Monday, September 29, 2008

Wild Wild West

The Internet is a dangerous place. So my paranoid self tells me anyway. I first had not-so-pleasant experiences when I first got to campus, and internet porn. Click here for free access they said. The number of links I followed, only to be told once I got to the next page that all I would now need was to provide my credit card details. How could they possibly have.. lied. Then there were those that said all one needed was a password. How I looked for those passwords. Trawled through half the internet for those, before I finally accepted the fact that there was no such thing as free access to a porn site. I also figured that a bunch of them must be run by mafia/criminal/hacker types. Even then I dared not follow those who said that all you needed to get the elusive free access is to download and install some dialer thingy. Just seemed nefarious. Then, after I was done with the porn came the search for cracks/product keys for some software or other. You'd follow some links and immediately get hit by like a thousands pop-ups of, you guessed it. Porn. It's one of the reasons I started using Netscape, and the tabbed browsing that it came with.

Anyway. I became suspicious of the net. The proliferation of Facebook makes me wonder though, if my paranoia is misplaced. I get terrified every time I encounter a website that asks for my name and phone number and stuff. And go ahead to give some ridiculous name, then receive an email after a while starting "Dear Thingamabob,". I hate websites where I have to register. My early internet experiences really traumatized me.

I've become even more conscious about the dangers home users face. The net has become an extension of the PC and being offline evokes the same emotions as having leprosy. Most apps have automatic updates. They touch base with some servers somewhere, look for and download updates, then happily inform you of what they've done, and can they now install the updates? When you're at work, and your employer has offered you use of the internet incidental to your work, you hardly notice it. When you're paying for data by the byte, you do.

The other, more common concern is anti-virus software. Someone asked me recently for a [licence] key. I avoided telling him many stories and just responded with "Don't have it". One needs to buy it, or look for a free alternative. I thought that was all but apparently one also needs a personal firewall. If one ever intends to connect their PC to the jungle that is the internet. There are guys out there just waiting to add your machine to their botnets, dumping all sorts of malware on you, and generally making your life miserable. Again, if you're in a corporate network you probably don't even think about this kind of thing. There's a team of guys paid to do that. Mom and pop at home, and the kids, are all on their own.


I didn't think they had another one in them. After the last price slash Zain did. [The name/brand change seems to have been a lot less problematic than I anticipated]. Can't remember what that last offer was, 4 bob or something to preferred guys?, but I honestly thought that was the last throw of the dice. If that didn't work then nothing would. Safaricom's rejoinder, as it always is, came swiftly and all of a sudden I was being offered the option of calling for 10 bob a minute during the day. Talk of stealing thunder. It made me wonder though, how the marketing/finance types think. Is one swallowing the painful pill of reduced/lost revenues, or has some guy done some statistical abracadabra and declared that in the end the company will actually make more money from increased volumes. Or were they just making insanely large amounts of profits before. I also wondered how the IT guys were faring. Marketing guys have a notorious reputation of selling stuff that isn't even made yet, or isn't ready at best. I remember some time back seeing an email from some senior guy in the company complaining how some customers, him included, had had considerable inconvenience using some new service we were testing. I remember staring at the email and asking, in amazement, "when did we go live?". But before I could say "Who the hell...", my boss was at my desk asking what was wrong and saying how we need to fix it ASAP. The email did have something about taking of disciplinary measures where necessary to reinforce the importance of the service working. "Let them try", I muttered to myself.

So when I heard about the Vuka tariff, I acknowledged that indeed I am clueless about the guys in the red [more like purple/yellow/some other colour] corner operate. Quite unbelievable actually. Call another network at the same cost as your own. At a reasonable price. Who would have envisioned such a day. I expected the typical rapid response from Safaricom. Haven't read the paper today so I don't know if there was some major press conference announcing YAT [Yet Another Tariff]. And what about Orange. They've just come into the market and have to adjust to changed conditions already. I think value added/non call based services will become increasingly important. I've been mulling over home internet access for instance. Don't really want anything that will involve some guy coming to the house to connect some equipment or other. Although, since my use may morph to more than just google, yahoo and blogger in the coming months, I'm not ready to discount that option yet. Apparently Zain's 3G [what exactly is broadband] offer is 3K a month for unlimited access [data downloaded]. Safaricom's equivalent is 4K for a maximum of 2GB worth of downloads. Is that a lot? Not sure. Both need a postpaid contract. Another reason to ponder. Not sure about Orange. Should check them out also.

I'll give it a little wait, before I switch.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Managing programmers

Lots of books have been written on management. Not sure if there are too many on managing specific types/skills/professions. Perhaps there are tonnes of books with "Managing Accountants" somewhere in their titles. Wouldn't really know, seeing as I'm not an accountant.

But why would I expect stuff written for specific groups of people. Management is management right, and programmers are people. Strange people, but people nonetheless. It's this "strangeness" though that makes, I think, normal strategies not be very effective with them. They tend to have certain qualities. Qualities that make managing and retaining them using conventional wisdom somewhat elusive. Most management structures must really scratch their heads about these techie types. Where I work, the average lifespan of developers [I don't much like that term] is 1-3 years. Other guys in the same department have been there for [10] years. The programmers though just seem to come and go. Why. Demand? Not sure. There are comp sci. graduates who don't have jobs. Just before I joined, a guy had left. [I guess that's why they were hiring] I knew the guy who'd left, and had heard about how much he was earning. Although such third person info tends to be unreliable. But I also heard that they had a higher budget for the next guys they hired, presumably considering they were paying this previous guy a lot of money but he still left. I would be one of those to benefit, apparently. But I had a hard time asking for "a lot" of money, so I suppose they were pleasantly surprised and ended up making significant savings. If you're hiring two guys to do the same job, do you pay them the same amount, or pay more to the one who bargains harder. I need to talk to someone who's done a HR course to try and understand the rules at work when hiring.

I've always held that programmers are pretty easy to manage. Just don't bother them. Signing a register when I check in, under the threat of disciplinary action if I'm late won't motivate me to come in early. It'll just motivate me to leave at 5, which is not what you want. So threats don't work too well, and all manner of restrictions, procedures, politics don't go down too well either. Which reminds me of my initial question. Why would any of these be unique to programmers. Saw an ad in Friday's paper. Craft silicon are looking to hire among other people 20 programmers. 20. Did they get some huge government project or something. Anyway. Some of the wording of the ad intrigued me. There was something in there about subsidized lunches. Google-esque. There was also a statement that the financial package will not be a limiting factor. I wonder if they'll be saying the same when they hear the salary demands they'll get. Most interesting was that they are looking for people who'll take a long term perspective with them. Basically acknowledging the tendency of guys to stay for a couple of months or years before moving on. Perhaps they've gotten it.

It's food for thought anyway, what to do with programmers.

Another season

Another season of English football is here. Same old questions. Will Arsenal's youngsters manage till the end of the season. Can Chelsea be beaten. Will Man U nick it again. Will Liverpool do better than fourth [this time]. I'm not sure they will actually. One victory over Man U doesn't quite do it. Having a little trouble scoring. Still think what is lacking is some inspiration. A champion's/winning attitude/belief, forgotten in the course of 20 odd years. Benitez is equally intriguing in his decisions. It'd be hard to find a club that signs as many goalkeepers. Like one every year, who eventually end up in other clubs. Same as strikers actually. Don't get why you would sign up someone, only to send them on their way the very next season. Bellamy, Voronin, Keane? I wonder how long he'll survive. Crouch also took a while to get going, but he fell out of favour pretty quickly also. Anyway. I wonder if there'll be any seismic changes to the status quo. Don't think so. After a while, it'll be as you were.


I decided to get some new specs a couple of weeks back. Been having some trouble with my current ones. Also figured I could get the eyes checked while at it. Haven't gone for a checkup for a while, like I was supposed to. No surprise at the result. Vision has worsened. The sales lady went on about all sorts of lenses and frames. Plastic is all the rage apparently. I think I've mentioned before that I find shopping traumatic. Having to go through all sorts of samples and pick one that made me "look good". So I looked around at all the samples they had on display, all the while feeling guilty at making the lady wait and watch my indecision. Got to the final row, then it hit me. I have to pick something. So I did that picky picky ponky thing and pointed to one of the pairs. She opened the contraption which holds them in and handed the specs to me. Felt a bit silly trying them out. The decision had been made. Besides. I was at the last row. I wasn't going to say "Nah, these don't look good on me". It was going to be those or nothing.

Went to collect the specs with the new lenses on sato. Was taken aback when they were unwrapped and handed to me. These can't be mine. I must have become really blind. The things were noticeably thick. Surely my eyesight can't have deteriorated this much. I first figured I didn't have perhaps as good vision as other guys when in high school. But I hated specs. Feared I would not look good in them. Ha. Go figure. Then there was also this perception from the guys who had specs in primo, that one can't be carefree and playful and stuff. You always have your specs to think about. So you can't head a ball for instance, not that I particularly like to head footballs. Then there's the fear of forgetting/losing them somehow, or sitting on them. Lots of fears.

There was a class in campus, automata theory, where I used to sit at the back of the reasonably large room. Larger than our other classes at least. And since I always came late, the back is where I sat. I used to write notes from the guy next to me. Couldn't see anything written on the board. Couldn't hear anything either with the generator going on. It's a wonder I didn't fail that unit. Well, I got a D, so it's not that much of a wonder.

Finally accepted and got specs after like a year of working. I think it was the death march we were going through at the time and the many projected presentations that caused such a strain. I'd done a medical before getting into campus where the fact that I was short-sighted first became official. I asked the doc whether not wearing specs would make things worse and he was rather non-commital. Played right into my thinking, so I forgot about it.

Now, I suppose, I'll have to do like normal short-sighted people do and not refuse to wear my specs. Things can't get worse I don't think. May even get better. And eat lots of carrots. I hear that stuff actually works.

Friday, September 19, 2008

FOSS. By force

Some time back I walked into my favourite cyber and found something strange. Couldn't tell at first what it was. They've changed their "cyber software" I thought. That's why this interface looks a bit strange. No. There's something else. Opened up the browser. Even that looked different. So I stopped to investigate. That's when I noticed that I was in fact using mozilla, and not firefox. And the PC was running some flavour of linux. Can't remember which. Didn't matter. I'd read/heard around that time that Microsoft was cracking down on cybers, and the use of illegal/unlicensed software. Ha. Their luck had run out. I always found that Windows 2006 they used to run suspect. It's the only place I'd seen that OS. So they must have freaked out and worked some serious overtime to overhaul their PCs. Felt for the kawaida wananchi around me who were used to IE and probably think that *nix is a curse word. If I found things a bit strange, they must have felt like they were in another planet.

But it's the way things are looking. Apparently new comps can come without software. I've heard some "wazees" being quoted as saying as much. It's no longer the case that the guys selling you the comp will stuff it with Office, Acrobat, Photoshop and a host of other stuff which they happen to have [illegal] copies of. Some guys sell comps with linux. I hope they don't dupe guys and sell these to guys who know what they're getting into. Then there's this freedos thing which I'd not heard of. That mzee who was complaining that he was sold a comp without software got one with freedos. Can't blame him. Then there are those that come with Vista, and a 60 day trial version of Office. Lure a guy into getting used to a product then take it away. I never touch trial versions.

So with licensing/anti piracy measures getting tighter, with things like mandatory web activation and the like, what is a guy to do. A guy who thinks he can't afford to buy software. [Apparently there's an offer from Microsoft - Office for 7K]. I thought software costs gazillions of dollars. I wonder how much Visual Studio 2008 would cost. Or Vista if one had to buy it. Probably less than a visit to the dentist. I started gravitating towards FOSS some time back. Used to trawl sourceforge for interesting projects. Remember the excitement at using Miranda in Jan/Feb 2004. They were alternatives then. Now they are default.

Tales from the crypt

It's been a while since I've been able not to blog because of the fear of a workmate seeing what I am up to, and being asked about Introverted, and having them read the blog, and realising the identity of Samborera. Not that I write about my workmates. Used to check into the office at like 6:30am to blog. That and the fear of getting to work late. How things change.

I'm free again, now. To write when stuff is fresh in my mind. Just the therapy I needed.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Different strokes

So as I sat there waiting to go in for the first session of my double root canal, I couldn't help but hear all manner of commotion from one of the rooms. Sounds of a kid half-crying mixed with a dentist trying to cajole and soothe her. "Don't cry", he pleads. "Open wide, like a lion", he goes on. As I try to calm my own nerves down, I think how much patience that kind of thing must need, and how I possibly couldn't manage it. Not on any regular basis for sure. Then I think it's a good thing people are different. It's a good thing people like different things, otherwise if the whole world was like me... Well. It's a good thing people are different.

Half my face is still numb. Including half of my nose and one of my eyes. Those must have been some powerful injections the guy gave me. My mind is also in shock. 22K. Had to ask the receptionist to repeat the figure to me. Twice. Boy was I glad/relieved I had a credit card. And even more so that I'd taken it for a test drive.

Monday, September 08, 2008

You are not your job

I like to quote other people. There's something comforting about other peoples' ideas that resonate with you. Knowing that you are not alone.

So there will always be drama at work. Stuff not going to plan, stuff that can work better, stuff not working at all. And with all this will come criticisms, and complaints and accusations. But as long as you're doing your best, you need not fret about any of it. Not get yourself too worked up. Never beat yourself up. After all. You are not your job.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

i am selling open source

I was thinking of downloading a certain software to sell to anaa dumb guy. He takes my word for the law when it comes to computing.
And why not, i endured 'for loops' and reading the source code for the Linux kernel and the shell, and doing useless AC theory, double linked lists and queuing theory.
Then i remembered ajamaa. He was doing his fourth year project. And this is the thing. He downloaded a software and instead of presenting it as is, he coded a look alike in all aspects from scratch. Could you even tell which one was downloaded? ( A minute of silence in honour)
well i chose not to follow ajamaa, not on this software. No. it ain't broken , and i am not fixing it.

control wars

It's a good thing i don't manage people, or karma would take me down.
Interestingly the big man around had a chat the other day on how guys are unprofessional and this and that mistake: things to make me join the official canal of scavengers after any junior he disagrees with.
I have been a developer for long and i can see this frustration: The guy has no bait to hook me or at least make me kiss his ugly a**. So he's trying any way, anyhow. This wasn't the first time. He had tried fear, then praise, then advice. All for what? thought he had learnt. I am still keeping my distance.
But this time i managed to cool his anxiety by appreciating his support (ha haaa, tatataaa!),and how i have come to appreciate his work style and his insight. Come back again, even call my cellphone if anyone tries to interfere with any responsibilities i have given you. bring any suggestions. I hired you because i saw something different on you. bla bla bla!
Well i guess he's waiting for me to knock on the door and swim in his ever treasured tunnel of gossip, blame and vitriol.
Actually i need a favour from this dude. At some point i will have to walk into his office and endure his dishonesty, but i have promised myself that i shall not succumb to his lure to take the low load and spell the weaknesses of anyone he doesn't like.
Then there's the smaller boss. The big man thinks he's a wussy. I kinda agree on some aspects but i do respect him.I went to a meeting with him where everyone else, playing on his weaknesses, descended on him ruthlessly, punching holes on his commitment and expressing frustration at his inability to address mission critical issues.
This time i went to his defense, using fake stats and eventually appealing to everyone to work as a team. The meeting ends well and i promise to send reports to cool their nerves. Now here's the puzzle: The guy calls me and asks me to leave politics to his office. Of course in a soft way.
I can now agree on the wussy thing. The boss is right. Plus, i rescue this guy and this is what i get? Damn! Man cool down. i don't need your job. i hardly deliver anything! Be real, don't be insecure.
This guy has to work with one eye on the job, and the other on any potential threats to his position. I have come to like his soul's addiction to humility and his ability to withstand humiliation.He will be happy one day, after he conquers the terror from above and the virtual threats from below. Who said hope is vain?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

pre-emptive texting

Quite often , i think , chics have very correct instincts. she can tell when i am bored of this run. she can tell that i am displaying withdrawal symptoms-literary. So she will master her courage, and for once send me an sms all lyrical abt the way she loves me (i have come to be very cautious of some words) and the ways she is greatful abt me, and she is looking forward to the next time . she even tries to say that i am fun to be with ( who are we kidding, am not). uongo mtupu. To start with she changed my name in her phone book to hatari. i flashed her when she had left the phone on the table only to see 'hatari calling'.
she had correctly detected on her dumping radar that the attention had shifted. That's why she is all lovy and sweet. mmmh. some people are just good. anyway, it makes the departure harder but never stops it. For me if i had the slightest signal of being dropped kidogo kidogo, wouldn't i just forget and save myself alot of pride along the way?
I am also quite amazed at how some chics can communicate. it's good to get all naughty and stuff. but man, some can get naked. for a 20,21,22 and may be 23 year old, thats not bad. but when a 26,27 year old gets naked on an sms, i get scared. it's not easy friends. i tell you. It's so hard to reply to some messages. may be i hang around wierd people, and formal education has not stopped everyone from flowing their hearts into technology. or they hang around a weird man.
One more worry. why does a chic send a message in the morning. And i have to lie back at 8:00 in the morning. these things can't be baada ya kazi. tough one.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Alone in the crowd

If you don't take beer like me, and you are walking into a bar, alone, you are most likely walking straight to pee and then shamelessly walk out head high. When a major bouncer looks at you like he suspects like you think the bar is a free peeing facility, or you can't afford city council toilet fee of sh. 5........ then you take a lap through the whole bar, looking at every corner to see if your boys are there. Actually you just want to look like you can't find someone. just may be company is beckoning.
Like last Friday but one. I am walking into Tropez. This time my intentions were more than just peeing: To sit down with friends, talk the normal crap, waste a few hours and then leave when they relocate to a more physical bar. Oops, it's 8:30, and i can't find anyone. I call 0.5-this guy can give you value for money. His employer is the luckiest alive. Once in a century, a gift is released in the corporate world, wound in a hard working, strong, willing to learn & energetic young man. This century, bosses, don't bother! He is taken. I am proud of you, 0.5.
By now reality is dawning on me. That the numbers in my phone book are mostly workmates, former workmates, relatives, former married classmates, stalkers ,snobs and nasty b******s. Some of my friends now drink at their local pub. Recession Ha? or being plain mean and backward? I can't tell. it's not helping me at this point. Too much for trying to call anyone. I take a soda, alone on a whole table while everyone else is chanting the song on the box. Man i am confirming that i am a loser. Who are we kidding? honestly i can't survive a minute in a bar alone.
At this juncture, i walk out like one who has just relieved himself of his peeing needs, straight to the mat and straight home. The bouncer who just searched me a minute ago could mistakenly mark me as a pressed moron looking for a free urinal.

People are slowly drifting apart. And bars are simply too strange through every minute on sipping a soda like it's the secret to waiting for a random recognizable intelligent stranger

Monday, September 01, 2008


i was watching Jay leno yesterday at 9pm. very interesting. my way of avoiding news every sato and sunday
this guy can make my day sometimes.
First he's praying that Obama wins coz white house will be on MTV Cribs.
Then there were those chinese kids who got a gold medal in synchronized swimming or something. The americans complained that the kids were way to young. The complaint were thrown out on the grounds that one of the kids name was wei tu yang. They must have based the complaint on her name, which is discriminatory.k