IT Episode 2 – Flowcharting Maniac

So every line of code required a punch card (see Episode 1), and obviously for a poor student like me I had to find ways to use less card as each card costed some money. You know, the more bugs the program had, the more cards I needed to re-program (i.e. re-punch new cards). And if the program was in-efficient (e.g. lots of lines to do one simple logic), the more cards I needed as well … So, the solution was (is) Flowcharting.

Flowcharting is not new, but if you asked 100 modern-time developers the question “Which is your favorite programming tool?”. I bet 95 of them will answer “My IDE (Integrated Development Environment)”. And the other five will answer “My hand …”.

But to me, the best tool was (is) the Flow Chart. If one could not draw up a flow chart to describe the solution, I don’t think the program would work. Anyway, if you wanna know the basics of flowcharting, check out here.

Lesson Learnt: Good planning for everything, and for programming it is called flowcharting.

IT Episode 1 – Keypunch Machine

OK, it is time to blog something about IT (the trade I am in), but I reckon it makes little sense to blog the latest and greatest (as you can find easily in Internet) … so, what about something really “retro” ? Let’s start from the early 80’s (the time I get in touched with “Computing”) …

Way before the mini-computers, micro-computers (i.e. PCs), we have mainframe computers. And the only way (back then) to instruct the computers to do something smart (or stupid), was to use “Punch Cards“. To record those silly computer instructions to the Punch Cards and to “run” it, you need to do couple of silly things …

  • Get some blank punch cards by buying them from vending machines. If I recall correctly – 1 quarter for 50 cards.
  • Or you could “borrow” some from your friends, other computer centers, or other universities 😎
  • Then reserve a keypunch machine (or here) in the data center and punch in the computer programs (e.g. FORTRAN, PL/1, COBOL), line by line, with those machines.
  • Hand in the computer program (i.e. the deck of punched cards) to the computer room service desk, and the operator would submit the cards to the mainframe computer (see the card reader on the foreground …)

Lesson Learnt: WARNING – Don’t drop the punched card deck, or you need to re-sort the whole program …

Close-to-Perfect Ending …

Hundreds of nights and weekends’ hard-work … it all ended today … in a close-to-perfect way. That will be even better if …

… all my friends could join me in the ceremony. Two and a half years of study is a long long time for us with a full-time job, especially one works in IT industry, and needs to support multiple 24×7 systems. Anyhow, we DID it.

Hats off

Lesson Learnt: Go for it !!

The Newer, The Better (?)

I use SLR, DSLR, P&S DC and P&S film cameras. All sorts of camera, but I reckon what matter is not what camera I use, but what photograph I take. And that’s why I really don’t understand why some “experts” believe you need the newest and greatest camera to take great pictures.

People keep talking about how many mega-pixels their cameras have, how good is their flashes, how many frames can take in one second … I mean, is it really matter ?

People ask, can a P&S DC shoot like a pro ? Let me tell you, a pro is a pro because of his / her skill, not the camera. And the proof is here … photos by Alex Majoli. He takes all his photo with P&S DCs. Amazing, isn’t it ?

Lesson Learnt: Spend more time to take photos, instead of comparing specifications.

Yet Another Movie …

I don’t know why this blog now almost turns to my own TV / DVD log, but I can’t help it. I mean I would not want to bore you with some sick IT stories (oh, IT is my profession). But there was another lesson learnt when I was watching the rerun of “Four Weddings and a Funeral” … so …

First of all, it is a very good movie. Great story, funny lines and supporting casts. And of course, Hugh Grant played very well too. What taught me a lot was the recitation of a W.H. Auden poem at the funeral … it is simply “powerful”. I immediately googled it and here is it …

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Oh, so sad …

Lesson Learnt: Get your browser ready, when watching movies.

Tooth Paste Theory

OK, on TV it’s showing an advertisement about a new tooth paste with Honey as ingredient … it puzzled me a lot for a few things. First of all, of course, why use Honey ? Will that really help my teeth ?

Then I recalled couple of weeks ago the same brand of tooth paste used Tea Leave as ingredient … then another few weeks before that, it was Herbal Mint … before that it was Ginseng …

So I reckon one thing, the tooth paste manufacturers market their products to in sync with your regular people’s tooth paste consumption pattern !! So every few weeks / months, they roll out another “new” tooth paste from their production line to “attract” you. Don’t you think so …

Lesson Learnt: Time your product rollout with customers’ usage pattern.

New York – Wish You Were Here

I still don’t know how it’s done.

Last year I was in New York and wandering around the Ground Zero. I headed up and saw something really new to me … I saw some tiny clouds were created on-the-fly …

These clouds slowly “printed” a letter, then a word, then a sentence just like an aged old dot-matrix printer. What puzzled me was I could not find a plane, a kite or any device !! So here is the photo …

Wish you were here ...

Lesson Learnt: Look up.