Etymology of “You’re fired!”

Tonight I watched a 90 minute documentary about Thomas J. Watson Sr, founder of IBM. (No, I didn’t get paid to watch it.) The most interesting thing I learned wasn’t about IBM, though. Before IBM, Watson worked for the National Cash Register Company, aka NCR. The head of NCR at the time was John Henry Patterson, who makes Steve Jobs look like the Dalai Lama. As well as randomly terminating the employment of people who failed to answer even trivial questions to his satisfaction, Patterson would sometimes lay off executives just to “break their self esteem”, and then hire them back once they clearly knew he was alpha bastard.

Vacation

So, I’m back from a one week vacation in Virginia. We stayed in a castle on a mountaintop in the Appalachians, near the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was a pretty amazing experience. The place was like an English stately home–except that instead of being roped off and littered with “DO NOT SIT ON CHAIR” signs, we actually got to live there for a week. It was the most relaxed vacation I’ve had in years.

i c

I just learned that IBM has renamed OS/400 again. It was called i5/OS last year, but this year they renamed it… i Yes, the letter ‘i’ in lower-case. IBM i. Fabulous! That’s going to be really great for searching for information, isn’t it? Hardly any web pages contain the letter ‘i’ on its own, or sentence bridges like “…I downloaded the patch from IBM. I then…” It’ll work especially well in IBM Lotus Notes, where searches are case-insensitive and punctuation-insensitive unless you reindex the entire database with non-default settings.

Hell hath no fury like a phone company scorned

When I moved to the USA, one of the first things I did was get a cell phone. I was going to be living in a big city, rothko was working in a different part of town, we needed to coordinate things–it seemed to make sense. We went to Omnipoint, got a couple of phones, everything was good. A few years later, Omnipoint were purchased by Voicestream. We got a phone upgrade.

Getting a Second Life

Getting a Second Life Imagine a world where you could create literally anything you could imagine, and explore it in 3D. What would you make? If your answer was “strip malls and casinos”, I know a place you’ll love. ◊ ◊ ◊ A while back I had the unusual experience of having my employer suggest that I spend some time trying out Second Life. IBM is quite interested in the commercial possibilities of 3D shared environments, and has even set up some experimental conference spaces.

Whatever it takes

Friday was definitely the worst Friday ever. I wandered in to the office with my coffee, and discovered that my main work laptop—an IBM ThinkPad, obviously—had mysteriously powered itself off overnight, instead of merely going to sleep. I booted it, only to get the dreaded Fan error message. (If you’re falling asleep already, skip down to the moral of the story.) A fan error is pretty much the kiss of death for a recent laptop.

Software and religion

As you have probably noticed, I’ve just gone through a major software migration for my web site. I was using typo. It was OK, but had a few problems. While its web site describes it as “lean”, that isn’t really the reality. It also relied on a combination of Apache, LigHTTPd and FastCGI that tended to break down without explanation. The biggest reason for change, though, was that typo’s authors’ idea of what was important functionality was diverging from mine.

Keyboard

At the weekend I decided to give in and get a USB keyboard. I went to Fry’s, hoping to find something suitable, but fearing that all they’d have would be Microsoft keyboards. I know Microsoft’s hardware quality is better than their software quality, and their keyboards are definitely much better than the trash you typically get with a new PC. They are also to be commended for providing a reasonable ergonomic layout at an affordable price.

LCD DHL IBM JFS KDE USB HID

The excitement started a week or two ago when I discovered that my ThinkPad laptop’s internal cooling fan had stopped working. As soon as I did something graphically intense for more than a minute or two, the system would overheat and perform an emergency shutdown. Fortunately, I have a backup laptop. Unfortunately, the backup ThinkPad laptop had also developed a fault. The fluorescent backlight for the display was failing. The screen was a curious reddish-purple color, and very dim—unless I turned the brightness up, in which case the backlight stopped working entirely, and everything went black.

Pants!

Apparently Sunday was a bit of a slow news day for the Dallas/Fort Worth Star-Telegram. I have to wonder how their graphic artist reacted when asked to draw the all-important inset map. Monday was somewhat more exciting, for me at least. I went to put on the usual “I’m a responsible adult with a job” clothes, and discovered that the pair of khakis I had grabbed and stuffed into my case were too small.