Same location, different times

I was talking to someone tonight who said that it looked like there would be a new layer of bureaucracy applied to how their z/OS system was managed. It made me think of way back, when I first worked for IBM … Hursley’s “production” systems had a level of process and change control. Though as those boxes were all used for development activity it was still less hidebound than you might get (or hope for) in a banking datacentre. But our department had its own mainframe, under more local control. The sysprogs lived on the same corridor, and would do pretty much whatever you needed. Especially after a lunch meeting at the Dolphin.

And then I realised that our MVS system – probably an IBM 4381 if I remember right – was likely sited at pretty much where my desk is now. A desk which I’ve only seen a couple of times over the last year, but where I had to go yesterday after an area-wide power outage that had taken out an old desktop Linux box that would blow away that 4381 with its processing capability. Some of what’s now desks used to be a mini-machine room.

Linux desktop in Hursley
The Linux PC with more power than the mainframe that once sat here

How many screens is too many?

Doing a web seminar session yesterday I knew I wanted a second machine available. Partly as an HA failover backup (just in case), and partly to act as a view of what the other participants were seeing – which I can’t see on the system I’m driving a presentation from. Though as I cabled everything together, it did start to look a little silly. Or like a set from a bad TV show.

Five screens
Five screens, one desk

But I did actually find a use for just about all of the panels.

The secondary system had the live seminar contents, along with the text-based chat screen so I could see when people raised questions. And I had some written notes associated with the presentations that I could scroll through as the event progressed.

The primary system had one panel with the full-screen presentation, another panel with a preview of the next slide, and a further panel with all my other activities including a chat window where I could type private notes to my co-presenter if necessary.

Could I have managed with fewer screens? Probably, but having all that space did make it easy to manage and have the windows and fonts expanded large enough so I didn’t have to peer hard at small text.

I’ve now moved the 2nd laptop next to the big TV so I can use it to show the county championship cricket games available only via live streaming services. But it can brought back to the desk if needed for another web conference.

This post was last updated on April 30th, 2021 at 02:41 pm

Different Logs

I was doing a crossword puzzle last week, and one of the clues required that you know about logarithm tables. I realised I hadn’t seen those for many years since we’d been taught how to use them at school – calculators were around but not ubiquitous. You had to know how to look up logs (base 10 and natural), sines, square roots etc in these pages. Feeling a bit nostalgic I did a search of bookstores, paid a small amount, and yesterday a book turned up.

Now if only I could remember where I put that slide rule …

This post was last updated on February 4th, 2021 at 04:28 pm

Improvising a teleprompter

For a web conference session I was giving this afternoon, I’d written a script. Although I might not follow it exactly, it was meant to give a structure and ensure I didn’t forget points I wanted to make. But reading it while looking down at a printed page would make it difficult to look at the camera. And looking at the camera would make it difficult to read the words. Not to mention the problem of driving the slides through, by clicking on the presentation application in a browser. Putting things on the laptop’s 2nd monitor would mean frequent eye movement so I was not “looking at” the audience. Not very satisfactory.

With an hour to go, I had a brainwave – I could use my standby laptop propped up behind the main system and use that screen. And because of the need to both click on the presentation system AND to scroll through the script, while not looking down to move cursors or switch between applications, I’d be able to use another mouse. I grabbed an empty box to act as a stand, copied a PDF to the other machine, and tried it out. I had left-hand for the teleprompter scrolling mouse; right-hand for the presenting mouse.

And it all seemed to work pretty well from my perspective. Other than running short on time. But that was not the technology’s fault.

Using a 2nd system as an improvised teleprompter

This post was last updated on August 7th, 2020 at 08:45 am

Finding some positives

Have to find something good in the current situation, and here’s one thing that worked for me.

My passport expires later this year. I was a bit worried about finding a suitable gap in my schedule when I could do without it for a while. As soon as it became obvious there would not be any travel in the immediate future, I filled out the online form and used my phone to take and upload a new photo. The UK government site said the normal processing takes up to three weeks. 12 days later my new passport was delivered (with the blue/black cover). Much faster than I had expected.

I also need to get the US Global Entry renewal sorted out. That requires an initial background check from the UK which claims to take up to 2 weeks. I received the approval for that in 12 hours.

Just hope I get to use the passport soon…

Following the rules

  • Company rules say that the pilot must make some chatty announcement as the plane gets to cruising altitude.
  • Company rules say that the pilot must make some chatty announcement as the plane begins descent.

Funnily enough, the weather doesn’t change a lot in the three minutes gap between these points on the short LAX/LAS hop.