Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

We all stuff up …

As much as I might insist to my children that I am infallible (cue sighs and rolling eyes) I must admit sometimes I make mistakes … E-bloody-normous ones. If you’ve been working in the game of delivering complex software for any time you all know how that’s possible, even probable. The true measure of a professional is how you deal with it. I was reminded of this by a great post today by Brian Harry of Microsoft who was responsible for delivering a rather complicated piece of functionality and had some problems after implementation. Don’t worry about the techy side of the post, although if you are into it, it makes an interesting read on the problems of designing for the cloud. He presents a text-book approach to dealing with a stuff-up in a pretty admirable way:

  1. Accept that an error was made. There’s nothing worse than trying to hide or deny a mistake. They know it, you know it.
  2. Take responsibility. Don’t pass the buck. Customers will respond by offering you their loyalty if you are honest with them (and obviously don’t bugger it up too often). Your team will respond with loyalty when you are not sending them down the river when mistakes are made.
  3. Look after your team during resolution. Nothing harms quick resolution than panic and screaming. Allow them to focus. Analysis requires concentration and it’s hard when the pressure is on. Accordingly a good manager is someone who allows their team to do their work.
  4. Fix the problem. Do it calmly. Obviously if it’s a big problem you will be in full panic mode but try to ignore the panic and focus.
  5. Communicate. Explain why the error was made clearly. Don’t make excuses, that just annoys people. People will forgive if they understand why the mistake was made.
  6. Apologise. An apology is a recognition that a mistake was made and is a commitment to try to not make the same mistake again. The really good developer (craftsman, teacher, manager, …) is one that doesn’t make that mistake again.

Now for a bit of a folksy interlude … I grew up on sheep and cattle stations in rural NSW. My dad threw me on the back of a horse before I could walk. Despite retreating into a definitely urban existence for most of my adulthood a couple of things stand out from the lessons he taught me about horse riding. If you ride a horse you are going to fall off, accept it. You will not be a good rider till you’ve fallen off a hundred times. Get back on the horse!

Read Brian’s post.

Windows 8/8.1 tip

I’ve been using Windows 8.1 for a while now (yes, I am he of bleeding edge) and Windows 8 from the early days. I even quite like it (he says ducking and weaving)!

As a person who typically spends his time on the desktop rather than in the Modern UI (Metro) interface it really helps to get to know your Windows key shortcuts.  You users of older releases of Windows have reason to believe that the windows_keykey sitting there between the Fn and the Alt key to the left of your space bar was a waste of time … And you’d largely be right before Windows 8. After Windows 8 it becomes indispensible for those of us who spend time on the desktop. Pressing it by itself takes us to the Start Menu, Windows-D always gets you back to the desktop. The real hidden gem is Windows-X which brings up the power user menu:



Windows-X then hitting P brings up the Control Panel quicker than anything I know.

Well today there’s been an excellent posting at 4Sysopson how to edit the Power User Menu. Check it out, it’s really handy!

Denied …

Robert X. Cringley (he of Accidental Empires and Triumph of the Nerds) has a very interesting take on both the technical errors in the U.S. insurance sign-up web site and in particular how big data is destroying the U.S. healthcare system as it changed from covering as many people as possible to denying cover to as many unprofitable people as possible. Have a look at:

More on the COBOL Dictionary


It’s been great to see some interest being generated in the COBOL Dictionary already. As a further thought, I thought it might interest some of you to see some information on how to use it and what some of the facilities are within it before you all download it eagerly! I’ve ported the documentation to here… Click away!

Not dead yet

No, I haven’t passed away … I have been VERY busy. I’ve spent a considerable time in the last couple of months converting mu NetExpress 5.1 product, Cobra to Visual COBOL 2010. Let me tell you, something I thought would take a couple of weeks at the most was considerably more work that that! The effort involved in ditching gnt’s and replacing them with dll’s, rewriting the Panels2 code and dealing with obscure COM interop problems has kept me truly busy. To add to that I’ve also been working on integrating my toolset with Visual Studio 2010 and that’s been both challenging and a lot of fun. Be prepared for some future posts in this area soon …

On another point, no COBOL doesn’t appear to be dead either … Check out here for in interesting view by an obviously informed commentator …

I’ll be back soon, I promise!

Cows with guns

Just to let you know, I’m still around and have something coming soon enough … In the meantime:

Chain of Fools : Upgrading through every version of windows

Every now and again some of us get reminders of how old we are. This excellent video on upgrading a system from MS-DOS 5.0 through all the Windows versions (except ME!) to Windows 7 is truly frightening as I remember doing all of this! The amazing thing is that this was even possible …


Do you remember any of this?