Wednesday, June 13, 2012


This is about a word in Papiamento, Pasobra. It means 'because.' It also shows a bit how the mind works, with thesis, antithesis and synthesis. Thinking about the wrong word, Antobra (it should be anto but analogous to Pasobra it sometimes becomes Antobra), I was wondering how many languages had Pasobra; it was not from Spanish or Portuguese. I found hits for Papiamento and Tagalog, and some smaller languages in the Philippines. Thinking I had found a similarity between the two and possibly a common root, I decided to tweet about it. But it was good I did not, because checking its meaning in a Tagalog-English dictionary yielded the fact that it means 'leeway', and not 'because'. So it is a false friend instead of a common root. But then again, there is an aspect of 'leeway' in a 'because' - there might be something here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

IPad is the new terminal

Having had an iPad for more than half a year now, it is time for an evaluation. In short, it is an incredible productivity booster. If I ponder its place in the continuum that spans from phone to laptop to desktop to server to mainframe, I can only conclude that it has cleared up some misunderstandings I had about what a laptop is for. The main misunderstanding is that the laptop needs the same infrastructure and tools of the desktop; where I previously mirrored compiler levels, server software and database subsystems, the iPad has made it clear that with a portable machine, you can just connect through to your desktop 'in the cloud' and run a terminal on it. I mainly develop NetRexx and Java on Unix and MVS, so with a good ssh client and a good 3270 emulator I am ready to roll. Yesterday evening marked the first time that I ran a mainframe assembly and linkedit sitting in bed; me still believing in character mode screens and commandline compilers helps a lot in this realm. It is perfectly possible to run a logmein session to a graphical screen and run eclipse or netbeans, but it is just not worth the trouble of mousing around a compressed screen image when you can have perfectly clear type on a green screen.

This misunderstanding and the solution the iPad offered has lead to me clearing out a lot of infrastructure on the laptops; even if I sit and do desk work, I have gotten into the habit of punching through to my home machine and run all the stuff there. The bigger laptop screen and the keyboard and mouse combo cause me to do a bit more of gui work this way. Connectivity is everywhere and it hardly ever fails. I am typing this in a hospital café, waiting for my wife and her niece to return from the doctor. For the day job, where I am a manager and am not expected to do any coding, I do not have to bring a laptop anymore; what I need is access to mail, calendar and the company directory and that is expertly handled by the way the iOS apps like mail and calendar interface with exchange.

The new way of handling these things forced me to put more memory in the home desktop; while I got by with 2GB from 2000-2010 (around the turn of the century that was a lot, lately it was laughing stock for IT buddies), I switched to 18 GB two weeks ago. Most of the stuff I use just keeps running, like office apps, pdf viewer and iTunes, as is a TV receiver for KPN's digitenne. Also, several mainframe operating systems, like MVS 3.8, MUSIC/SP and Linux on Z, keep running so I can get to those environments from everywhere. I even keep VM's with Windows and OS/2 around, for those 'just in case' situations, as I do with a Linux on Intel image.

So for the moment, the future is with the iPad and in the cloud. A private cloud for the moment, unless someone makes me a competitive offer.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Natural Keys

Triggered by the newspaper clipping about the poor Colombian guy who finally can rest assured he can travel without being harassed, because his namesake, the FARC leader, has been bombed to death, I wanted to make a point about natural keys. It is very unprofessional to use someones name as a key to a database. That nonewithstanding, all no-fly lists, blacklists and government databases do just that. Media are rife with stories about 5-year old boys that are stopped at every checkpoint because they share a name with a suspected terrorist. There should be a law to outlaw natural keys; it would make life less difficult and would stop mindless bureaucrats, because they do not know what it means.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Where is your smile today?

While catching the tail portion of Steward Copeland's Police documentary last night something got hold in a particular brain department, apparently, because I woke up with Curved Air and "Backstreet Luv" in my head this morning. This must be because Steward was once drummer of Curved Air and married to its singer.

Even funnier, when listening to it on YouTube - dig that Minimoog and the Rhodes - I even remembered what the next song was in the 19-seventies Radio Noordzee radio show that I heard it on: that was "Magic Carpet Ride" by Steppenwolf. Man, those were the days.

Though I must say that I thoroughly enjoy being able to Google for songs these days and finding them on Youtube; it used to be that it passed by quickly on the radio, your only chance to get it was going to the record shop, where more often than not the salesperson "never heard of that, are you sure" made you doubt there even was such a song. That is, if you were lucky enough to catch the announcement. Otherwise you were forced to sing it.

Nowadays that is even solved by SoundHound. Man, these are the days!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Beatles - Chronology

This probably will be an incremental blog entry, because I just started to discover things. I made an iTunes list (on my personal machine for now) that lists all Beatle recordings chronologically, using Mark Lewisohn's "The complete Beatles chronogy" and "Revolution in the head" by Ian MacDonald. Of course I read these books time and again, but only yesterday it occurred to me to actually compose a playlist in the running order of their recordings. I must say, it delivers quite some insights. For example, three songs with very strong guitar riffage were recorded in mid-October 1965 within two days: Drive my Car, Day Tripper and If I Needed Someone were recorded straight after another. But, Day Tripper was a single and was not included on Rubber Soul, and the other two were sequenced far apart on the album.

Another observation is that the three EMI versions of Love Me do show that the replacement of Pete Best was inevitable, and how brilliant and much more interesting the Ringo version is than the Andy White version, when placed close together.

Also, She Loves You is surrounded by lesser material from other writers. Clear is that I Want To Hold Your Hand is recorded around the time that She Loves You is high in the charts, and from that moment on, the density of own material increases - only then, probably, they were trusted enough from a hit making potential point of view.

I Feel Fine and She's a Woman were recorded during Beatles For Sale and indicate a dearth of own material. The sequencing of the albums and the leaving off of singles in that period and the main reasons that this chronology offers these insights.

At the end of the collaboration, Abbey Road is a lot less coherent that it seems on the final sequenced album- almost all recording after the Brian Epstein era seems less organized and coherent, with no big differences between the White Album, Let It Be and Abbey Road.

Wherever possible, I used the versions from the Mono Mixes and for Let It Be, the Let It Be (Naked) versions - for the sole reason of that these must be close to what they heard themselves in this day to day chronology.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Retroactive Continuity in Copyright

This caused some thought last week: what happens if a someone publishes something on the net for free and for the whole world to dowload, and then decides to finally put it behind the firewall again. A few years ago I downloaded a whole bunch of very interesting articles from the research journal of this large IT company - well very interesting if you are an IT historian, and I noticed they are for sale for $27.99 apiece now from the same website. I see I made an incredible amount of money in that short time, almost as much as my uncle who went on that boat trip where the booze was cheap.

Now if we take the copyright notices seriously, I cannot put these articles up on a website. I could have linked to them earlier, but those links are worthless for people that are not going to buy them. My thought here is that the content has been put into the public domain years earlier. I could search the net and look if the content behind the links was archived earlier. I can freely link to that. The large company should have issued takedown notices; and not exercised copyright is - well, not exercised.

Now if I was in the business of having an internet archive, I would have put them online. Actually I can start being an internet archive any day, and use anything that I have ever downloaded for free. I can put up anything that I did not receive takedown notices for - yet. The interesting part here is that it is not the thoughts here that are copyrighted - they could have been patented but that is a different ballgame. If I re-tell the content of these articles, I can put it in wikipedia without consequence. It is only the media, in this case a bunch of ones and zeroes following the structure of a file containing pdf, which is fortunately as open as something that is patented and copyrighted can be. If I watermark these files with my own IP, I have added content of my own. I will offer to cross-licence that to everyone sending me a takedown notice. If they send me a takedown notice, they must have knowledge of that content.

It is time to end this madness. We have paid already for all of this. If it is research done with public funding, it is ours. If it was produced by a company, we have paid for it by buying the products of that company. If we did not do that, the company would have gone under. Most of those companies' early research was done under US defense sponsorship anyway. When I started out in IT, thought was free and operating systems were given out on tape and microfiche. We would learn from each others work. Programmers from different companies exchanged ideas and programs. This was to the benefit of all. Now knowledge is closed and people in my trade have to be 'certified' by paid for teaching programs of which the content offends the intellect.

Ironically, government regulation forced IBM to close down operating system source and government regulation forced Microsoft to abandon their everything-will-be-Unix strategy. Picture and music companies are now stifling intellectual development - by putting out dumb pictures and bad music and protecting them so vigourously that there is a knock-on effect on intellectual history. This certainly is a lose-lose scenario. The dumbing down works both ways, and the governments have, as always, no clue. Here is a novel idea: let's spend a fortune of our defense budget on fundamental research like in the fifties and sixties, planning for the next war - and then just not have that war, stay home, and call it win-win.

This, by the way, is the difference between the true left and right. The true left should be OK with spending a fortune on defense budgets as long as it is not spent on war. The true right wants to go to war, accuses the government of socialism and then pockets the government industry crisis bail-out money.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Kuyaviak goes funky

Too stingy to buy stuff recorded on LP records anew on digital media - rather spending countless more expensive hours on digitizing them, I have made an exception for stuff I only have on cassette tape. The straightforward reasoning here is that I do not have any working cassette tape player anymore - and what does one do when waking up with a song in ones head?

iTunes to the rescue. Damn. Dayem! The music was so much better then. I downloaded some Jeff Beck group albums. "Rough and Ready" is a masterpiece, never mind the proto-hardrock vocals (they would have been Rod Stewards if Jeff did not have that car crash that broke up his first Group). The solo in Train Train was clearly the reason I started playing.

But this morning, for no apparent reason I woke up with a song that I did not hear for - well - 30 years? - which is Chinatown by Michal Urbaniak, the Polish Jazz Fusion Violinist. It is from Fusion III of 1975, but that took some Googling while on a phone conference. What a great album, why don't they make such music anymore, weird and way out, but melodic and full of drive and energy. Zbigniev Namyslovksy's Kuyaviak Goes Funky is also on there, as are some hardcore wordless vocals from Urszula Duziak.

It seems that my music processing has caught up till at least the early seventies. Odd that hardcore fusion stuff pops up in your head after an evening of hardcore coding. Well, my head, maybe not yours. Fusion III is playing now and pages in most of the seventies and early eighties. Next will probably be Herbie Hancock, Jean-Luc Ponty and Mahavishnu.