Crash! Why?

Here is an amusing summary of a software crash which I recently experienced, according to its manufacturer.

“This problem occurred because Microsoft Internet Explorer, which was created by Microsoft Corporation, was slow or unresponsive. This type of problem occurs when a program is slow or has stopped responding and you choose to shut it down. This is also referred to as an application hang. Most of the time, there’s nothing you could have done to prevent this type of error. It’s hard to determine exactly what causes Internet Explorer to stop responding.”

Bottom line – When you next fall fowl of an unresolved software glitch, don’t panic, you’re not alone. Chances are, the people responsible for causing you inconvenience don’t know what’s going on yet either!

A big hello from my iPhone

Good morning, and what a glorious morning it is here in Englefield Green. This is my first post from our new house which we call “The Love Shack”! We’re all returning to our families this weekend, during which time I shall be meeting up with a few great friends on Saturday night and attending Fulham Football Club‘s first home fixture of the new premiership season on Sunday, against Manchester United. Really looking forward to it!

I’m also preparing for the Big Year which starts in September. I’m sure I’ll write more about it in due course. For now, thank you for reading.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

The Twenty-Five Game

If you’re on Facebook, you know the drill.

  1. I’ve been enrolled as an undergraduate student somewhere or other since Saturday 22nd September, 2004.
  2. I’ve just noticed that the three keys on my keyboard directly to the right of my left shift key: (\ z x) aren’t directly in line with the gaps in between a s and d as they are on most keyboards.
  3. I have far too many bits and pieces of old website experiments scattered over the internet.
  4. I have published several small computer programs which improve how Window-Eyes, my screen reading software, interacts with other software.
  5. I share my initial with my dad and as such, all mail addressed to Mr D Paskell is opened by him.
  6. I once played a small prank on our family computer which meant that it would only agree to turn itself on properly after my dad agreed to a significant pocket money rise (not recommended).
  7. I remember the last time London had snow similar to the conditions around here last Monday.
  8. I’m obsessed with dates and can mentally calculate the day of the week on which any given date fell.
  9. I’ve loved radios since I received one as a Christmas present in 1993.
  10. I could have been heard hundreds of times, usually on BBC local radio. My particular favourite competition was the treasure hunt on Radio Berkshire’s Saturday breakfast programme, then hosted by Andrew Peach.
  11. I’am particularly pleased with my tiny battery operated walkman-like radio with a solar rechargeable panel.
  12. I hold valid dual citizenship for both the UK and Ireland.
  13. I met Michael Schumacher eleven days before he won his second grand prix race.
  14. My nicknames have included derivitives of a well known white washing powder, Arbuthnot, Wheel nut, Dazareth and DJ.
  15. I used to have my own Internet Radio show on ACB Radio Interactive.
  16. I’m an accomplished blind shooter with nowhere to train and not enough time to establish my own facilities.
  17. At Great Marlow School, I received the lower school History and French prises from the late Sir John Mortimer in 1998. I was permitted the afternoon off to practise manoeuvring on and off stage in advance and did so that evening, without guidance or use of any mobility aids.
  18. I’m the only person I know to have successfully broken an arm by landing on a stack of crash mats.
  19. My sense of humour has always gotten me into trouble. I was rebuked at primary school for randomly bursting out laughing whilst walking off the playground on my own.
  20. According to Who’s Who, my interests include flogging servants, shooting poor people; and the extension of slavery to anyone who hasn’t got a Knighthood. (profile of Sir Talbot Buxomley) – See, told you!
  21. I’m one of few people who can boast of A-level results of A A E.
  22. I’m utterly terrified of balloons.
  23. I have an extremely short attention span and have been known to nod off just 111 seconds into a lecture.
  24. I am of a naturally shy disposition.
  25. At the time of writing, I’m killing time, waiting for my dad to come and pick me up from university.

oh for the love of everything “markup”!

I’ll try and keep this short, since the internet is boring. Did I say that? Some bits of it are, but there is also some fabulous stuff around! I’m targeting some of the technology behind it today, in particular the stuff that exists to hopefully make the life of the programmer, easier.

In a fairly simplistic level, I’m fond of html and its derivitives. This is the simplist method out there for creating web pages. Ever wondered why that bookmark ends in bla.html? Now you know! As with almost everything vaguely geeky, it’s an acronym of Hyper text markup language but since that’s almost entirely irrelevant, don’t worry about it for now.

Then we have XML. Why? Someone somewhere realised a few years ago that it was really inconvenient for those of us with more than one computer, to transfer our documents and the like from one to the other. Shouldn’t be a problem if we all have the same version of Word, Excel and the like installed, but what if we don’t even have Excel? All I want to do is look at some spreadsheet (goodness knows why), but I don’t have Excel! That’s hardly fair now is it? I’ve been given permission to read the spreadsheet. Why should I have to pay Microsoft for the right to read my work?? And so, some boffins came up with the idea of extendable markup language, XML. It’s just a way of defining all sorts of other ways of saving files, with the main advantage being that it is relatively straightforward for anyone to understand other people’s methods of storing data. Ever tried opening a .doc file in Notepad? Try it some day when you’re bored, and you’ll see it’s just a scrambled load of gibberish, even if it happens to be your prise dissertation when you open it in Word. If it were based on XML, it wouldn’t be quite so daunting, although it would be necessary for someone like me to write some sort of filter to strip the words in your document from all the rest of the junk that should show a computer how to format it.

Again, don’t worry too much if you haven’t got a clue what I’m on about, you’re not necessarily supposed to understand this stuff – that’s my job!

Why am I going on about “markup”? Wonderful as it is, a third of all of our lectures this semester seem to be devoted exclusively to markup. That is the same amount of time we had last semester in class, for the express purpose of learning how to program for the first time.

“But,” you ask. “Isn’t this markup blurb programming as well?”

Absolutely! But, it’s far easier by definition than learning how to write the software which renders web content. I guess they want anyone to be able to put stuff on the web, even without the benefit of wikis and expensive tools like Dreamweaver. For want of a more apt example, think of it in terms of learning to write a web page versus learning to make our own web browser to display it.

Sure, the internet appears to be constantly increasing its penetration of influence into our daily lives. It’s important, possibly vital for the future career path of a computer scientist. I happen to have enjoyed a time of employment thanks to my knowledge of these web technologies. That is my point. Why bother to lecture us about this stuff now? It’s important, I’ve already said that! If it’s necessary to spoon-feed computer science students with this sort of stuff, why not do it before we come onto more advanced programming? As far as I can tell, this module is wasting at least four hours of my life a week – time I could be spending robot building or researching the under-documented methods implemented by Microsoft for including sounds in their XBoxes. Or better still, it could be devoted to extra time understanding theories of computation and logic programming, or the “maths stuff” as I like to call it, stuff which I’m quite crap at by nature.

We’re expected to use our resourcefulness to find out about the finer points of robots and our Java programming in general. If there’s one thing well documented on the web, it’s web programming, so why does the same principle not apply here?

P.S: I’m proud to have spent all of these lectures so far, working on prolog and generally procrastinating. I am however, reassured by the promise of low-level network protocol troubleshooting and hacking later on in the term. Bring on March!