Archive for the ‘General’ Category.

Blame it on Excel

Mr. Dvorak of PC Magazine figured it out — spreadsheets are responsible for the mortgage crisis, Enron and similar. Considering that Excel holds more than 70% of the market share, the culprit is obvious. At first I thought this to be ridiculous, but then decided to give him  a benefit of a doubt.

Here is what I have found out. Seems that the root problem is in the VBA — on some installations it is possible to run the following:

Sub Loot()
    On Error GoTo PROC_ERR
   
    Application.Global = True
    Application.AnyWayPossible = True
    Application.DamnTheConsequences = True 
    Do
        Application.MoveOtherPeoplesMoneyIntoMyAccount = True
    Loop
     
PROC_EXIT:
    Exit Sub
 
PROC_ERR:
    Application.BlameMarkets = True
    Application.GoToCaribbean = True
    Debug.Print "Shit happens :) "
    Resume PROC_EXIT
End Sub

As you can see, there are some undocumented properties of the Application object which are not installed with standard Excel editions. Obviously, Microsoft has a special edition for their VIP customers.

On SOA

There is a tree outside my window, a small one, rooted in a narrow strip of dirt running along the building — a builder's idea of an urban green area. It made it to the mid-second floor. I don't think it will ever grow big, they never do — not enough soil. It's January, –20C outside; a few dry leafs still hanging on.

When it flowers, bees show up. When green, small birds hide in the crown. On hot summer days, humans water the grass. Each interaction implies an exchange, each party benefits somehow.

Apparently, this type of SOA has been functioning quite well for a very long time now — though, I can not figure out where the WSDL is.

Further reading: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Phoebe the cat twitters

For all of you following phoebe_cat on twitter, considering getting your pet to tweet. For this example you will need:

Steps to take:

  1. Install Python;
  2. Copy the two phoebe_*.py files into a directory;
  3. Open a twitter account for your pet;
  4. In the last line of the phoebe_tweets.py fill-in the twitter name and the password;
  5. Modify the talk list in the phoebe_text.py.
  6. Set a task in Windows scheduler (or an equivalent for Mac/Linux) to run the phoebe_tweets.py every two to three hours. Have mercy, twitter is overloaded as is — once in two hours is plenty.

Note:
If you already have Python installed, just try it. It should work with 2.6.x, not sure about 3.0.

I found the core tweet code on the web, would like to give credit to the author, but have forgotten where I found it; sorry.

Alphabet soup

BPM, CEP, BPMN, BEP, PLC, CLB, MTBF; between Sandy and me we use quite a few acronyms in this household. Enough for me to try to sort them out; here is a link with the most commonly used ones, including Wikpiedia links and HTML elements.

Update thyself

It is inevitable that the recent financial crunch will re-shuffle lots of people around. Even if you feel recession-proof (good for you) it is still prudent to keep your professional network data current. So please, go to the LinkedIn and update your profile. On average, a person in "my network" has access to about 2000 people on the second level and more than 100000 on the third level, so keep your data current. Make sure that your primary email address (log-in) is your private email address, although you should include all of your business email addresses on your profile so that people can find you that way.

Few more notes on the email address.

In general, people have one or more of the following:

  • Office email;
  • Home email, tied to the Internet service provider (Rogers, Bell, ATT);
  • Web mail like: Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail.

If you change employment, you change the office email. If you move, you (may or may not) change the Internet provider. Web mail stays with you regardless of both changes.

Get a web email (freebie) and make it your primary LinkedIn address; write it down along with the password and keep it safe. It is amazing how many people can not remember their login/password once they leave a company--guess where it gets emailed when you ask for help.

Interestingly enough, Sandy decided to blog about the subject too, check it out.

P.S.  If you forgot your log-in email simply ask one of your contacts to look it up.

Told you so

"The financial crisis that began in August 2007 and reached its crescendo in the past month..."; read the full article from The Times. After that see the post from November 2007 and count back 90 days from the post date. I reserve the bragging rights.

HDTV OTA

The other day we decided to try out the HDTV reception over the air (OTA). We are close to the CN tower, but facing away from it and shielded from the signal by a building. For starters I ordered a  nice indoor antenna from DELL. Works nice, however could not pick up more than three channels in one position. For more channels we had to constantly move the antenna. Tried it at a neighbour’s who faces the tower, perfect. However, we have to rely on signal-bounce and this one seem to be too directional for that.

Good news was that it was a time to tinker a bit. It has been a long time since I calculated some antennae, but with a help of the ARRL Handbook and some web search I was quickly in business.


Here are some antenna configurations I have tried:

  • two spoons (tea spoon-dipole),
  • two paper clips,
  • two tape measures,
  • tape measure + tea strainer,
  • coat hanger antenna (without reflector),
  • aluminium foil + resistor (T2FD = tilted terminated folded dipole).

All of the above configurations worked as well as the fancy commercial antenna, check out some pictures. The last one proved to be the best, we get six channels in one spot and takes a small move to get one more channel.

This is what it takes:

  • Some aluminium foil (usually found in the kitchen).
  • One 390 OHM resistor (1/8 or 1/4 W).
  • TV matching transformer 300 to 75 Ohm (cost = $1).
  • A piece of coax cable (already attached to the TV).
  • Scotch tape to keep it in place.


This works better (at our location) than the fancy commercial antenna. At the end it was mounted on a 12-inch wooden ruler and a wooden salad-spatula bracket was added to support the transformer and the coaxial cable. A nut (1/4) was super-glued to the bottom of the spatula to allow tripod-mounting. Anything looks good mounted on a tripod. Here is the final configuration.

With this we can get the following HDTV channels:

Station Channel (DTV) Frequency (MHZ)
CBC 20-1 (5-1) 507
CTV 40-1 (9-1) 627
Omni2 44-1 651
City TV 53-1 705
Omni1 64-2 771
Global 65-1 777
Sun TV 66-1 783


If you feel like trying, and are close enough to the tower, here is the procedure:

  1. Find a 12 inch wooden ruler or piece of cardboard 12×2 inches;
  2. cover it with aluminium foil and secure the foil using scotch tape;
  3. download the template and print it, make sure it is not resized during the print;
  4. place the template over the foil and cut through with an X-Acto knife;
  5. remove the excess foil, make sure the loop stays aligned;
  6. mount the ruler on a support (a spatula will do) to form a T, using glue or adhesive pads;
  7. mount the TV matching transformer to the spatula;
  8. slide the transformer leads below the aluminium foil and tape over;
  9. slide the resistor leads below the foil and tape it in place;
  10. attach the coaxial cable to the digital signal input of your TV.

Notes:

  • Your TV must have a digital (ATSC) tuner for this to work.
  • Somewhere in the TV setup menu you should select antenna instead of the cable input.

Creepy-crawly robots

Yuck, amazing.