• Driving lessons

    I learnt to drive in the IBM Havant car park. On my second lesson I nearly kangaroo’d backwards into the Building 27 machine rooms. At the tender age of 16 years, 11 months and 28 days
    my Dad said I could have my first driving lesson, round the IBM Havant car park.

    There was a lot of kangarooing and my cornering was something to behold.

    If you ever want to experience how I first attempted turning right then try this technique.

    Day 1:
    Stop at junction
    When clear, attempt to move off, limiting the kangarooing as much as possible.
    Turn the wheel to attempt to steer round the corner
    But don’t quite turn it enough, so that you mount the pavement with the nearside wheels.
    All the while continue to look straight ahead at where you WERE going.

    Day 2: repeat day 1 but this time stall when one wheel is mounted on the kerb.
    On advice from parent, put vehicle into reverse.
    Kangaroo backwards as fast as you can so that you cross the main road, mount the kerb
    then manage to mount another rise of 9 inches or so.
    Finally come to rest half way up the earth mound leading to the Building 27 machine rooms.
    If you get the kangarooing right the underside of the car is undamaged.

    Day 3: Aged 17! Hooray. But Dad too tired to let me drive.

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    September 28, 2009
  • It’s not my mistake but I can fix it

    I once closed a Severity 1 APAR (bug) as “User error” – then re-released every module in the online system to correct it.

    The system was HVP (High Volume Products – an internal ordering system)
    I was responsible for the rewrite of the online system. Each online program had an edit on a list of country numbers. I asked the user’s if this list would ever change.
    They said no. So I coded it as a static array.

    6 months into production they decided another country number was needed. Had I closed the problem as a “SUG”=suggestion then they would have needed to raise a change request. But this was urgent so I closed it as “USE”=User Error, made the change, and re-released every module in the online system.

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    September 28, 2009
  • If at first you don’t succeed, don’t try again

    I once brought down both the Development and Production mainframes by running the same SQL query on both of them.


    When we first started using DB2 the performance was not good enough for online production systems but was OK for decision support.

    We had a system where the developers had access to both the development environment and production systems.Since it was a read only system, we could not do much harm; except if we wrote a long running SQL query.

    Well one day I ran a very simple query that didn’t produce the output instantly, as previously experienced. After a big delay I commented “That’s not supposed to happen” and then proceeded to demonstrate to the ‘stupid question asker’ what was supposed to happen.
    “See, it works on production!” I said, rather too soon.

    The queries running on both machines were using a shared swapping drive
    and trying to write an awful lot of temporary data to the drives.
    The only way to fix it was to reboot both machines.

    Fortunately for me we were able to blame the DBA for not running runstats after a reorg.

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    September 28, 2009
  • The Silver Bullet list

    There are now over 1400 entries in the Silver Bullet (SB) list (example Saxon Base)

    When I was working for Chris Winter on the Silver Bullet project we started a collection of word pairs where the first word started with an S and the second started with a B

    The list now contains over 1400 unique pairs.
    They were categorised as follows Example


    – – OK Silver Bullet
    ? – don’t know about this. Need to check. Singing bobby
    b – brand name Sensor blade
    c – cheat Sauteed bunny – alternative to Jugged hare
    d – disastrous failure Banana Splits
    f – foreign Sacre bleu
    n – name Sergeant Bilko
    p – place Sunset Boulevard
    q – questionable Stripy B – the middle letter of the IBM logo
    s – sick or stupid Safe bonk
    x – x-rated Silly Bunt

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    September 28, 2009
  • 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

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