Post from Ubuntu

Ok, so I found out that my old monitor had somehow fried the nicer of the two graphics cards I have for my Ubuntu PC.  I installed a new card and found that my X11/Gnome/xserver didn’t like the new graphics card as it was setup by default.  After doing some googling with my laptop I managed to find out how to reconfigure the xserver to use more generic settings, and its now all working.

Its pretty cool that firefox is installed by default, at least that’s one thing I don’t have to figure out how to install for now.  Its now after midnight, so I should probably go and get some sleep.  Its not an amazingly huge start, but at least the OS is installed and the basics are working. 😀


Adventures with *nix OS’s

Since about 1992 I’ve had some brushes with various *nix’s.  My dad had SCO Xenix on his PC at home at some stage around my “senior primary” school days and I remember trying to read bits of the manuals to figure out what the heck was going on.  I was quite used to DOS back then, so this “Xenix thing” was a little odd.

Since then I’ve had to use a number of Linux flavours, FreeBSD, one of the Sun Microsystems OS’s and the OS that Silicon Graphics computers use (the last two being on varsity machines).  When it came to running any form of linux on my personal computer I’ve not had much success. 

Throughout varsity I had problems getting X-Windows to work due to various graphics driver issues, even after varsity any attempts always seemed to fall over when it came to anything graphical.

Just over a year ago my home PC lost its motherboard, and my only backup PC had Windows 98 and wouldn’t connect to my iBurst modem.  So after some searching I found out how to get iBurst connected in Linux, and I installed Ubuntu on my old varsity PC.  I was pretty suprised to find out that it actually worked quite well (even if it was a little slow because of my lack of ram and super old cpu)

At my current job we have a single Mac in the office to test out “cross platform” issues, and seeing the good old terminal window made me wonder about trying out a *nix operating system again.  This desire was probably fueled by listening to some of the Daily Source Code podcasts where Adam was talking about some of the networking stuff he was configuring, about SSH, and other typically *nix stuff.  It just sounded very geeky and thus cool.

Tonight, I cobbled together a PC based on bits from my in-laws and my old varsity PC and I’ve installed Ubuntu.  I had a few false starts (like forgetting to plug inthe hard drive), and had only one issue with the installation (setting the time zone in the install wizard seemed to hang the wizard completely).  But now I seem to have a working machine. 

I do have some hardware issues:

  • Both of the graphics cards that I have seem to be a little flaky
  • My old monitor seems to have issues coming out of “power saving” mode. So currently I cannot use my monitor at all. (I’m typing this on my laptop)

Once I’ve solved the monitor issue I plan to see if I can get all of my common applications installed on it, and to set it up as a “backup” machine.  I’d ideally like to have Firefox, Open Office, some media player, a graphics application (Picassa/GIMP?), a cool mail client, some kind of calendaring application, and a development environment (Mono + Apache + MonoDevelop/SharpDevelop?). 

If things go super well, I’d love to be able to synchronise my Creative MP3 player, connect/synch to my HTC phone, use my Cannon scanner, and print via my HP Laserjet.

But that’s all I have for now… I’m going to go and carry my creation through to the spare room to introduce it to my Windows desktop, and to plug the monitor from the windows PC into the Linux PC so that I can carry on my journey into the world of Ubuntu. (Hopefully my next post will be from the Ubuntu PC)

Development General

Code Reviews

One of my month-end deliverables this month was to have finished reviewing certain portions of code that my team has written.  I have spent the last two hours going throug 20 printed pages of code. (I print the code out because I find it a lot easier to reference multiple sections of code at once using paper than I do using a monitor)

I feel like I’m back at varsity marking pracs and tuts (which I did for 3 years) or like I’m back doing my 1 year of part time Computer Studies teaching and I’m marking the Grade 12 tests.  The 20 pages I have looked at are almost more covered in ink from my pen than in the pigments from the laser printer.  (ok, so that’s a slight exaggeration)

The code I have to review is probably 30% mine and 65% developer A, and 5% developer B.  All of us are pretty pedantic, but I’m quickly seeing trends.  I think I can now make out Developer A’s code at a distance, wearing a blindfold, with both my hands tied behind my back.  I don’t think I’ve seen any of Developer B’s code yet, but we have recently been through a rather large “refactoring” of our OO heirarchy so I think there are bits of his code which I’ve looked over tonight. And I’m still amazed at how my own code sucks.

A lot of our development has been evolving as we’ve gone along so there are some cases of really old and BAD code, right along side really new and slick code.  Then there are cases of really old and BAD code being copied and pasted into really slick and new code without even changing the comments to match their new location!

There are cases where one developer built one way of getting access to a list, and then a few months later built another way of getting access to the same list and put it right next to the first way in the code and didn’t pick up on it.  I’m not sure if I am that aware of the code that surrounds my current coding task, but I’m sure as heck going to start trying to be in future.

One of my pet peeves has been comments in the “///” comment portions ahead of method/field/property/class/etc declarations which are written assuming a fair amount of knowledge of how our system works, instead of written to explain to a new developer how the system works (I’m guilty of this too).  One of the things we’ve discussed many times is the fact that eventually we want to produce NDoc/DoxyGen documentation from our code so having comments that are not helpful is really a waste of time in the long run.  (Worse, in my mind is repeatedly starting sentences with lower case letters – something that is uber evil when you consider how many members of the the grammar police are in our team)

Fortunately, after our recent OO Architecture “Refactoring” Marathon, most of the code I am reviewing is consolidated into three main base classes, and I’ve completed the review of two of the three.  So after the next class I should have very little code left to review.

I’m still rather suprised about the amount of silly bugs we have in our code… I’ve been watching Scrub’s recently and I keep saying to myself (in the voice of Dr Cox) “Oh, my goodness barbie!  How do you get your bra and panties on in the morning all by yourself!”

I guess that’s why we have code reviews.  We try to have “debriefing” (after my “bra and panties” comment, I must say – “No, not that kind of de-briefing!”) sessions where we all try and learn from the mistakes made in code that is reviewed.  So I have LOTS of content for our next session, and hopefully I won’t see these mistakes ever again.  (I can dream, can’t I?)


So after that general badmouthing about the quality of our code, I must just say that we have a great team.  If(when) we make mistakes we learn, and code better.  The other guys are super bright and really capable (which is probably why some of th bugs shock me so much) and I’m really happy to be working with them.


Changes and Attitudes

Today we heard from an estate agent that an offer we had made on a house was accepted.  Currently I am swinging from excited to nervous and back again every few minutes.

But the story starts long before today.  In fact, you could probably say that it started just over a year ago.  Christie and I have been renting a place on a six month lease for the past two and a half years.  So every time that our lease is about to be due we wonder if we should find a house of our own.  Our lease ends at the end of August and the end of February.

Two augusts ago, we started thinking seriously about buying a house.  By February we had realised that we could not find anything in our price range that was the right size and in the right location.  Then we found a new development which was a great price and great size.  The only down sides were that it was just outside our desired area (but that could be compensated for)  and that it was near Cosmo City (not so much of a down side as a “risk factor” since it is a new suburb with low cost housing and RDP housing combined so it could be either great or really bad).

Fortunately after my dealings with legalities around my Telkom bursary at varsity, I was quite prepared to read the entire contract and do by best to understand any implications it might have.   It was a good thing that  I did that because there were a number of clauses that were very bad for the purchaser.  After much fighting with the developer who insisted that nothing was wrong, and who sounded most frustrated that I had actually read the contract and was asking to be shown the various appendices that were mentioned in the contract, I managed to get a few clauses added.  One of which stated that we had to have occupation of our unit within 12 months of signing the contract.  (We were supposed to have occupation within 6 months, so it wasn’t too unreasonable)

Now, almost 12 months later, they still haven’t started building at all.  They predict that they will start with phase one at the end of next month. Our unit is part of Phase 4, so we would only be moving in in 2008.  After recieving this news at the end of January, we decided to find somewhere else to live.

From using Private Property we managed to find one place that we absolutely loved, but unfortunately they didn’t allow pets in the complex and for us there was no point in moving to our own place and a better lifestyle if we were going to have to give up on some of our current lifestyle to get it.

This weekend we spent most of Saturday going through the weekend property section of the newspaper.  We looked through over 300 pages of adverts, cutting out the ones that were in our price range, area and size requirements.  We then sorted them into areas, and picked the ones in our most desired locations.  This whole process probably took over 8 hours to do.  I am so completely over this way of finding properties.  Online searches are definately the way to go.

On Sunday we went to see our 30 odd houses.  We made it to well over 20 of them, and found two that we liked.  After some financial calculations we made an offer on monday for the one that we liked the most, and today we got the call to say that our offer was accepted.

Its a big step for us, and not just because our “housing” expenses are more than doubling.  So I am super excited about all the nice things we can do in our soon-to-be new house (as long as the banks agree that we can afford it), but I am also slightly daunted at all of the changes that we’ll need to be making to our lifestyles for the next long while to make it affordable.  We’re saying “Bye bye” to iBurst, DSTV with PVR, our maid (although we’re hoping not), eMusic account, Audible account, KFC, Nando’s, Spur, Woolies and all the fancy clothing stores out there.  But, we’re opening up a future where we are no longer paying off someone else’s bond, one where we will have our own space, and where we can adapt it to our needs as we see fit (within “body corporate” regulations, of course).

If all goes well, we get occupation on the 1st of April 2007.  And before you think it (no, you’re not the first) this is NOT an april fools joke. Remember Gmail?  People thought it was an April fools joke and it wasn’t.  In fact, it was really good for us… just like our house will be for us.  Yay!  I’m getting older and more responsible!

Development General

Entering the new world

Yesterday I started working on moving our development to .Net 2.0.  We spent a year doing .Net 1.1 only development specifically to keep us open to the option of using Mono to create a frontend for our Mac users.  Now we have decided (and convinced everyone) that our web solution will cover the needs of the Mac users so we can move to .Net 2.0, VS.Net 2005, and even a little bit of WPF/E research.

We’re planning on getting our full product done by around June this year, when Mono is planning on having a .Net 2.0 version of their framework out, so even if we do have to build a Mac application we could use Mono 2.0 (assuming its stable).

Anyway, I’m happy. Because after a year of watching other people play with the cool toys while I’m stuck with the 3 year old model I finally get to join the ranks of the cool-toy-people.  😀 (Even more so since I got my HTC TyTN in December)


Ads that irritate me

1. The PVR ad – “Ultimate Power”, “Unlimited”… Hrm, remove the plug and its a fancy rock, and even with the power plugged in its limited as heck… Can you watch 5 channels at once?  Can you record 500 hrs of tv? Can you record more than one channel at a time?  No, No, No.  Doesn’t sound unlimited or ultimate to me.

2. CSI Miami – “When you come to the beach, remember your sunscreen, and remember your  … blah blah blah … but what ever you do, don’t commit murder”.  Hrm, yeah, that’s what I always do… Go to the beach, put on sun screen and commit murder.  Don’t you? Yeah, they go together.  Like custard and bricks, or helium and flower.  Fully, now try making some sense next time.

Geek food General

Bloemfontein and Internet Access

We’ve just arrived in bloemfontein for  a “church conference” that’s lasting the week.  Since I may need to do some work, I brought my iBurst modem from home (they cover a fair portion Bloem), and since my wife would feel left out if I had net access and not her we brought our wireless router with too.

We checked into the hotel about 45 mnutes ago and within 5 minutes our wireless network from home was up and running and super fast.  Sometimes I love technology.. It seems as if there aren’t too many iBurst users in Bloem because the network speeds are pretty cool compared to at home in Joburg.

Its the first time I’ve been anywhere and taken my internet and wifi router with me… Its super geeky, but its cool.

We could have used the hotel’s wifi, but its damned expensive. So now we can sit at the pool surfing the net wirelessly without paying an extra cent. 


Mixed blessings from FedEx

Earlier this week I bought a 4gb Creative Zen V Plus MP3 Player through a shop on eBay.  Part of the purchase was that it was shipped via FedEx.  So it starts being shipped and arrives in South Africa super quickly.  On Thursday morning I got a call to say it was in south africa and would go through customs soon.  On thursday evening I got a call from them to confirm the VAT ammount I had to pay for the import of the MP3.  They confirmed my address and confirmed that it would be delivered on Friday after 10am. I was very impressed that they’d called and communicated so well.

On Friday at about 1pm I checked the online tracking and it said that the package was “held” at the warehouse, so I called to find out what was up.  After a wait on their rather silly IVR system I spoke to a customer support lady who ensured me that it would be delivered by the close of business.

At 4:10pm, I called again to confirm that it was in fact going to be delivered before 5pm, and I was told that yes it would be, and that if it wasn’t they’d arrange delivery on Saturday.   I’m going away next week so if I don’t get it on Saturday I will have to wait for a whole week before I can get it.  I was very pleased that they’d deliver on a Saturday if there was a problem.  Up to now I’d had quite amazing customer service from them.

At 5:15pm I called again to find out what was happening, and the customer support person put me on hold while the called the driver.  The upshot of it was that I was told that the driver would not be able to deliver it to me today, and that I couldn’t get it delivered tomorrow. (Very uncool considering I’d been told repeatedly that it would be delivered today and that I was told if it didn’t get delivered it would be delivered on Saturday.)

Now that I’m home I just got an e-mail from FedEx saying that the delivery could not be made because “Customer not Available or Business
Closed”.  Which completely fails to mention the fact that actually FedEx failed to deliver it within business hours as per agreement.

So after failing to live up to the promise to deliver today, and then failing to live up to the promise to deliver on Saturday, they promptly e-mail me to say that it’s my fault for not being at work after hours so that they could deliver the parcel that they finally told me they’d not be able to deliver at all.

Anyway, tomorrow I’m going to go and collect it from their offices since I don’t want to wait a week until I can get it.


Love, Life and Relationships

At our bible study tonight we were talking about Relationships.  Its an interesting topic and I’ve heard many thoughts on the matter and sometimes I wonder if its just overdone in Christian circles.

I’m one of the overly analytical types with a fair amount of dislike for pain(especially where its avoidable) and I’ve generally had the attitude that if I want to be in emotional pain a whole lot I’d go out and “fall in love” and “out of love” with a bunch of people.  So to avoid that pain I didn’t do the whole dating thing.   Sometimes I look at people who do the whole dating thing and I’m astounded that anyone would put themselves through it.  But then I tend to be a bit over analytical sometimes and I know that often that ends up in me not enjoying life as much as I could if I just let things happen… so I can also understand the actions behind “the whole dating thing”.

I do kinda find it funny that as charismatic christians we often seem to focus so much on the whole topic of “what is dating” and “is it good or bad” and “how should we date”.  In a number of cases we end up so scared to move in any direction for fear of stepping outside of the “guidelines” that you’ll be lucky to find one “dating” couple in a church of over 500 people.  In other cases you wouldn’t see any difference in how the people in the church go about dating eachother compared to how everyone else goes about it.

I think there should be some difference in how “the whole dating thing” happens in a christian context compared to outside it since as a bible believing christian you can read in the bible that you shouldn’t have sex outside of marriage.  Of course its not stated quite so clearly as “thou shalt not have sexual relations unless thou art married”, but lots of talking about containing yourself until you are married and other such things.  So at the very least all of us “bible believing christians” should not be having sex before we get married.

Do I care if other people sleep around?  Well, yes and no.  Firstly what other people do is not my business so I really can’t judge, but I’d worry that there could be complications further down the road.  Whether its STD’s or even if its the potential embarassment of introducing your future wife to the lady who you lost your virginity to – unless your future wife is very understanding I’m sure she’ll have some issues. But that’s all speculation anyway, and I’m kinda going off the topic I wanted to write about.

WhatI really wanted to mention is that part of our discussion tonight centered around the pro’s and con’s of “the whole dating thing”, and that brought up a bunch of opinions.  Fortunately/unfortunately there is no “thou shalt date like such” rules in the bible so its all speculation and opinion.  I got to thinking about how little anyone really talks about relationships and dating.  You go to school and university to learn about academic stuff, you go to courses to learn other stuff but there is nowhere that you go to learn about “dating”.  Everyone has to make their own mistakes and learn “the hard way”.  As a society we value learning but we are forgetting to learn about the basics of life. Maybe it was just my parents who didn’t talk about “relationships”, but I’m sure I’m not alone.  We are forced to learn from our peers who really don’t know much more than we do.  We get hurt and sometimes the damage is more permanent than we realise so our future relationships become coloured by that one bad experience.  Who is there to teach us how to get over these insecurities and issues?  In my experience its generally up to us to learn ourselves.

In most other spheres of life we have some kind of guidance as to what “best practices” there are, but there seem to be none for the “dating” and “relationship” spheres.  In that sense I think its great that we talk about these things in our bible studies and churches, at least there is some guidance. 

However I must emphasise that you still need to use your own brain and actually make a decision for yourself as to what you believe is good/bad.  I remember leaving one such session about just under 10 years ago (Side thought: Its been 10 years already!!! Oh my goodness I’m getting old)where a good number of my fellow first year students completely misinterpreted what the speaker was saying and ended up with “Holding hands is evil and will cause you to have sex” while other people came out, having applied their minds to the topic, with a far healthier view. (The speaker basically had said that you should be aware of what levels of physical contact begin to fire up your passion to the point where you would/could “lose control”.) 

One good point to make is that there is no one “right answer”, or wrong answer.  You need to do what you think is right based on the values you hold.  If you act in a certain way because that’s how you were taught to act then you’re missing something.  Everyone is unique, so what works for one person won’t necessarily work for the next.  Of course there are some things that work the same for everyone like gravity. (And, in my belief, God.)

I’ve been to two churches in johannesburg since 2000 and in both of them seem to have (to varying degrees) a similar problem where a large portion of the single guys and girls are almost too scared to get in a relationship.  My current church has that problem to a lesser degree, but it is still there.

I think that’s why I enjoy my current bible study group.  I tend to be the kind of person who will “think it through 1 000 000 000 times”… I’ll analyse all emotions out of the picture before I act on something, so its nice to have someone leading the group who writes things about enjoying the emotions of love.  Its a nice counterpoint to my over analytical nature, and a great balance to the often too clinical response you might experience in many charismatic churches.

Having said all that about my over analytical nature, I must say that I really enjoyed my whole dating experience.  I dated only one person in my life (after being thought quite the freak by some of my family and friends), I married her, and after almost 2.5 years of marriage I still love her greatly and can’t imagine life without her.

General Music

Fun and Family

Weekends can be cool.  My mom is in the country this weekend.  She lives in Belgium and comes to SA once or twice a year either to do training here, or as a stopover on her way to Mocambique, Mauritius, Namibia or some other neighbouring country.


This Friday she was doing some training at Nedbank and she’s off somewhere else next week (I can’t remember right now where it is) so we (Christie and I) got to spend part of Saturday afternoon with her.  Its always kinda cool to catch up in person instead of over skype.   We’ve slowly upgraded over the years (she’s been gone for about 5.5 years now).  First it was e-mail, then some phone calls (there was some cheap calling plan she got in Belgium), and then last year we moved on to Skype when I got my iBurst.  Now we’re skyping with video when iBurst’s bandwidth is consistent enough to give a decent quality call.


Tonight Christie and I went to see a band play at Tanz Cafe called The Waiting Room.  They were actually very awesome.   Christie found out about the Gig on MySpace and so the two of us and Mari went to go see them. As it turned out we all kinda knew some of the people in the band from somewhere and it bugging us why we recognised them.


Their music is quite cool (they have some samples on myspace) and we were all kinda bummed when they left the stage so that The Garth Taylor Band could play.   We bought their CD and chatted a bit to the guys, as it turns out their one member was in a band called Big Jump Joey and we know one of their ex-members.  I knew that I knew Ryan from somewhere and eventually we found out that he goes to London Road Church in Johannesburg and their lead elder used to run the worship at our church and I’m sure I’ve seen him in their worship bands or something.   A bit later on I realised that I may have actually sung in a choir with Ryan before (either at a conference in Bloem or at a church gathering in Bedfordview).  Their CD thanks a bunch of people that Christie knows, and Mari may have sung with them in some choirs too.  So on at the end of it all we have a whole bunch of connections to them that we didn’t know about before, and if it wasn’t for Christie finding them on MySpace we would probably not know about the band.