Monthly Archives: June 2016

Experience Needed

I recently got turned down for a job partly as I do not have experience working as part of a larger development team. I do have over 25 years experience in programming, but this is not enough.

The old saw about having to have experience to get experience is not just for those starting their careers. Sigh!

Odd Language #159: Too Brilliant to Stop?

In is the sentence: “There’s a widely held view that our world is full of uber hackers who are too brilliant to stop.”

The issue: Too brilliant to be stopped or too brilliant to stop themselves? Presumably, it is the former, but sometimes, bright people can get too caught up in their seemingly brilliant ideas.

Puzzle #162: Swimsuit Issue

If Sports Illustrated can do it, so can I.

You have eight bikinis, each of a different colour. Four are string bikinis and four are not. Of course, you can mix and match. Here are the rules. The top’s colour must be the same as the bottom’s or precede the bottom’s colour in alphabetical order. A string bottom can be paired with a non-string top, but a non-string bottom can not be paired with a string top.

How many possible bikini top and bottom pairs are there? (Actually, this is indeterminate and depends on which colours in the colour order are string and non-string.)

The real question: What are the minimum and maximum numbers of possible bikini top and bottom pairs allowed? For both numbers, what is the arrangement of string and non-string in the colour order?

Submit your answer to Gene Wirchenko <>. Your answer should be in the form of a proof. That means to show how your answer must be correct. The deadline is Wednesday, July 13, 2016 at noon Pacific Time. I will post the answer shortly after.

Kids (and Many Others) Can’t Use Computers

I recently came across Kids can’t use computers… and this is why it should worry you. It is a blog posting by Marc Scott about difficulties he has encountered with people who supposedly can use computers. Many of us who do computer support can tell similar stories.

The trouble is that many people can not use computers as well as, say, cars. You know that you have to go to a gas station from time to time to refuel a car, but somehow, when it comes to computers, many people do not have the corresponding knowledge.

What is worse is that many people are proud of their ignorance. Try to tell them how to avoid a repetition of the problem you just dealt with, and they do not want to hear it. (It really is a relief when someone does listen.)

It is also thought that kids are digital natives and so they know all this stuff. That is not true either. By using a computer, you do not learn the technical side of computers any more than by driving, you learn auto mechanics.

This makes it difficult for those of us in computer support. Dealing with the same problem over and over because someone can not be bothered to learn is somewhat demoralising.

Please do not act as if computers are something you can not learn about. You can learn.


And it will make it easier for the both of us.

Odd Language #158: Jacked Up has a couple of sentences that looked odd to me: “I did install 14.04, only to find that the screen brightness settings were all jacked up. The machine booted with a very dim screen and you’d have to manually adjust it every time if you wanted to use it.”

The issue: The screen brightness settings were “all jacked up”. I read this as they were all set high, but the term “jacked up” can also mean “not working properly or as intended.” (See In this case, the settings were all jacked up, because they were all set low.

Puzzle #161: For the Birds

You have some birds: chickens, turkeys, and ducks. There are twice as many chickens as turkeys. The number of ducks is six more than the average of the number of chickens and the number of turkeys. If you have fewer than 50 birds, what is the maximum number of birds you could have?

Submit your answer to Gene Wirchenko <>. Your answer should be in the form of a proof. That means to show how your answer must be correct. The deadline is Wednesday, July 6, 2016 at noon Pacific Time. I will post the answer shortly after.

Puzzle #159 Solution: The Insurance Office

Spoiler Inside: Solution to Puzzle SelectShow

Whose Computer Is It?

A recent post in USENET’s, entitled “Re: Article on Win10 adoption”, had this paragraph: “I had a 10 minute deadline to email an important document. Having switched on the laptop which should have been ready to use in about a minute, Windows decided it was a good time to start installing the latest large update. Twenty minutes later it was ready for use but useless to meet my deadline. It was not a life or death situation but it has cost me a few extra days in time before I get a decision from the [recipient].”

I have had cases of Windows software deciding it knew better than I did. It once miscorrected my E-mail address on my resume. It was good that I noticed a flash at the top of the screen.

So whose computer is it?

Odd Language #157: Batty

In Deader Still, a novel by Anton Strout, the protagonist kept referring to his “extensible bat”.

The issue: Given that this is a fantasy novel, I did not know what it was. It was not until the end of the second chapter, that I realised that it was a bat-as-in-weapon rather than a bat-as-in-animal.