Letters to my sons.

Trying to explain the world to two very small children.

Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Technology woes.

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Dear Son,

at heart I am a geek, always have been and hopefully I always will be so I have some things geek to report.

First of all at work we got new computers running Microsoft’s Vista operating system. The new OS is terrible. Every time you attempt to run an application the screen dims and a pop-up box asks you if you want to run the program you just clicked on. You can’t do anything with the computer until you either click “Yes I want to run the program” or “No I don’t want to run the program I just clicked on”. Because Windows is so insecure it could be that a worm/trojan/virus has taken over your computer and is running programs and the system has no way of knowing if the program was run from a mouse click or by the afore mentioned worm/trojan/virus. So it tries to make the system secure by constantly asking if you just clicked on anything but this does not add security because eventually you just click “Okay” or “Yes” without reading the box. Pure and utter dog pooh.

Microsoft have tried to secure Vista by switching off everything useful. This is a good idea in theory but if the system were really secure it would still be secure when the deactivated services are switched on. And it isn’t. I tried to look at some files on another computer and was told that I couldn’t and that would need to enable something. I wasn’t told how or where I could enable network browsing so I had to do a Google search to find out.

When I double clicked on a file to read it the operating system told me it didn’t know which application to open the file with and asked me to click a button to see a list of applications. When I clicked on the button I didn’t get a list of applications but I got list of folders with the system expecting ME to find the application.

I have loads of example to share but it would just get even more boring than it is now. I have been spoilt by the elegance and simplicity of my OS X on my various Apple computers. A little but more expensive but worth every penny as I spend my time doing things and not fighting the operating system at every turn.

I’m not sure if I’m getting an iPhone on Friday. I have ordered one but the order is still showing “Processing”. 02 only have a handful of phones so I’m not sure if I will get one or not. I hope I do as I have a long train journey on Saturday to Newcastle. It should only take three hours but due to engineering works it will take nearer 5. I am going to pick up Grandma Audrey’s car from Uncle Phil. He doesn’t need it any more now he is going to Dubai to work so I’m going to see him before he goes and then drive the car back to London. I was thinking of taking you with me but 5 hours traveling up – some of that on a replacement bus – and then 4 to 5 hours in a car on the way back is not really a fun day out. Also we can’t stop on the way back every time you think you might need the toilet.

Hopefully we can go and see Uncle Phil in Dubai in the near future.

Written by Administrator

July 8th, 2008 at 5:45 pm

Posted in Technology

Tagged with , ,

Nerd to the bone.

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Dear Son,

I was listening to my iPod on the way home from work and getting a little frustrated at the sound quality. I’m not sure if the problem is the iPod its self or the headphones or a combination of the two but I don’t get any bass response at all.

The three types of music that I listen to require bass:

  1. Soca
  2. Dub
  3. Trance

The other stuff I listen too doesn’t have the bass emphasis. The classical music I listen too sounds fantastic but with the Soca I can’t get that Tragrette Road experience. Having said that to get that experience I would need a sound system on a lorry. The last time I spent too long next to a sound truck – on the Pure Lime sound lorry – I was deaf for a good few days. I don’t suppose it would be practical to have a sound truck following me around on the off chance that I wanted to listen to Jumbie by Scrunter but listening to it on my iPod is frustrating. The bass comes in but I can’t hear it and the feeling that I got at 4am covered in mud, grease and paint playing J’Ouvert with Mudders International in Port of Spain is missing.

I’ve just done a little experiment and it’s the iPod Nano that fails to cut the mustard. I’ll have to wait to see what the new iPhone can do. Steve Job’s didn’t mention the bass response in terms of my musical likes when he made his keynote speech on Monday – he talked about 3G and GPS and how easy it is to write apps for the iPhone but no mention of Machel.

Wining up in ah band
Jammin on ah woman
shakin down in de stand

Ah musical jumbie is roaming through de land
It have me uneasy, ah just cyah understand
Any whey ah go it like meh shadow
Make me lose control when it touch meh soul
Meh body shakin, ah doh want to stop
Cause if ah do dat, it go lick me up
It have meh…

White man cyah wine? For this one it depends on how much rum has been drunk, the more I drink the less pain I have in my knees.

Written by Administrator

June 11th, 2008 at 9:33 pm

Posted in Culture,Technology

A better future because of the life lived.

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Dear Son,

well I got a couple of things wrong yesterday. I thought you would wake at 5.30am but you actually woke around 8am. I always confused when the clocks go back and forth.

The scattering of your grandmothers ashes went really well and was quite an upbeat affair. We were scattering her ashes in a place that she loved. We took it turns to toss handfuls of the ash from the edge of the cliff where a ruined castle stood. The view was magnificent and despite the popularity of the area we weren’t disturbed by anyone passing by. The rain that had been forecast and had thundered down yesterday cleared and the sun shone. As I tossed the ashes into the air I finally felt that I was saying good bye – I am still annoyed that I can’t speak to her and tell her what you have been up to, I do enjoy these moments for themselves and I’ll try not to feel disappointed that I can’t share them. She made a real effort to keep her self alive as long as did and I must repay that with joy, not sadness. She wouldn’t have wanted me to feel sadness. I felt as if I was letting her spirit fly free over the Scottish that she so loved.

This was also a fantastic bonding exercise between the three of us – something my mother would have approved of also.

I am now on the train heading home and I heard that Newcastle have just thrashed Spurs at Whiteheart Lane, just like they did when we took you to your first football match. My spirits could not be higher than they are now.

PS I am sat opposite two guys using identical Dell computers. They don’t know each other but they did look a little annoyed when I pulled out my MacBook. Their computers have serial ports on them – when you are older and able to ask me about serial ports I will tell you all about them, UART chips – the whole boring story.

Written by Administrator

March 30th, 2008 at 4:29 pm

Interconnected lives

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Dear Son,

as technology continues to march on the idea of an Internet will slowly disappear as the system its self becomes ubiquitous. There will be no marvel that you can read your email on your mobile phone and that the half written reply is synced to your main computer so you can finish it off at home. These things will become normal, everyday occurrences but the way things are going this sort of technology is fraught with danger.

Most computer systems are not designed with security in mind, the low level checks that make sure the software can’t be exploited and taken over. The idea is to make a pretty looking program with loads of whizzy features – this is what people want and this is what sells. This mind set is very entrenched in the computer hardware and software world and at the moment the cost of a computer hacking isn’t killing anyone but in the near future it will.

Take the following quote:

“As Apple grows its market share and becomes a more mainstream operating system, there’s going to be a lot more interest in it from the whitehats and the blackhats,” said Randy Abrams, director of technical education at anti-virus provider Eset. “Apple users are going to have to get used to the same things that Microsoft and Unix users have dealt with for a long time and that’s that patches are a fact of life.”

The idea being floated is that computer software and hardware is not designed and implemented properly in the first place so get used to updating it as problems come to light.

Currently cars on the streets use physical mechanisms to speed up and slow down. When a person presses the brake pedal on their car they are pressing a mechanical device that pushes brake shoes against the wheels and when they press the accelerator they are physically opening a valve that allows more petrol to flow to the engine and therefore increase speed. But in the future this will not be the case, when a car driver presses the brake the intensity will be measured by a computer and it will then control the brake shoes; the same with the accelerator.

Cars of the future will be connected to the internet using wireless technology for navigation, work and entertainment purposes. If some one can hack you cars internet connection they would soon be able to disable your brakes and increase your speed. Even without hackers doing damage so much of today’s software is so badly written that a glitch could kill you.

There is another way of software development that builds in computer security from the start instead of trying to bolt it on at the end. There are software development methodologies that regard correctness and testing over features. There is even code review where people look at code line by line to find problems before the product is released and when they find issues they start looking again for this new issue. Not that any commercial software house seems committed to this way of doing things – for them the bottom line is more important that quality and that means more features in less time. Even non-profit software developers think being at the bleeding-edge is more important than standards, correctness and security; regularly major flaws are found in various Linux distributions and other open source software.

One descenting group from this feature-add disaster is the OpenBSD project. They believe in evolving the code over time and at all stages making security and correctness are the big issue, not features. If a feature can only be created by doing something wrong and/or insecure then it is not done.

There is nothing inevitable about having to patch a computer system every month. Patches should be seen as the exception and not the rule because the goal should be to get it right first time. This is difficult with very large projects so don’t have a large project. Have a very small project that delivers only something very limited but does it very well. When it has been tested to destruction and manages to keep working you start on the next task.

In the future our interconnected lives will depend on the rejection of the sloppy and the insistence on the correct and the secure.

Written by Administrator

November 16th, 2007 at 10:20 am

Posted in Technology

Being a nurd.

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Dear son,

I queued at the Apple Store on Regents Street on Friday night to get my hands on Mac OS 10.5 Leopard. I have an old iMac G5 that was running slowly with 10.3 and I was sure 10.5 would speed things up. And sure enough, it did.

Getting more performance from a new operating system is not some thing that happens in the Microsoft world. With each release a much more powerful machine is needed just to keep the whole thing running at the same speed as before.

While waiting in the queue with a couple of work colleagues we tried to decide on the collective noun for geeks. When I did a Google search I found some ideas but we came up with “a nurding” of geeks. Nurding being an invented verb describing the actions of a nurd.

Despite being miles away from the front of the queue we were in the shop by 10 past 6, only ten minutes after the store opened it’s doors. The great multitudes who had arrived much earlier than us to queue were busy down stairs trying to pay for their new acquisition. We went upstairs to find loads of copies and an empty set of tills and they even had free t-shirts as well.

Yesterday we had a trip into town as I needed to buy a microphone cable, some plectrums and Logic Express for my newly upgraded iMac. By leaving early and using the bus and tube, we were on Denmark Street before 10am and able to have a look in the windows of the guitar shops and buy plectgrums in the one guitar shop that was open before entering a more hi-tech shop for the essentials. After coming home for a quick spot of lunch we went to the guitar shop in Dalston to pick up my serviced guitar, which sounds fantastic now. The same people serviced my other acoustic guitar and I had it Nashville Tuned. I’m looking forward to getting my audio and MIDI interface tomorrow so I can multi-layer some guitar parts I have been working on. The guitar with the Nashville Tuning sounds fantastic and has allowed me some more creativity as the tuning is the same but at the same time very different from a traditional guitar.

We formed a duo yesterday as you played with my old Spanish guitar and I used my main acoustic. It is still some time off until we are playing together but you are getting the idea of picking one string at a time, you have been strumming and singing for a while already. Now if you could form chords and then strum …

I still need to upgrade my iMac’s memory to 2gb and buy a 500gb hard disk for backing up the computer – I’ll use Time Machine to do that, but my return to making music is happening fast. I’ll be publishing my music on PJCaudle.com, I have already published one my old pieces from 2000. I am very excited about writing and publishing more.

Written by Administrator

October 28th, 2007 at 4:14 pm

Posted in Technology

Yellow submarine.

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Dear Son,

as part of my bedroom routine with you I sing “Yellow submarine” to you right after three verses of “How Much is that doggy in the Window?”. My singing is far from pitch perfect and I don’t know all the worlds to either song so I tend to improvise and make some up.

The other morning you woke up about 3.30am and didn’t want to go back to sleep in your own cot. In the past you have fallen asleep when we have brought you into the bed with us. But the other morning you just wouldn’t go back to sleep until you started singing my version of “Yellow Submarine” to yourself. You fell asleep quite quickly after that.

In a few hours Apple is expected to announce a new line up of iPods. At the same time Paul McCartney is expected to announce that the Beatles back catalogue will be available on iTunes. If this happens it is widely expected that the Beatles could take the top 5 places in both the Album and Singles chart. I for one will be buying “Yellow Submarine” so that I can learn the correct words.

I might even spend 79 pence on “How much is that doggy in the window?” as well – I just don’t know which of the 60 versions to choose from…

Written by Administrator

September 5th, 2007 at 4:33 pm

Posted in Misc,Technology

Does CO2 cause global warming?

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Dear Son,

it is stated as a fact now that humans pumping CO2 into the atmosphere is responsible for global warming and if we don’t cut our carbon emissions then the world is doomed.

Not everyone believes this to be the case and some of the people who don’t believe that there is a link between CO2 emissions and global warming made a TV program that I videoed and got around to watching again the other day.

They pointed out that during the 1970’s the world was worried about global cooling and the start of another ice age. So much so that a Swedish guy proposed pumping CO2 into the atmosphere to heat things up a little. At the time many scientists thought pumping CO2 into the atmosphere would achieve nothing.

The program looked into the history of the global warming debate and found that the inventor was Margaret Thatcher. She fought a bloody battle with the coal miners and wanted them out of the picture, also she didn’t trust the Middle East oil producers so she decided we needed nuclear power and needed a bloody good excuse for it. With environmentalism gaining a foothold during the later part of the 1980’s she offered money to those would could prove that CO2, produced from burning coal, oil and gas, was bad. According to the program it was at this point that, on smelling the money, scientists came up with global warming caused by CO2.

They also pointed out the hypocrisy that many aid agencies and governments show when it comes to the third world having the things we take for granted – transport and electricity. The program makers visited a clinic somewhere in Africa powered by solar power. The doctor running the practise could either have the lights on, the AC on or the fridge on. And when it got dark or cloudy he had the choice of none.

The program offered solid evidence that global warming is not down to CO2 but down to the star that the earth orbits and that humans have very little control over: the sun. But the program failed on several levels. Even if CO2 doesn’t cause global warming and/or global warming is not necessarily a bad thing there is only a finite amount of oil, coal and gas left. We shouldn’t be wasting it because we don’t have a plan b to generate all the energy we currently use. Also burning fossil fuels gives off many pollutants that can cause cancer and breathing complications so using less energy is a good thing whether global warming due to CO2 exists or not as is recycling and making goods last longer before having to replace them.

The program seemed to hint that rampant consumerism could continue unabated but I don’t believe this to be the case unless we are prepared to live on an earth that is nothing more than a giant landfill site.

Whether global warming is a actually a myth, whether global warming because of human CO2 emissions is a myth, we can’t go on the way we are; throwing away millions of tons of usable things while many millions of people have nothing. A point the program failed to make.

Written by Administrator

August 29th, 2007 at 8:29 pm

Posted in Politics,Technology

PC vs Mac

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Dear Son,

I use Apple Mac computers because I can’t be bothered to fight with PC’s in the vain hope that I will eventually get them to do what I want them to do.

I am not though, a Mac zealot.

I did laugh when I read this article about why a man hates Mac’s. The man in question has a TV show on BBC4 that is not suitable for one of a tender age such as yourself but I love it.

Written by Administrator

February 6th, 2007 at 8:54 pm

Posted in Technology

CD tower is falling down.

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Dear Son,

yesterday you helped to make CD’s old technology in the Caudle household.

I bought my first CD player in 1988. It was once of the very first integrated CD’s with a cassette and radio and cost £125. In todays money, thats around £225 – but you can buy them for £40 today- the technology was new and expensive in those days. The first CD I bought was Beethoven’s 9th, I thought I was buying the 6th but misread the cover. I think the CD was £12, that would be £20 today.

I managed to blow up the CD player when I wired directly onto the battery of Camper Van. I had managed to get it working that way before but this time it took out the CD functionality. There is a lesson in there somewhere.

Since you learnt to stand up you have been using different items around the house to help you to your feet. Before you had master the art of standing on two feet you would crawl upto the CD racks in the front room and spend hours pulling CD’s out one at a time and piling them on the floor. Lately you have been pulling out a CD, inspecting the front of it and then dropping it on the floor before going for the next one.

You have been using the CD tower to help you to your feet and last night you tried to lean on it, which sent it toppleing over. Luckily I was able to grab it before it fell over but the solid metal money box on top – in the shape of a football – fell off and destroyed a plant pot.

So to stop anymore of these little mishaps all of our CD’s are in the process of being ripped to iTunes. We are then going to purchase an AirTunes device that allows us to send music to the stereo via a computer. That way we can box up all of our CD’s and remove the two CD towers from either side of the fireplace. We can also get rid of the seperate CD player and the radio. I’m not sure if we can get rid of the cassette deck, I have used it once in the last 5 years so …

I’m trying to buy an AirTunes from eBay but I’m not going to pay more than £65.74. I want a 25% discount for buying second hand and I refuse to pay a penny more. So it might be a while before we get one.

Written by Administrator

March 23rd, 2006 at 1:37 pm

Posted in Technology


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Dear Son,

this morning at around 6am I was changing your nappy, for the whole time you were preoccupied with the radio alarm clock. Maybe it was the red LED numbers that caught your eye as red tends to get your attention. This got me thinking about how you will view technology when you’re older.

When I was a kid digital watches were the height of technology. When they first came out you pressed a button on the side of the watch and the face would light up and show you the time with a red LED. The LCD watches came out and I got one for Xmas 1980. It told the time, the date and had a stop watch as well so I could time events. It even had a programmable alarm. I think this was when I became obsessed with the correct time because the watch told the full time : hours, minutes and seconds. We had a teletext TV that told the exact time so I could sync my watch everyday. Around 1984 I bought another digital watch for myself. This had 24 hour display, hourly chime (it could be set to beep every hour or every 30 minutes), a count down, stop watch and you could wear it whilst diving. All over the UK on the hour various beeps would be emitted from wrists. At the time I could see no future for analogue watches.

I got my first computer when I was 12 years old, a year after first getting a games console. Games for our Atari console cost £35 pop in 1982 when that was a lot of money, I still think it’s a lot of money now. A mobile phone is more powerful than the Sinclair Spectrum that arrived in 1982, so is an iPod. In fact my iPod Mini has a 4 gigabyte hard disk, the first Intel computer I bought in 1992 had a 40 megabyte hard disk and you couldn’t get bigger at the time.

When your cousin Lewis was born I took the early train to Newcastle and then another up to Hexham and took some pictures using an APS camera. They were developed using a one hour service the following Monday and scanned that evening and uploaded to the web. Digital cameras existed in 1999 but were very poor quality unless you had a few grand to burn.

Within minutes of your birth I had sent a picture of you to Uncle Phil using my phone and two hours after you were born I had published pictures of you on the Internet. When Lewis was born the one hour developing of photographs was a minor miracle and APS photo’s came back with a contact sheet which at the time was thought of as advanced.

You live in an age where the Internet will be ubiquitous to the extent that it will disappear. For us TV got better when a fourth channel was added, cable and satellite TV were a revelation. Your Great Grand Mother Cleaver wasn’t impressed when she first saw television. They were showing tennis and the picture quality was poor. “You can’t see the ball” was her considered opinion.

For some of us who grew up recording stuff off the radio the video recorder was a must have item. Now they are being slowly phased out as people use hard disk recording instead. That will become old hat some day soon as we have TV on demand already. Trails have started for TV on mobile phones, which also double up as MP3 players and cameras.

What ever comes next you will find normal, you don’t know a time before the Internet, mobile phones and digital cameras and when you hear us grown up’s telling stories about these times you’ll think we are old farts. And you’ll be right.

Written by Administrator

September 24th, 2005 at 9:58 pm

Posted in Technology