) immediately followed by the automatic Apple Crash Reporter (quite amusing). Even more amusing, the latter caused a window to pop up asking if I wanted to relaunch Crash Reporter. I did, and it told me you can’t run Crash Reporter directly, you have to wait for something to crash first.”Quis reportiet ipsos reporter?” I thought to myself with bilingual classically inclined cleverness, and resolved to spend the rest of the day pointing out the badly designed native Mac software to anyone who’ll listen, and a few who won’t.