Friday, November 29, 2013

J. D. Salinger joke of the day

The highly secretive author is believed to have written various versions of his masterpiece. The earliest is based on his experiences as a short-order cook in a sleazy diner in Brooklyn and is tentatively titled "The Ketchup on the Rye"

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Comet - What's in a Name?

Comet Ison is about to swing around the Sun and may become a bright object in the next few days, if it survives. News broadcasts have mentioned the fate of another comet a few years ago - Comet Lovejoy. I had not heard of this celestial traveller before and fell to musing, as one does on a dull November day when the code writing and testing that I still do occasionally on a commercial basis has ceased to command my total attention, [Can't focus, that's his problem: Ed] whether any other of its ilk were named after moderately well-known TV characters. Comet Bergerac? Comet Foggy? Comet Trotter of Peckham? And what of the enormous commercial possibilities? Surely my dear friend and ex-employer Sir Richard Branson would pay dearly to have Comet Virgin? But it is too late for the most endearing and obvious of all - now it is no longer trading, we are unlikely to see Comet Comet adorning the skies.

Monday, November 18, 2013

We are nine

Yes, folks, nine years ago to the very day the world of online publishing was shaken to its core by the first post in this blog.  Back then I don't think I ever thought I would still be doing this for so long. But we enter our tenth year of issue with our standards undiminished. If there is something trivial to be reported on matters commutorial [Surely that's not a word:Ed]  then we will be there wittering away with the best of them. It is likely that my commuting, defined strictly to mean regular journeys between home and work, will cease altogether in 2014 (and there isn't much of it now, to tell the truth). But what the hell - I'll still be riding those steel rails through the green corridors of our verdant part of Middlesex and if there's anything worth saying, and even if there isn't, rest assured that I will be saying it. [and I will be red-pencilling it for all I'm worth: Ed].

And just for the record I took another trip to museum-land today, and therefore another jaunt on the Piccadilly, and this time the homecoming Rayners Lane train was not aborted at Acton Town. Good. The fact that it was the fourth to arrive, and that number two was only going to Northfields, and therefore probably started life as Uxbridge-bound, we will record, with that passive resignation that comes from regular tube travel, and pass on.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Back to Basics on the Piccadilly

As both Mrs.Commuter and me had a day off today, we decided to pop into London and drift around the Victoria and Albert Museum. This sort of low-pressure visit is very enjoyable - nothing particular to worry about seeing, no time limits, leaving when we felt like it - but of course it necessitated using the Piccadilly. The outbound journey was fine; we checked on the net and reached the platform just as our chosen train arrived. Coming home was pot luck. It seemed too good to be true when the first train at South Kensington was not only Uxbridge-bound, but had seats aplenty. It was. It turned into a Northfields and we had to wait at Acton Town [oh the horrific memories: Ed] for a Rayners Lane train thus enforcing a further wait for the Met back to beautiful Ruislip. And, just as it was all those years ago when I used to travel daily on this line to work, the indicators at Acton were singularly unhelpful, showing just the next inbound train and not those behind it, and getting it wrong anyway so that when we arrived the board said Uxbridge and the driver had to contradict it. God help anyone with a poor command of English. There was no explanation for the change of route but of course there were the usual announcements about a good service. Business as usual, really.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

The man who's not from Microsoft

The phone rings. You answer it. There is a silence then an echoey kind of crackle and the sound of voices talking in the background before a man with an eastern Asian accent says "Can I talk to Mr. G. [Real name redacted to confuse NSA: Ed], even though you have announced your name loud and clear, so you say "Speaking" and he says "Good Morning, How are you today? (as if he cares) My name is (insert any name you like here, it's not his real name), I am calling from the Technical Help Centre (or something. It doesn't matter),  we have been notified of a problem on your computer".

At this point, if you know about these calls, you probably hang up. If you don't, you may be fooled into thinking that the call is genuine. Because he will go on to ask you to open the Control Panel on your Windows desktop (if you are not running Windows and say so, he will hang up) and display the system log. This log is stuffed full of fairly meaningless Microsoft internal code messages and can be safely ignored by anyone except a real IT specialist. He will then ask you read out one or two lines and will then say this proves it, your computer has a serious virus and is about to crash, and the solution is to download some software from him that will fix it. Of course, if you do this, you will download a piece of malicious code that really will lock up your computer, forcing you to pay these crooks to get rid of it, or perhaps conning you into buying even more "fixes".

There is a third way, to go on the attack and see how much of his time you can waste. I tried this on when I received one of these calls today. I spent some time asking him to prove how he knew my computer had a fault. The obvious question is to ask whether he knew my IP address, the unique number that identifies my computer whilst making internet connections. This morning's caller did not, of course, because all he had in front of him was a script to read as the automatic dialler selected its next victim. But, he foolishly told me, this was known to his technical department. So put me on to them, I helpfully suggested. Ah, for some reason he couldn't do that. But he still gamefully insisted that he knew, because it had shown up on his "firm's server" that there was a problem. Well, which computer was it? I've got more than one, I truthfully replied. He didn't know so he improvised brilliantly and said "All of them. They will all crash". "What, even the one running Linux [An operating system some people use, different from both Windows and Apple's IOS: Ed] and the C64? (a games console from the 1980s that you can, if you really want to, use to connect to the Internet but frankly, banging your head against a wall would be more fun)" I asked, no longer speaking truthfully and waiting for him to say yes, so that I could ask him how that could even be possible.

I think he became a little offended and made some comment that he was trying to help - my response, well, you're not doing a very good job, so he added that he was calling from Microsoft, as though that might strengthen his credentials. This was a foolish thing to say. I asked him which department, what was his payroll number and whether he knew my good friend Jim Atkinson (a fictional character). He floundered - now he was working for a company that was a sub-contractor. We fenced a little more until I tired and hung up. That's 7 minutes of his life he will never get back, and for which he will have earned nothing. As for me, well, it's given me some pleasure and the inspiration to write this piece. So I make that 1-0 to Ramblings and look forward to meeting my new friend, his mysterious technical department chums and maybe even his supervisor (a.k.a. the guy sitting next to him) in the next round, when if he tries the Microsoft line again, I shall ask if he is going to their Sports & Social Club Christmas Dinner & Dance to be held in the firm's canteen.