• Three times older than when I started

    I celebrated being exactly 3 times the age that I was when I first started working for IBM, on 30th April 2009.

    Here’s the REXX exec to demonstrate it


    /* Routine to calculate when you will be exactly 3 times older than when you first started working. */
    dob = date( “B”, “30 Jul 1958” ) /* 714989 */
    startwork = date( “B”, “30 Jun 1975” ) /* 721168 */
    age = startwork – dob /* 6179 */
    enddate = startwork + ( age * 2 )
    say “Herb will be 3 times older than his age when he first started working on” date( “W”, enddate, “B”) date( “N”, enddate, “B” )

    As always the comments to explain the code were a lot harder to write than the code.
    And it’s a pretty useless program unless you’re me.
    You could ask Angus Tuckey-Smith, Mat Caney or Mike Cowlishaw for an improved version that will work for anyone…
    But if you think about it, most people will have left work by the time they reach the required age, so won’t have a REXX interpreter to run the code anyway.

    PS. Ajay R Krishnan has a similar program written in Python.

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    September 28, 2009
  • I was once locked into two tapes drives

    After my first year at University I worked on shift as a computer operator, in Building E machine room.

    My job involved
    – typing “k e,1” to clear a line from the Master terminal of a System 370 running MFT.
    – sitting behind a line printer fanning the greenline paper into the box
    when the page ejects were happening faster than the paper feed could handle it
    – or performing tape labelling – wiping tapes so they could be re-used.

    The tape drives were those big things you see in 70’s films
    with electrically powered sliding glass windows
    that closed automtically so that the tapes could be pulled into loops by a vacuum
    – ensuring that they didn’t tension the tape too quickly and snap it.

    Late one night I was led to a tape drive and demonstrated the
    safety aspects of the sliding glass window.

    There was a sensor that would detect an object preventing the window from closing.
    When the circuit was broken the motor would automatically reverse and the window
    would go down. There was a replaceable fuse in the door that, if removed would
    cause the window to lock in place.

    Well, I was to learn that someone had discovered that if you pushed an arm through the glass
    past the elbow and removed the fuse at just the right time, you could effectively trap a person by their arm.I was not the discoverer; I was the person with the arm.

    They locked me in and went out to the kermits for a coffee break.

    I started getting worried…
    – who’s going to type “k e,1”
    – who’s going to fan the paper in that printer
    – what if there’s a fire and the sprinklers come on and I get electrocuted

    I was determined to escape.
    I opened another tape drive door, took the fuse from that and replaced the missing
    fuse from my door. Freedom!

    Trouble is, I can’t lie very well.
    So I told my captors how I’d escaped.

    Next day both arms were trapped.

    [Read more…]



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    September 28, 2009
  • top 10 list of questions to ask when some code doesn’t work

    Unfortunately I have never seen such a list. But I’m prepared to start one.

    If you’re the asker

    – find the “stupid question asker” and start explaining the problem to them.
    You’ll realise your mistake quite quickly

    – if you’re worried that that it could be a silly mistake, and not worth being awarded “the plank”
    if it becomes public, then start adding debug statements.
    In the PL/1 days I used to write “put skip list” statements
    In C you write printf’s or the equivalent macro or function call.
    In my experience you’ll notice the problem the minute you’ve finished writing the debug lines,
    even before the code has been compiled and run.

    – ask yourself the following:
    has it ever worked
    did it actually work last time
    what have you done?
    did you recompile the program
    did you relink the program
    did you actually change the program
    are you running the program you thought you’d changed
    are you looking at the right output
    have you changed the inputs
    does the code match the comments. if not, which is wrong
    is it repeatable. if not, give up until it is

    You can ask these questions in whatever you order you feel necessary and
    as many times as you like until you find the solution


    If you’re the askee

    – do the google search that the askee should have done
    – ask them if they have reduced the problem to the simplest version that exhibits the bad behaviour
    – ask them if they have you compared the results with the most recent regression test
    – ask them to repeat the problem on another machine


    If you’re the “stupid question asker”, ask the asker
    – “Can you explain it to me again?”
    – “Are you sure that’s the problem?”
    – “Does it make any difference what day of the week you run it”
    – “Did you reload the data from yesterday’s dump”
    – “Does it work on Windows?”
    – “Would you expect it to work when ‘whatever’ is not available?”


    If you happen to be the project manager you can add these
    – “When will you have a fix for it?”
    – “If this went into production what severity would it be?”
    – “Do you have a work around?”
    – Ask them if they have asked the expert. This is a particularly good question if you know the programmer IS the expert.



    If you’re just earwigging someone else’s conversation, tell them
    – “It’s not possible, you have to rewrite it”
    – “I had that problem yesterday but it went away when I upgraded to version blah of thingummy”
    – “It works fine on Windows”
    – “You need to get trace output”
    – “Ask them for a dump”

    [Read more…]



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    September 28, 2009
  • I sent my first email in 1975

    My first job at IBM was as a vacation student working in the ROSS User’s group, in RESPOND.
    ROSS – Rationalised Ordering Support System
    RESPOND – Retrieval Entry, Storage (and) Processing (of) Online Networked Data

    I was a clerk and the only Brit in the department.
    Every day I’d have to write a telex to coordinators in each European country advising them which ‘cycles’ had been processed overnight. A few months into the job I discovered the pleasure of using IBM golfball terminal/typewriters to use RETAIN (Remote Entry Technical Advice Information Network). I discovered that instead of hand writing telexes I could type them in myself and
    send these to a pan-European distribution list.

    Even though they were only being sent on the internal network these messages would now be considered emails.

    I can’t remember what I used to call them before I started sending PROFS Notes (we had been sending messages to/from TSO/VM ids well before PROFS/NOSS) but I still prefer using the term ‘note’ for a simple message, as opposed to ‘document’ for one written in Script/DCF.

    [Read more…]



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    September 28, 2009
  • My real name is Robert Peter Gordon Miller


    So why am I called Herb?

    When I was a schoolboy at Portsmouth Grammar we were initially all called by our surnames. Being too dumb to ask each others Christian names (
    in those days we all had Christian names, even those who weren’t C of E ) we invented nicknames for each other e.g. Gasser, Blossom and Ipse.
    As I was a reasonably speedy but small cross country runner, rather than being called Dusty or Windy, they called me Mick; after Mick the Miller.

    I didn’t like it, so at the age of 13 or 14, when my best mate George Miles
    decided he’d like to be called G, I put about that I’d like to be called
    Herb – after Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.

    The name stuck. Even my parents called me Herb. So when I first started at IBM I asked for that name to be put on my badge. Many years later, when I first got a Notes ID, the P for Peter got inserted into my name. I’ve never liked it.

    And did I know about Glenn Miller’s brother in those days?
    Answer: No

    [Read more…]



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    September 28, 2009
  • I have not been banned from unicycling, yet


    Last year, I got some birthday money to spend on “cycling”.
    Having just completed a ride of over 500K I was relaxing in Avignon with a
    Small Beer (see SB list) when along came a unicyclist. In an instant my mind was made up. I’d learn to unicycle. It took me a while, but eventually I was confident enough to demonstrate my new found skills
    in the CLS offices, building D ground and the nearby car park.

    I still can’t free mount so am not able to ride to the pub. Even if I did achieve this, I doubt I’d ever be able to make it back again.

    Reminds me of the joke about the man who only had enough money to buy a hoop and a stick. He left the hoop outside the pub. On leaving he discovered it had been nicked. Like most people he was rather upset. “How the hell am I going to get home now?”

    [Read more…]


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    September 28, 2009
  • I am banned from roller skating in IBM North Harbour

    A few years after they joined Phases 1 and 2 (F) with Phase 3 (E), by constructing building’s A to D, they introduced an automatic badge locked door at the end of D Ground. It was through this door that late departers or weekend workers could gain access to the building. As I a) worked in building F and b) did not yet have a home computer I often worked late into the night and even popped in at the weekends. I reduced my journey time within the buildings by roller skating the corridors. I could get up quite a speed on the smooth floors but had to stop quickly at the fire doors at between F and A and A and R since they only swung one way. It wasn’t long before a jobsworth security guard contacted my Manager (John “Superstar” Cowell) to tell me I was not allowed to roller skate in the offices for H&S reasons. I while later, I learnt that any easy way to get out of the building was through Goods Inwards. One night two of us attempted to depart by this route only to find our way blocked by the shutters being down. We could not get back into the building as our badges didn’t operate the nearest door. Eventually we called Security. “Hello Mr Miller”, said jobsworth. “I assume Mr Anderson is still there with you. Do you want to be let back in then?”

    [Read more…]


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Tide Times & Heights for Northney on
Saturday, 18 September 2021

Tide times from tidetimes.org.uk

Tide Times & Heights for Northney on
18th September 2021
03:20 Low Tide ( 1.03m )
11:04 High Tide ( 4.27m )
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23:18 High Tide ( 4.26m )