Posted in history, IT Issues, Personal, Software

I.T. as street vendors

Yesterday while talking with a colleague, I was trying to get a cross the idea the most ‘programmers’ don’t understand what goes on inside a computer. And his response was, “Does it matter any more?” and while it took me back, I had to respond, “No!”  After sleeping on it, I came to a revelation of sorts.

Current IT is equivalent to being a Hot-dog vendor on the street.

And while we IT/CS folk might try and elevate our profession to that status of demigod status we are merely vendors of what the computer can DO!‘  We don’t create the computer, we splash condiments on the hot-dog, and sell it as computing.  We don’t even make the condiments anymore, call them libraries, functions written by gnomes in dark caves.  And don’t even mention the buns, the dressing ,the cover, beyond us.

In the early days of computing, the common question was, what do I use my computer for. And the first answer often was, you could put your cooking recipes in it.  Creating the first cookbook you needed to plugin. The computer is still the same, just that the cookbook has gotten more sophisticated.

I have harped for years that the ‘hardware’ of computing has crippled real advances in computing, more and more systems are opting for generic in their selection of Hot-dog instead, choosing to dress it up with more and intriguing spices and toppings, things like AI and Neural Networks.  While these latter are more sophisticated and sexy, they are more or less toppings on the same Hot-dog.

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Posted in Education, Forecasting, Gender, IT Issues, Personal, Startups, Women

IT, is not always a boy’s game, by choice.

I’ve been having a few twitter conversations about Internet startups, IT development and the ‘Boys Club’ it always appears to be. I’ve been working at a Internet Company, more than a startup, less than a powerhouse. And what was once called TeamworkPM.net is now called Teamwork.COM with the recent purchase of that very domain name.

Several Ladies have commented, one in Australia and another in California, particularly on the photos we had up for the ‘re-branding’ event.

However this is NOT the whole story, we have tried to hire NON-WHITE-NON-MALE personnel, We have held ‘Open Houses’, posted all over Cork (Home base) out of 10 (very disappointing) no persons of color, and only one woman. No one really qualified, as even the universities aren’t teaching what students need to get into the computing environment. We weren’t even trying just for ‘programmers’ none of the people bothered to even find out what we did on the Internet.

We have had interns (1 Male 1 female) in, and while useful, they were more interested in finishing school than working for us. Last year Teamwork.com set out to hire 10 people, more than doubling the staff, and we managed only 4, not all developers, from Lithuania, the Netherlands, Australia and Bulgaria. All male, all white. And it’s not our choice, it’s all that we are presented with that are educated and/or interested in working with us.

In Catholic Ireland, the Nuns still teach that Math and Science (and technology) are for the ‘boys’ and tell the girls to choose something else. Only since things like Coder Dojo’s have girls been learning coding and web development. And even there, the female component constitutes only a minority.

Until such time as females are educated, and qualified to develop code, or web working. The all-white-all-male club will be more the norm than than in the general populations. And you can’t enforce a gender balance on startups and lean companies, it would crush them. Only educations will change this imbalance. So please stop complaining about us, and others, and start sending your daughters, wives and girlfriends to school.

So if you are qualified and motivated send a CV or drop an email at Teamwork.COM

Update: see here

And we have Improved… an grown 🙂

March 2015. Team Teamwork at the official opening of the new teamwork.com offices at North Point business park, and launch of their new product: Teamwork Desk. Image credit: Neil Danton. Copyright © Neil Danton 2015. Press Release image - no reproduction fee. Editorial use only. For use only in relation to caption and/or Client Press Release. No archive, No library, No distribution, No syndication.
March 2015.
Team Teamwork at the official opening of the new teamwork.com offices at North Point business park, and launch of their new product: Teamwork Desk.
Image credit: Neil Danton.
Copyright © Neil Danton 2015.
Press Release image – no reproduction fee. Editorial use only. For use only in relation to caption and/or Client Press Release. No archive, No library, No distribution, No syndication.
Posted in IT Issues

Language of computing

I was reminded this Christmas Holiday season that computers do not ‘know‘ any human language, only binary, and that it takes humans to provide the translation from the machine to something human readable. And while most computer programing languages are ‘English’ like, they need not have to be in the English Language. It’s just what’s what happened first, and could be changed into another language at anytime.

This came to me in an inspired way, by listening to Carols, where non-native speakers were singing in latin, and other non-english speakers were singing in English, or German, or French. That you can sing in a language, and not know how to speak in it.

I suspect that is the same method that most non-english speakers program computers in ‘english like’ programing languages. By layering another translation over the programming, or like in singing, which uses another part of the brain, different from the part that provides language skills, another part of the brain is used to converse with computers. Thus making the point that people who program, do think with altered brains.

Posted in Economy & Business, Forecasting, IT Issues

Future Computing

Note to self, the computer is not built to do anything other than execute instructions, hardware advances over the years have only advanced the ability of the CPU to gather instructions, it does not make decisions about what to execute, or in what order to execute them in. That is the organization of the basic boot loader, in combination with the operating system loaded.

There are no elements of artificial intelligence built into the hardware, it has no ability to reprogram itself or to change it’s wiring. External forces must be applied to force change either by altering microcode-code in the core of the CPU (should that be possible) or by execution of programs within the confines of the operating system, instructions provided by the boot loader or via operating systems loaded and executing programs. It is through those processes that constitute what a computer does, with what it ‘sees’ .

Any hope of producing the next generation of computing must therefore be a revolution in how the CPU is instructed to perform it’s instructions, what is done with the output, and any associated hardware connected to the system to perform ‘tasks’ assigned by that process. The argument that Windows, or Linux/Unix or any other operating system is better than another DOES create opportunities and restrictions uniquely to any new programming, computing Paradigm.

Anything like artificial intelligence will have to preceded by a new suite of hardware, with a new way of ‘booting’ the system and or an entirely new operating system tailored to artificial intelligence operations. Current hardware/software standardization is at once the primary blockage to any future advances to computing.

UPDATE #1: IBM Creates Custom-Made Brain-Like Chip

Posted in Amazon, Cloud, DBA, Economy & Business, Internet, IT Issues, MySQL, RDBMS, RDS, Sybase

The end of Sybase

It is with sadness that I had to turn off the last Sybase Instance we had running. Our last ASE server quietly shutdown on an Amazon EC2 server on Tuesday the 20th of December, never to boot again.

In all truth both Sybase instances were developer installs operating as production systems. Our two instances, operating with the 25 user limit that each was restricted to, was barely able to operate the system. But the Sybase Licensing was too archaic and inflexible to continue operating it as a small business. Thus the economics forced us to convert to MySQL.

If it hadn’t been for the previous management, who in some delusion of saving money, refused to pay the datacenter bill, forcing us to move the Sybase instances out into the Amazon cloud (EC2) in the first place we would probably have been on MySQL sooner, as that was the plan.

But the sadness remains, Sybase as a technology proved again that it would run, and run reliably, on just about any hardware, even when it was virtual, and NOT meeting the specified certified, requirements of operation. Which can’t be said for the Amazon RDS version of MySQL, which crashed spontaneously while applying an index on our live production database without warning. This having happened after weeks of testing and trial runs at operating the system on it. The only defense, the RDS instance rebooted and was available without data loss, in less time than a Sybase HA switchover would have taken, a system this production system was developed from.

So we are up in MySQL and I am now a MySQL DBA exclusively, after spending the last 25 years as a Sybase DBA and evangelist. The decision now has to be rather to remain so, or find another place of employment where Sybase remains. Those are becoming more and more rare. Maybe I should takeup MongoDB to stay at the cutting edge.

Posted in Amazon, DBA, EC2, Economy & Business, IT Issues, Linux, MySQL, RDBMS, RDS, Red Hat, Solaris, SQL, SUN, Sybase

A Cloud based Sybase

Over the past week I found myself in a situation as follows, during a migration, conversion from a Sybase Production server to a MySQL based version, I was required to ‘expedite’ a Sybase 15 ASE installation into an Amazon (EC2) instance, The Cloud!

The company has been in the position of seeking less expensive IT infrastructure over the past few years, moving from Sun Enterprise servers with ASE clustering to commodity Intel based Redhat Sybase servers with poor mans replication. The final goal became a decision to convert the expensive Sybase ASE (read inflexible licensing), to MySQL, and generally into the Amazon RDS (cloud).

The move of a Sybase ASE into the Cloud was the result of an urgent desire to terminate a data-center contract early by management. The shrinking time line for the conversion of the Sybase schema to MySQL could not be guaranteed so a Plan B had to be created. Hence, the Cloud based Sybase production edition of a production server.

To my surprise, it works! after a bit of twisting, the Redhat ASE developer installation came off more or less just like any other Sybase install. There are irregularities from a normal Linux install, but functional. Being a bit of a spindle jockey, I was surprised (happily) at the overall performance of the storage systems of the EC2 instance. And the production server is now operating in the instance. (having previously moved the app and web servers into the EC2)

This post needing a point to make, is this, while working this issue, I did considerable Googling for anyone using Sybase ASE in the cloud, and nothing! or nearly nothing. What I did find first, a press release from Sybase corporate that they were now in the Amazon Cloud, dated in 2009, and not a peep since. Nothing, no product, no advertising, no options. What a missed opportunity, it’s now easy to see why Sybase has been loosing so much market to a ‘free’ RDBMS like MySQL.

Posted in IT Issues, Linux, OpenBSD, Personal, Solaris, SUN

Streching the EOL on old hardware.

A couple of weeks ago a friends from work was clearing out their place, I assume she had something to do with it, but in any case my collection of computers grew a bit when he offered to gift them to me. So now I own a Sun SPARCstation 5 and a Sun SparcStation IPX along with other bits and bobs. Now as a rule I only take systems that work, and they do, however the passwords have been lost in the annals of time.

So I was left with a marginal SparcStation 5 with a missing CD drive, which booted to Solaris 2.7, but no further. But I’m a geek, and undaunted by this minor setback, I set out looking for a workaround. The googling net is full of solutions for password recovery … if you have a bootable cd (yes CD not DVD), Ok, next does eBay still have Solaris stuff that old … not cheaply, so what next.

While googling, OpenBSD presented itself, and I downloaded and burned some generic ISO’s of version 4.8. and then to solve the other hardware issue, the Sun IPX was delivered with a cartridge loading CD, but the IPX drive was housed in an external SCSI 1 case, and the SS5 was wired with a SCSI II system externally. so I dismantled the CD drive and searched for a CD cartridge carrier which as any self-respecting Geek, I had stashed away for a rainy day. Then armed with the hardware I jumpered the SCSI CD drive into the SS5 chassis, and bingo a complete and bootable SS5.

Now attempting to boot the OpenBSD was no problem, which surprised me to no end. But then I attempted a password recovery on the Solaris disk and no joy. but I did manage to mount it, and more or less destroy it (latter I found a way to fix it) and determined to go ahead and install the full OpenBSD system. Which more or less worked, there were issues with the X-Fonts archive but I found the tarball contained another version, which worked. It now booted on the internal disk, but I had to add and modify the XF86Config file to find the display, mouse and keyboard. My result does not match the examples of this file you might find on the net. So if you are interested, contact me, the Sun GB keyboard was hell to make work. but TADA:


And I even now have a browser in the form of Links

However, while it can compile most anything, there isn’t much left on the 1GB disk to compile TO. So unless I find some pre-compiled SMALL binaries, or a very cheap internal SCSI Disk to upgrade with, I’m stuck.

There may be more coming for this system, but just to make a comparison with modern hardware;

SparcStation 5 Nokia N900 smartphone
Screen 1024 x 768 (9 screens) 800 x 480 (4 screens)
Memory 64 MBytes 256 MBytes
CPU Freq 110 Mhz 600 Mhz
Storage 1 GByte 32 Gbyte
Price (new) 8,000.00$ to 10,000.00$ ~500.00$

UPDATE: I found amongst the archives another external 1.2GB SCSI disk, which fits nicely in the same connector that the CD-Drive was in, so now the SS5 is without the CD-Drive but has a massive 2.2GB of disks, Impressive 🙂