An industry out of control?

Through one of the feeds I watch I came across a story of a woman who sings to herself while working in a supermarket.

How could this make the news you ask? Well the Performing Right Society in the UK, the group who collects royalties, decided to contact her and threaten so sue her if she didn’t get a performance licence. She laughed thinking it was a joke. Funnily apparently it wasn’t. They were actually serious about wanting to sue her.

Where they see the gain is beyond me? Sue her for what exactly? She doesn’t make money from it. It isn’t even her job. But yet they tried…and then relented to public pressure once it became public knowledge.

Really you have to wonder what is going on in the music industry. Monopolies are a bad thing and I completely understand why even artists don’t like supporting the man!

Full article available here:

Bill Gates – An Interview Through Time

Some things don’t change, and in computers, while it may look to be moving really fast, a lot of the ideas have been floating around for a while. Technology enables technology.

I read about the book “Coders at Work” which the author kindly posted up a few interviews online. Bill Gates has one from 1986 (found here). It really is a truly insightful read. Bare in mind that this is pre windows, and not just gui windows. Hell it is pre CD Rom.

While talking about 4k memory limits, the thoughts of 650meg of data accessible to a program must have seemed surreal. Our minds aren’t capable of understanding numbers like this anymore. Best way I can explain it is like moving from only having data available from your harddisk to having data available from a Google data centre.

One of parts that really hit home was when Bill Gates starts talking about what is a effectively a Google Maps mash up.

GATES: CD ROM is totally different. We hope with CD ROM you’ll be able to
 look at a map of the United States, point somewhere, click, zoom in and
 say, “Hey, what hotels are around here?” And the program will tell you.

Quotes like that really do show how far ahead he really was. The internet was only being born but here he is thinking on new ways to display data.

If 1986 can give thoughts that only come to live today, what ways will people start displaying data in the future. Sure todays BIG computer problem is more a data problem than a technical one.

Customer support and the problems that never come back

For those who have never done a support job, it probably isn’t really very obviously. Even for those who have done phone support, it may not have occurred. Currently I’ve been dealing with a lot of support issues via email and via ticket system and a crazy pattern has come up.

For about 20% of the problems reported, they do not get fixed, and the user in question never comes back.

Think about this for a second, a person goes to the hassle of emailing a problem in, and then doesn’t want to get it fixed. Maybe in some cases, they just found it easier to ignore? Who knows? But the pattern is really showing itself every time I go clear off old open tickets. It is probably a good sign that we need a “awaiting customer” customer state like so many other systems.

Customer: Hi, I’m having a problem with X.
Me: Could you describe the problem so I can fix it please?

Customer: Hi, my application is running strange.
Me: Please call me whenever suits you so I can dial into the computer to fix this.

Customer: Hi, my Y isn’t working. It does Z.
Me: Can you tell me when is ok for me to test the fix?

In the case of the last one, the user reported a problem with his phone. Very strange forward one too one I could run 2-3 test calls. However no reply when asking when it would be ok to fix.

So maybe we need a challenge on submitting a ticket to the system? Are you sure you really have this problem?

Or perhaps a disclaimer? Fixing this may require more than just this email?

Someday hopefully we can read peoples minds and understand what they want, although since they usually do not actually know what they want, that probably won’t help either.

Why I(we) wear headphones while working

I’m not ignorant and I do like talking to you, honest. But getting into the flow takes time and noise interrupts in. Music in the background has always seemed to help block out the annoying thing. Its why in the early morning or late evening, so much more work is done. Sure you know yourself, you may be in work from 9-6, but you really only get about 2 hours of good work done. And now here is why. provided a pretty good but basic enough explanation of the brain and how it works in sections. Combine this with what I knew previously, and it makes a lot of sense.

While programming part A, the voice in your head part,  is running away with itself, swapping variables and the like, part B, the thinking part, is looking ahead and coming up with that creative code block you are about to write. Part C, the hearing part, is being kept nice and busy by the music coming in stopping other noise coming in and ending up in the thinking part. Because when it gets to the thinking part, it is like a big freight train hitting a mountain, it derails and looses all its cargo. You start down the hill on another track, what it was you heard and the further you go, the more you’ve left behind. And just like that big freight train, it takes a long time to get back up to speed on the hill, and you have to pick up all those information bits that you lost before.

Subscribe to your own blog. Really!

So today while working through some of the normal morning tasks, I started checking on the latests news. If you aren’t using it already, Google Reader is quite invaluable. I wish I could keep all the articles in it forever as you never know when you will need to find something older. It is why some of the tech newsletters still come through via email, but I’ll probably switch some of them soon.

Anyway, I decided I’d subscribe to my own blogs, both this one and the web hosting company one I write for. Low and behold, I noticed that one of them was only displaying a summary of the articles, a big no no if you ever want anyone to actually subscribe to your blog.

Even more shamefully, I had to Google to find the option to fix this.

For reference, it is in Settings -> Reading. “For each article in a feed, show”.

Google clicks on their own adwords links?

Through a few of the sites I have interactions with, there are a number of adwords campaigns that are running. Strangely, why tracking some of the incoming clicks, we noticed that at last one of the clicks came from within Google itself. And what is more, it appears to be legit going on the browser type of “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)”.

Perhaps Google tests these things manually, who knows. Guess I’ll just have to continue digging through the logs and see what shows up.

For reference, IP in question came from

OrgName:    Google Inc.
OrgID:      GOGL
Address:    1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
City:       Mountain View
StateProv:  CA
PostalCode: 94043
Country:    US

NetRange: -
NetName:    GOOGLE
NetHandle:  NET-74-125-0-0-1
Parent:     NET-74-0-0-0-0
NetType:    Direct Allocation
NameServer: NS1.GOOGLE.COM
NameServer: NS2.GOOGLE.COM
NameServer: NS3.GOOGLE.COM
NameServer: NS4.GOOGLE.COM
RegDate:    2007-03-13
Updated:    2007-05-22

OrgTechHandle: ZG39-ARIN
OrgTechName:   Google Inc.
OrgTechPhone:  +1-650-318-0200