Ancient Hardware

I have to get a funding proposal in by tomorrow (well, okay, it's after midnight, so by today). They have an online form and a strange RTF financial form that is formatted with some strange Japanese font, no problem, we'll just fill this out and.... oops! "Please print out the form, sign it, and send it in."

Okay, it is just for in-house funding, but still. I filled out the form, made PDFs, sent them off by email, and then set about trying to print them. I would normally have just driven about 10 km to a friend I know who has a printer, but they are on vacation and won't be back until next week.

We have an old, cast-off printer here that uses a parallel port (remember those?). They seem to have left a parallel port off of the MacPro, but not to worry, we have an ancient Windoof box here that has music on it, sort of an old-style iPod. And it has a parallel port, yeah!

Got that installed then went to get the PDF files. The new MacBookPro has both USB ports next to each other on the left side. But Internet connection + mouse + stick is one too many, but luckily we can live without the mouse. Except that the Internet tail and the USB stick don't fit side by side. So I dug around for a USB extension (we have more cables and power cords here than you can shake a stick at) and managed to get the files onto the stick.

I tranferred the extension to the ancient box (that luckily has both a DVD reader and USB ports) and clicked on the first PDF. There was, however, no Acrobat Reader installed. Acrobat Photoshop Elements felt responsible for the file, and opened it up. But it had trouble and asked me if it could please raster the PDF. Okay, I smelled trouble, but let it have it's way.

It looked fishy on the screen, so I just had it print one page, as we didn't really have a lot of paper in a decent color that doesn't have printing on one side. For some reason I have red and green and blue and yellow and orange here, but no white or eco.

It came out green and with anti-aliased text. It looked like sh*t.

But not to fear, WiseMan had wisely lugged a box of c't DVDs with him that had tons of free software on them. Except they don't put Acrobat Reader on them anymore because everyone has it. Digging back I find an oldish one with the reader - hurrah! I set about installing it, man this takes forever. Finally all is clicked and clacked, and I start it up. It wants to go online. No, sweetheart, this guy doesn't do online. And WTF do you need to go online for? I click "stay offline" and it barks at me that I have rejected the terms of service so I can't use the system. Bang. End.

I can't believe they are so stupid, so I try it again, same song, second verse. You can't use their free reader if you can't go online to say yes to some EULA.

I dig back through the DVD and find the PDF Action Reader Free. I install it, and it does just what I want it to. Reads the PDF. Prints on the asthmatic printer. In black. With crisp edges. Waits patiently while I go find more paper for the last page. Recognizes when the printer is happy again and continues.

I blasted the Adobe reader from the disk, their Adobe Updater (which regularly crashes Adobe products on my Mac) has made me hate Adobe, and this incident does not help improve things.

So, the proposal is now signed, and I even found an unused envelope! Tomorrow morning I head for the county seat where they have a store that sells stamps (the post office closed years ago) and a mailbox. The letter will go from here to Malmö to Stockholm to Copenhagen to Frankfurt to Berlin and will take 4 days, although Malmö and Copenhagen are within spitting distance, things have to follow the hub and spoke design so popular these days. A friend recently biked the distance in 1 1/2 days...

Wish me luck on getting the funding, it will make a great project!



I'm dizzy. I was going to read, but then the film seemed so different. In color, and the film I thought was Vertigo was in black and white. So maybe I had always heard tell of the film and never really saw it.

Strange. The year is given as 1996. I thought Hitchcock died in the early 80s. I let the book lie and got drawn in to the swirling story, getting crazier and crazier as it goes along. Here and there there are somehow familiar bits. And then Madeline enters the church. The film is now black and white on the stairs - and yes, this scene I know very well, as well as many that follow.

I see: this is a restauration! The film rights were bought back by Hitchcock, who was disappointed that the film wasn't a winner, and given to his daughter. She sat on this one and 4 others for 30 (!) years, finally permitting it to be restored. Apparently, it was filmed in Technicolor, so it is just me not remembering anything but those stairs.

Ah, the stair shots - apparently done sideways with a miniature using a "trombone" shot, zooming out and tracking in to give everyone watching a dose of vertigo. Apparently invented by Irmin Roberts.

Midge's face haunts me - where do I know that from? Ahh, the wise IMDB knows all. In later years she was Miss Ellie in Dallas!

Now, I watched it in Sweden, so after the last credits, we have a figure, dressed modernly all in white. Next to her are words in gold - the 7 deadly sins, in Swedish. She says: Sin. Deadly sin. And some more stuff. And then there is an email address for you to write to with what you think is a sin. I looked for it on the program, I can't find it. Maybe I dreamt it.


The Enchantment of Lily Dahl

Next on the pile of summer reading books is Siri Hustvedt, The Enchantment of Lily Dahl. It's the story of 19-year-old Lily who lives in a small town in Minnesota. She's graduated from high school, loves the theater and Marylin Monroe, and works in a café on the early bird shift, waiting for life to happen.

A thirtysomething from New York comes to town, and incites a lot of gossip and a lot of interest on the part of Lily. There are also some mighty strange goings on in town, lots of dark secrets and hidden loves and gossip, gossip, gossip.

It was quickly read, enjoyable, and discusses in detail Skakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream" (do I see some parallels here?) - which the local, small town summer opera group will be putting on in 1o days. I must go see their version!

Outdoor Online Conference

I registered for a "webinar" today about a topic I am very interested in. They use WebEx (which sounds like a product to get rid of the web) as their conferencing software. It displays desktop = slides of the presenter, has a text chat, a hand-raiser, a notes box (good idea) and a video tab in which 4 people's video can be shown. In order to get into the audio, you call a toll-free number, there is one for the US and one International.

Now I don't trust my Swedish mobile phone to not deduct me anyway - they charge me even when the other end is busy and to receive SMS, which bugs me. So I used Skype. Hmm, is Skype US or International? Since I had to choose a country, I chose the US and dialed the 888 number. I had to enter in a code I was sent by email, and I was in a train station audio conference, everyone can hear everyone.

It was still 10 minutes to go, so I played around with the video with a friend who was also attending the webinar. Rather good quality, but I was the only one sending.

I was outdoors, it was sunny and warm, and the leaves were rustling in the back ground. Just as the webinar was beginning, my phone rang. I didn't even recognize it as my phone, as it is a new one. The dog next door began barking, and with horror I realized that I was sending telephone + dog + leaves rustling + all these birds + the motor bike zipping by to all of the participants. And I couldn't find the mike-off button, which Skype gracefully hides from you once you begin talking. So I missed the start of the conference turning off the phone and scrabbling for the mike. I don't even know where it is hiding on my MacBookPro so I could put my thumb on it!

I realized then that the "quiet outdoors" is actually not really quiet! Although the Internet connection was great - 40 minutes with application sharing and audio via Skype and not one breakdown. Must be because the satellites are in full view.

Additional problem with outdoor surfing: This time of year in this part of the country, the birch trees shed seeds like you would not believe. I keep blowing them off the keyboard, but there are alwasy more to come. You can't even keep a drink next to you, it gets covered in the seeds. But hey, the sun is out, white clouds, blue sky, green leaves - nice place to work, just not so hot for conferencing.


No mobile phone? No relief...

We all know that the Swedes love of mobile phones and person-numbers is unbounded, but this is ridiculous.

Sydsvenskan reports that in the People's Park in Malmö (Folketspark) you now no longer pay in coins to use the restrooms, but you send an SMS to a specified telephone number with the number of the door you want opened. The fee is debited and your special secret code is SMSed back to you. You enter this code on the key pad, and they you can finally get some relief. They do this not only to save having to empty the coins, but also so that if the toilet is dirtied, they can identify you because they save your mobile phone number.

What do you do if you have to pee and don't read Swedish or have a mobile phone with a Swedish number? Well, there are other facilities elsewhere in the park.

I would have thought that this was an April Fool's joke, but it's July. One would have thought that Sweden already had Big Brother everywhere (although Amazon is doing a much more effective job, deleting Orwell's 1984 from their Kindles) - doing your taxes is easy, the government sends you your tax form already filled out. You send in an SMS with the code printed on the form if you are happy with this and don't have anything to tell the government it doesn't already know. But it appears that there are creative Swedes looking for even more areas of privacy to invade.

The Bone Collector

Now I understand why WiseMan has rather disappeared from society while reading a Jeffery Deaver mystery story. He insisted that I start from the top, so I just bunged "The Bone Collector" into the pile for summer reading.

Brrrrrrrrr. And wonderful. I just love the logic used to lurch on to the next step. Can't really say anything here, as that would ruin your enjoyment of the book. Don't see the movie - apparently they trashed the book to make it "better" in Hollywood manner. I fixed up the Wikipedia entry on Lincoln Rhyme, and then wished I had brought all the others with me. Oh well, there are quite a number of other ones in the pile. But I really could not do much else until I had the book finished, about 2 am last night :)


Baltic Beach and Android

We visited a friend today who lives near the Baltic Sea. The last few days have been a mixture of rain and sun, hot and cold. Normally we have a day on the beach together, but we decided to just visit and maybe use the grill if the weather was nice.

But since it didn't rain all afternoon, we piled into the car and drove down to the beach. It was very windy and overcast, the water just above freezing (17 degrees Celsius).

We walked a good ways along the beach, when suddenly the sun came out! We quickly decided to just sit down and enjoy it, even if we had no beach blanket, books, or beverages along! The sand had been pounded flat and hard by the rain, and no one had been walking along this way except some birds and someone with a very big dog. But you could dig your hands and feet in, wiggle around a bit, and have a perfect chair for yourself.

Ten minutes. Twenty minutes. And still the sun shone! We started to get hungry, so we gave up on the beach and headed back to grill. As we were grilling we saw this big thunderhead making its way towards us. We managed to eat, have coffee, get in the car, and then drive into it.

I made a wonderful picture of it with my Android, but I can only transfer it to my Mac by uploading it to the Internet! The USB cable won't work, Bluetooth won't work, even opening up the Airport with Internet sharing won't get this brick to work. So I'll have to break the Mac's Internet connection, get the SIM card out of the web'n'walk stick, put it in the Android, log on, upload the picture, put the SIM back into the stick, and then pull the picture back down.

Drat. What is the point of a brick like this if it doesn't share nicely?

Update: If you connect up with the USB cable and stroke down on the teeny tiny USB symbol that appears, then you get an option to turn on the USB as a file system. And suddenly iPhone recognizes the pictures. So here you go, my thunderhead!



We have Norwegian guests this evening and I was telling them about working for Norsk Data. Yes, they remember the wonderful (Tandberg) keyboards. I mentioned that there is now an emulator for a PC for the Sintran operating system.

"What would be the point in that?"

"There is no point. It's just to prove that you can do it."

Glen or Glenda

A student mentioned Ed Wood as being the worst director of all times. A short bit of research turned up the wonderfully horrible B movies that he made, such as Glen and Glenda. The usual suspects brought some friends and after a nice dinner we put the DVD on that WiseMan had happily ordered for us.

The "acting" is just so atrocious, they have managed to learn their lines, and are saying them. It is a pretend-documentary, with so many absolutely crazy lines such as hats causing baldness. The dialogues are so trite, so repetitive at times, it causes much mirth. The devil at his wedding in a dream is so amusing, the way he assists the priest. And Béla Lugosi (better known as Count Dracula) as the Scientist trying to be scary is just hilarious.

And the "special effects" are rather like something the kids did when they were nine. Now you see him, now you don't (duh, stop the camera, everyone freeze, the disappearer goes away, the camera starts again: magic!). The scene in which Glen/da's girlfriend gives him her angora sweater is just plain thigh-slapping.

We had a marvelous time. "Beware, take care, of the big green dragon that sits on your doorstep." Whatever that means.


Beer Here

I asked WiseMan this morning if he wanted any beer from the beverage market, since I will be gone with the car for 2 weeks. "Oh no, I don't need beer," he said.

Fine. I walked to the local market, got stuff for the weekend and had just put stuff in the fridge when WiseMan came back from the post office. "Shall I come along?" "Okay, why not?"

We returned with two cases and two six-packs of beer, along with the water and coke I was going for.

School's out!

Well, I still have a pile of exercises to grade and final grades to calculate and enter into the system and my desk to pack. But it's over!

I had the final class with my Master's seminar. I have taught these students for 5 years, I was the one who greeted them on the first day, I taught them programming and software engineering (in English!), some did E-Learning with me and other odd courses. Last semester we did Talk Presentation together (in English!) and this semester, in parallel with them writing their theses, we did a seminar.

We had an all-day writing workshop today, the final day of class. They have a few more weeks to hand in, but this is the end of classes. I was so proud to be reading the texts that they had written on such varied topics and to see what a great job they are doing.

We roped a younger semester into taking a picture of them and me after the last class, and then we went for coffee and cake down at the cafe on the river. We spoke a bit about their studies. Was it worth it? YES! V. noted that they had learned to deal with complicated material, get it sorted out and solved. Indeed, this was exactly what they were to learn. They laughed at all the hard work (writing complete sentences!) I made them do during the years. And yes, I was right, it was very important for them.

It will be fun seeing how they go on now in life - what kind of jobs will they get, will they be different than the ones from their Bachelor program who went into industry?

Learning to read Icelandic

Brainerror asks in a comment how to best go about learning to read Icelandic.

Bragi heitir einn. Hann er ágætur að speki og mest að málsnilld og orðfimi. (Snorra-Edda)
I'm just a learner, not a teacher, but the number of available books is rather small.
  • We used Learning Icelandic by Auður Einarsdóttir, Guðrún Theodórsdóttir, Mária Garðarsdóttir og Sigríður Þorvaldsdóttir in the course we took two years ago in Ísafjörður. It is great on colloquial speech and just enough grammar to get along.
  • There's an online course from the Háskoli Íslands. It is a bit childish at times and tiring, but there is some good stuff here.
  • There is a great collection of self-teaching material at the Humboldt University: Project Bragi. (Disclaimer - I had a great bunch of students get this moved to a database-based, multilingual version many years ago. It is still great!)
  • There's an active group at LearningIcelandic at yahoogroups.com that discusses the finer points of translations.
  • If your eyes can stand it (Icelanders seem to *love* moving, blinking, flashing animations in 57 colors and 18 fonts on the same page) you can try and wade through Mogga (the online version of the daily newspaper Morgunblaðið) using the great online Icelandic dictionary provided online by the University of Wisconson
Have fun!

One God is called Bragi. He is famous for wisdom and most of all for eloquence and skill with word. (The Prose Edda)



Ach. The light-rail trains in Berlin are only running on half-schedule, with some lines completely out. The federal train oversight board had warned the S-Bahn to check their wheels, and again after an accident a few months ago.
"Yeah, sure, we'll do a special check," they had said. And ignored the request.

The federal train oversight board hit back, requiring about 1/3 of the fleet to be taken out of service immediately, and threatening to revoke the license of the S-Bahn, which is a 100% daughter of the German DB train system. They were planning on going public, and were in the process of bleeding their daughters dry. The S-Bahn in Berlin paid a whopping 32 million Euros to Mama last year, and was expected to pony up 50 million this year. The "savings" were created by closing up the shops, junking old but servicable cars, and firing skilled workers.

So now they have not enough room in the shops, not enough skilled workers, and not enough money. And the Berliners are madder than all get out. The Berlin government reduced their monthly payment by a third.

I should be so lucky - we bought a monthly pass just a day before this all started. I used to need 50 minutes to work, the car takes 25 on a good day. Now, with the trains running only every 20 minutes, I need 70 minutes to get to work. Standing. In a hot, packed car (because they shortened the train sets). Okay, there's a lot of traffic now that many people are driving instead, but I was really angry about the now useless monthly pass.

The ChaoS-Bahn announced that all yearly ticket holders who were still with them in December would ride for free. On all of the Berlin public transport, not just the S-Bahn. Well, whoopdiedoo, but what about us poor folk who bought monthly passes and not yearly ones? I wrote a nastygram asking for them to refund half my money. I thought that was appropriate.

Today there was a loooooong call on the answering machine. From the S-Bahn. An apologetic older gentleman wanted to tell me in person how sorry he is that the S-Bahn screwed up and everyone is doing the best they can. But there are no plans to reimburse monthly pass holders. I can, however, purchase a yearly ticket (!) and then I will get an extra free month!

You kind of have to admire the logic - great for them, but this chaos is projected to continue on until fall. I think I'll pass on this offer.


Der die was?

I was given "Der, die, was?: Ein Amerikaner im Sprachlabyrinth" by David Bergmann for my birthday. Since I have a bit of trouble keeping der/die/das sorted out (I mean, come on, we only need "the" in English"), I thought this would be interesting.

And there was some occasional insight, but mostly it was a biography of David Bergmann. A pretty boring biography of a guy who learns German and moves to Germany. The chapter headings are good - they sum up the problems Americans have with German. But kept hoping the content would get better.

It didn't.


adapted from Websters.com:


[doo-plis-i-tee, dyoo-] –noun, plural -ties for
  1. deceitfulness in speech or conduct; speaking or acting in two different ways concerning the same matter with intent to deceive; double-dealing;
  2. a twofold or double state or quality;
  3. a film released in 2009.
Twofold indeed. WiseMan liked it. I was bored. He loved the plot twists and retwists. I needed a timeline to follow because even if it said "3 months earlier" I was never sure if this was 3 months earlier than the first scene, or the scene we just saw which was 2 months earlier or 5 days later or 2 years ago or in Rome or in Cleveland or in San Diego.

Bright point: visit to the deserted Dunwoody Science Park. A name from my past, when I lived in Atlanta, Georgia.

I think I could have had more fun sorting out the clothes closet this evenin.


From the Department of Oops

I blogged about the German "health" card scheme last year. It seems that it is not only quite a boondoggle, but the people running the tests don't seem to have any idea of how to run real-life systems.

Heise reports that a server crashed in their fancy hardware security module. "Crashed" as in the disk is no longer usable. And, as it turns out, they don't have a back up. And this data just happened to be the root certificate authority (Root-CA) for their entire cryptographic basis, upon which the "security" of the system rests.

Which means they can't issue any more cards. So they either have to issue everyone new cards, or scrap the system. I'm betting they'll just bite down and issue new cards, at taxpayer's expense, of course.


Preacher on the spot

I was planning on being worship leader this evening and had had some things prepared. But when the pastor called to say that he had taken sick and couldn't do the service and would I try and see what we could do to have a good service anyway, I only had about an hour to get a message ready.


I am taking a distance course on lay speaking, and have a pile of books that need reading, but the next contact session is in October and so they are kind of waiting for the summer break. I'm no different from my students. At least I had just purchased a Book of Worship and had rifled through it before putting it on the shelf.

So it was drop-everything-and-see-what-we-can-find time. BoW had some good prayers, so that was easy. But the message, on witnessing, man, that would be hard.

I had been planning on reading bits of Acts 10, the chapter about the conversion of the first Gentile, Cornelius, to Christianity. See, at that time it was felt you had to be a Jew first, and then Christianity was a sect of Judaism. But Simon Peter was told in a vision to cut the unclean number and accept everyone. So he did, after witnessing to this Gentile and his family, and then he baptized him.

Well, the pastor had suggested that I ask people if they had good witnessing stories. Right. But I did just that - I found a great story from "The Way of a Pilgrim", a 19th century, anonymous Russian about how to use the Gospel to combat alcoholism. So I requested that people think if they had anything to share, read the story, and recounted a small story of my own.

And three people responded, came up, and gave a short story. It was really great!

We also sorted out giving each other communion (one remarked afterwards: good job we're not Catholics, they would freak at the idea, but we are just celebrating in remembrance, not having transubstantiation of the bread), luckily there is even a rule for this in the Book of Discipline.

So working together, we had a great service! And as the last song, we sang Sibelius' "This is my Land", one of my favorites.

Now, I wonder if this counts for my lay preacher's license, or if the superintendent gets on my case for presuming to preside over communion. We'll see!

Update: found the Russian story on Google books: http://tinyurl.com/owfkle pages 299-300.


New MacBook Pro

So, I have now migrated to my second Mac system. There was no room for stickers on the back of the old one ;-) (and the keys had worn off for the second time and there was less than 7 GB left, causing all sorts of grief).

I managed to wait until the new ones were out, the ones promising battery life of 5-6 hours (which is what I need, not having to panic if there's no electrical outlet around). The battery thingy says "8:02", but we'll see what that is like after I subject it to my usual punishment.

I decided to stick with the 15" and not go for the 17", as I want it to fit on my bag and on the little tables on the train. I seem to be taking the train a lot recently. It is a bit, um, strange that I could actually use the screen to put on lipstick (it mirrors strongly) but one can focus on what is behind and not see much of the reflection. The colors are really brilliant.

My colleague said that using the migration assistant was a snap, so I tried it. Set up my same account name (mistake, more on that later) and got it hooked up to the WLAN. Just before going to bed I started to migrate the data over. Getting up the next morning, it had managed to shovel over about 10% of my data....

So after breakfast I set out to do the transfer by Firewire. Hmm, what a strange outlet. I went through *all* the Firewire stuff around the house (and it seems that everything but the coffee machine has a FW connection), and none had a plug like this. A quick Google showed me that this was new-fangled and I needed an adapter. Come on, Apple! Just pack an adapter in the box and up the price by 18 Euros, will you? It's a pain in the wazoo not to be able to use the Firewire out of the box.

So I scheduled a trip to the local Mac store (with my choice of either travelling on the broken down Berliner public transport, or the traffic jams of people avoiding this disaster) and picked up a plug. In black. Everything else is silver and white, why can't I have a choice on this?

We were going out for the evening, so I rigged up the connection and started it before leaving the house. Brilliant, all done when we got home, except that nothing worked. It had refused to copy over my old user directory to one with the same name, so I had given it another name. That was a very bad choice, as now pretty much nothing but Firefox worked. All the initialization files and stuff were, of course, stored with an absolute path name, and that did not fit any more.

This morning I took a deep breath and erased the disk, booting from the disks delivered with the laptop. It took *forever*, but I got a new operating system installed, named the admin account something QUITE DIFFERENT, updated the OS (man, am I glad I have a DSL flat rate!), and then restarted the migration over lunch. I was meeting with a new teacher anyway, so I had an excuse to take time for an espresso after lunch, too.

Back home everything was transferred, but Thunderbird still did not want to talk to me. The local files were intact, but the inbox not visible, and trying to start any menu caused it to crash. I couldn't find anything on the net about this, so I just renamed the old Thunderbird and re-installed it with a fresh download. Would you believe, it even sorted out the OpenPGP module that I had installed. So now it behaves, and I can continue working!

But I would like to know the idiotic reason for both of the USB connections on the LEFT hand side of the box, so tight together that I can't fit many of my bulkies in there without an extension. This is getting to look like my old Sony Vaio - it was sleek, hip, and needed a ton of extras connected by cord to do any actual work beyond note-taking.

The touchpad is kind of cool with the multi-touch stuff. This will make it hard to use other machines, but for now - it's nice, the keyboard (despite the chicklet-like appearance) is good for typing, and the thing is fast with 4 GB main memory.

Ah, yes. The battery has dropped to 5:50 in the 15 minutes I've been typing. We'll see what the wall clock says :)


Torrential rains

It poured last night. After days of humidity the skies opened Tuesday night and poured buckets and buckets of water onto the gardens just watered by a neighbor a few hours ago.

A friend had dropped by to drop something off, and having no umbrella we just finished off the open bottle of red wine and had a nice chat until it blew over.

I was heading to handball training this evening at the local school, and found it strange to see many of the girls who train before us sitting out on the wall outside the school gates. The trainer called to me: "Got your swimsuit with you?"

It seems that the gym roof had sprung a leak - a flat roof that had had to be closed a few years back when a torrential rain flooded the place the first day of autumn vacation and they didn't find out until 2 weeks later, when the floor was ruined. The leak again put the flooring ankle-deep under water, although this time they were able to squeegee it out.

But the roof is still soggy, so the hall is closed off. What a pity, we only had two more weeks before summer vacation and they close it for 18 months anyway to renovate the place.

We'll have to go to another hall, 3 bus stops and 3 subway stations away, and train with another team during the time - because many schools got money to fix their gyms, and they are all doing it at the same time....