A Labourer at the Bitface

The Reinvigorated Programmer has some good thoughts, including blamingStar Wars:

Folks: turn on your targeting computers. Use the facts.

Source: Let’s Take Back Control! We Want Our Country Back! | The Reinvigorated Programmer

His followup posts, about bedfellows and fear, are also well worth a look.

More Referendum Thoughts

A few more thoughts to follow on from last night’s post:

Turnout

Turnout is crucial. If the majority is narrow, and especially if the turnout is low, the losing side will have a very hard time accepting the result.

For example, imagine if the vote goes 55% for Leave, and the turnout is only 60%. That means that only 33% of the electorate has said they want to leave. 27% would have expressly said they don’t want to leave, and 40% abstained.

But abstention can — and in my view should — be considered as being happy with the status quo. Yes, you can argue that it means that the abstainers are happy to go with the will of the majority of voters, but for such a major change — effectively a constitutional change — I don’t think that’s a safe assumption

So there ought to have been a requirement for a minimum turnout, and/or a majority of the electorate. In fact, for something this major, I’m inclined to think that a mandate to leave should require something like a two-thirds majority — of the electorate, not just of the turnout.

Something like that was the case in the original Scottish indolence referendum — approval had to be by 40% of the electorate, not just a simple majority — though not in he 2014 one. I have criticised that fact in the past, but thinking about it now it seems right.

Parliament

Of course, this referendum will not be binding on parliament. If it goes to Leave, it’s possible that a majority of MPs could vote against the legislation that would have to be enacted to start the actual departure. That would have interesting results.

And if the majority is very slim in either direction, there will be calls for another referendum. Whatever happens on Thursday, we won’t have heard the last of this for a long, long time.

Referendum Thoughts

I have, of course, been meaning to write about the referendum almost since it was called. And let’s go right back to that point: of it being called, and why it was, and whether it should have been.

It was called, as anyone can tell, because David Cameron wanted to finally end the feuding in his party over Europe. The Tory party has been at loggerheads about it for decades. I have never known a time when they weren’t fighting about it.

So Cameron promised a referendum, thinking that if they were elected he could lance the boil, as they say. In fact what has happened in the end is that the boil has grown alarmingly, become infected, and is poisoning its host.

But we shouldn’t gloat. The Tory party in its death throes could take a lot of good things down with it.

I read one piece recently that suggested that he didn’t actually want to do this. That he made the promise fully expecting a hung parliament in 2015, and then he’d be able to say that coalition partners had insisted on no referendum.

Which may well be true, but it doesn’t help us where we are now.

The poison has spread into the body politic of the whole nation, and we are all in danger of becoming infected.

Or am I stretching this metaphor too far?

So much for that. The decision we make on Thursday matters, probably more than any visit to the polls in my lifetime. A decision to leave will be irreversible.1

Not that I think we would be utterly unable to survive and thrive outside the EU. We’d get by. But we wouldn’t be the best we could be, nor in the best position we could be in.

The EU is far from perfect, but so is the Westminster parliament, the Scottish one, and every other democracy.2 But above all, if we’re inside it, we are able to influence it — specifically, our democratically-elected representatives can — but if we’re outside, all we can do is look in.

While having to abide by its oh-so-terribly-onerous regulations if we want to trade with it.3

The Guardian’s editorial today advises us to “keep connected and inclusive, not angry and isolated,” and I think we can all get behind that, surely?

Oh, and don’t let me hear any of that “both sides as bad as each other” nonsense. The Remain4 campaign has been lucklustre, certainly, and I’d have liked to see more dynamism from Jeremy Corbyn and the rest of the Labour leadership — if only to reduce the impression that it was all about Tory infighting, or that anyone should vote Leave because Cameron wants the opposite. But lacklustre does not equate to vicious, poisonous, and lying.

“Project Fear,” they called it. I even heard one of my colleagues accuse the Remain campaign of fearmongering. But fear is not being “mongered” when we have a genuinely scary situation.

To end on a more cheerful note, if you only watch one video about the matter, make it this one from John Oliver:


  1. Well, Conceivably we could, at some time in the future, petition to rejoin; but if we did do that, it would be on quite different terms from those that we’re on at present. For one thing, we’d have to join the Euro, as all accession states do. For another, we wouldn’t get the rebate that we currently get. Loath her or despise her, Thatcher did renegotiate our country’s position into a more advantageous one. We won’t need that if we’re out, of course, but we won’t get it back if we ever have to crawl back. []
  2. And the EU is democratic, despite all the lies of the Leave campaign. []
  3. Not that onerous, and if they are they’re mostly for good reasons. []
  4. And shouldn’t the opposite of “Leave” be “Stay,” anyway? []

The Apocalypse Codex by Charles Stross (Books 2016, 8)

The latest of Charlie’sLaundry Files series, and Bob Howard is being considered for promotion. To management. He has to go on a course.

As you can imagine, he doesn’t stay on it for long. And soon things are looking pretty bleak.

It’s the usual Laundry fare: magic manipulated by technology, horrors from beyond the stars, intrigue, form-filling.

It’s great stuff, as always.

Sometimes rhetoric has consequences. If you spend days, weeks, months, years telling people they are under threat, that their country has been stolen from them, that they have been betrayed and sold down the river, that their birthright has been pilfered, that their problem is they’re too slow to realise any of this is happening, that their problem is they’re not sufficiently mad as hell, then at some point, in some place, something or someone is going to snap. And then something terrible is going to happen.

From The Spectator. Something terrible did, of course, happen. I hadn’t heard of Jo Cox before today, but she seems to have been a thoroughly decent person.

Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? by Paul Cornell (Books 2016, 7

Some books take weeks or even months to read. Others slip down in just a few days. This was the latter kind.

Paul Cornell’sShadow Police series is part of a thriving subgenre now. He and Ben Aaronovitch started out at a similar time, I guess, and they’re friends, so I don’t know if they came up with the idea together, or what. Maybe it was just steam-train time. But London cops who deal with the magical, occult side of the city’s problems are very much of today.1

This latest volume picks up not long after The Severed Streets finished, and our characters are in some dark places personally and professionally. But then the ghost of Sherlock Holmes is found murdered at the Holmes museum, and a serial killer starts murdering people in ways inspired by the Holmes stories. The game is afoot, obviously, and our heroes must take part.

This is really, really, good, and highly recommended. Though if you haven’t read them yet, start at the beginning withLondon Falling.


  1. Though I can’t help but wonder if Charlie Stross started it all. HisLaundry Files series is about secret agents with occult dealings, rather than police, but there are obvious similarities. []

The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi (Books 2016, 6)

I enjoyed it, but I didn’t really understand it.

I’m sure I should have more to say about it than that, but really, that sums it up quite neatly.

But to try to go a bit deeper… The solar system is populated by various species or clans of posthumans, transhumans, AIs, uploaded minds, whatever. Earth is unrecognisable, though some people — seemingly fairly close to basic-human, though it’s hard to judge, with so many strangenesses — still live there.

In some ways the biggest problems with this book, and its predecessorThe Quantum Thief, which I read a few years ago, is the sheer number of new or repurposed words. None of these is ever explained: you have to gain an understanding of them from context, working it out as you go along. This is a perfectly fine and valid method of storytelling, but here it all just gets a bit too much.

Maybe it’s my fault for the way I read the book: in disjointed fragments and sections, over weeks. Perhaps if I had read it in a more concentrated fashion, its meanings would have unwrapped themselves for me more easily, more thoroughly.

But at the same time, it’s the storyteller’s job to tell their story in a way that allows the reader to grasp it, to understand it. If he reader has difficulty with that, then it’s not the reader’s fault. It’s the storyteller’s.

And yet, and yet, I enjoyed it, I finished it, I think i’l probably read the third in the trilogy, which I believe is a thing. Eventually, after some time has passed on this one,

And I’ll probably have just as much trouble with that one when the time comes.

Relaunch

If you pay attention to URLs and such — and if you’re reading this at all — you’ll be aware that my blog is not sited at the root or home page of the devilgate.org site, but at devilgate.org/blog/. For a long time the home page has been a very basic one, with just a few links to the other places you can find me online.

As of today, it still contains those links, but is a slightly more modern, sophisticated page, and has a new focus.

That new focus is job-hunting. I’ve been working at <name redacted at company’s request> for more years than I care to think about — well, <name redacted at company’s request> and one of its precursor companies, BIS, that it bought up in the 90s. And this is the first time I’ve named it in public on the internet. Edit: And unnamed again, for now at least.

The reasons I never named it before are to do with keeping work and the rest of my life separate; and more to do with the fact that, as quite an elderly tech company, it didn’t really have any concept of its staff having an online life outside of it — or even inside of it. At least until the last couple of years, when it launched a Twitter account and a YouTube channel… and the less said about them the better.

The same agedness is part of the reason why I have never contributed significantly to any open-source projects: my contract effectively disallowed it.1

And I’m making it public now — and I’m relaunching my front page — because I’m not going to be working there much longer.

Even in the teen years of the 21st century, we are not past the time of jobs being moved offshore, it seems. Well some jobs, at least; and <name redacted at company’s request> have been moving development jobs to our — to their, as I should learn to say — offices in Manila and Bangalore for years. It was only a matter of time, really.

So about three weeks ago, me and the four other remaining developers in the team were told that we would be leaving at the end of June.2 It wasn’t a shock, or even a surprise. In fact, I think we were all fairly pleased, in the end.

I’ve been expecting it for at least a year, since the last of the developers in another team were sent on their way. To the extent that I’ve been looking around, have been for a couple of interviews; because I didn’t want to be just hanging on there for the redundancy money. That would be a terrible reason for staying. And while the work was still OK, I didn’t have to find a job, so I felt I was in a position of strength.

Now, of course, I’m quite pleased that none of those opportunities came to anything, because I do get the redundancy money. And my CV is up to date, and my LinkedIn and more importantly Stack Overflow profiles are looking reasonably good.

I’m treating this as an opportunity: I’m keen to learn new things, have new experiences, and hopefully work in a development environment with releases more than twice a year, and with end-users I actually get to talk to.

So things are OK, but I am looking for a new job. So if you happen to know of anyone who’s looking for a Senior Software Engineer, or Lead Programmer, or similar, with a lot of experience in Java and various other languages (and who is currently learning Swift), then send them my way.

And I don’t mind being public about all this now, because I fully expect any company I work for in the future to have a more open, progressive attitude to its employees being citizens of the net.

Well, unless Apple are recruiting.3


  1. And, to be fair, I never bothered to seriously investigate changing that. []
  2. Unless we find other jobs within the company, which is extremely unlikely. []
  3. They are, as it happens, but their “London” site is in Uxbridge, a kazillion miles on the wrong side of town. []

I Upgraded my MacBook

And it’s like having a new machine.

I have a 13-inch MacBook Pro, mid 2010 model. I bought it in about September or October 2010. Which means it’s getting quite long in the tooth. The MacBooks have come on a long way in what they offer since then. Mine had 4GB of memory and a 320 GB hard drive. Nowadays they have solid-state drives by default and start from 16GB of memory, I think.

Thing is, it was still fine in most ways, but it was getting very, very slow. It wasn’t too bad once everything was up and running, but waking it from sleep meant I’d be seeing what Ginger out of The Wildhearts called the “spinning fucking rainbow” (and everyone else calls the beachball) for a long time.

Even when it was up, just switching apps could trigger the slowness. So I was thinking about upgrading. But I figured there was life in the old beast yet. I took inspiration from Jason Snell who writes of upgrading a 2009 model.

According to Apple, the most memory this model can support is 8GB. But according to Other World Computing, this particular model, though no others from around then, can actually take more — up to 16GB.

I went to Crucial, which is noted as the best site for Mac upgrades in the UK (OWC is only in the US). Its tool said it could only take 8GB. But I looked around various forums and decided that there was enough evidence that OWC were right. Plus memory is so cheap these days that the difference in price between 8 and 16 was very small.

So I took a chance and ordered 16GB, plus a 500GB SSD.

Installing the memory was trivially easy. You don’t need more than a small Phillips screwdriver to open the case, and the memory modules themselves pop out and slot in very easily.

But with the two 8GB modules in, it wouldn’t boot up. I just got series of three beeps, repeated every few seconds.

A bit of googling told me that means “bad memory,” essentially.

I tried taking it out an putting it back in, swapping round which module was in which slot, and so on, but to no avail. I put the old memory back just to check that I hadn’t damaged something, and it started up like before.

So it looked like OWC were wrong, and I was restricted to 8GB. I was considering sending the memory back to Crucial and hoping I could get I refund. But then I tried one more thing. One of the new 8GB sticks along with one of the old 2GB ones.

And it booted up, smooth as a cliche.

Of course I tried swapping out one 8GB stick for the other, to check for the possibility that one of them actually was bad. But both of them worked. So it seems that this MacBook can take more than 8GB, but not as much as 16. Which is strange, but never mind.

I’d have to say, though, that the difference in performance wasn’t obvious. But I didn’t spend lot of time with it like that, because I still had the SSD to install. That’s very slightly more involved, needing as it does a Torx screwdriver. But it’s very easy.

Before all that I had made sure my old hard drive was thoroughly backed up, you won’t be surprised to hear.

I booted up in the new configuration and told the Mac to set itself up as a new installation. It downloaded El Capitan over the air and installed away.

There was one slight glitch in this process. Something went wrong with the installation and I started getting a kernel panic on bootup. I don’t quite recall the details now, but I just reformatted the SSD and installed again, and it all went fine.

And the difference… The difference is astonishing. Even with many apps open (I currently have twelve), and a whole stack of tabs in Safari, using it is effortless. Apps switch without the slightest lag. I can start anything up with only a few bounces. I’ve hardly even seen the rainbow.

Even Lightroom, which is the heaviest-weight app I use on here, starts in under ten seconds.

In short, this is the way a computer should be.

Awakening

You’ll have noticed, I’m sure, that after my brief comments on the threeStar Wars prequels late last year, I didn’t come back and say what I thought of the sequel. Which was, after all, the main reason I watched the prequels in the first place.

That was lax of me, but in honour of the DVD ofThe Force Awakens having arrived, here we go now. I won’t go into much detail, though: many pixels, and hours of podcasts, have been generated discussing this movie, and the internet doesn’t need mine at this late stage. But I’ll just quote what I wrote privately after seeing it the first time:

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: I loved every moment, every frame from the scroll onwards. No, before that: from the logo appearing on screen.

Hell, I think “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” comes first.

Anyway, this is a flawless movie. OK, exaggeration: but it is a wonderful, masterful piece of work.

The other thing I thought was, “Move overEmpire: there’s a new bestStar Wars film.”

« Older posts

Copyright © 2016 A Labourer at the Bitface

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑