Friday/ the X1 Carbon has landed

My new notebook computer landed on my doorstep on Friday, and my first impressions are very favorable.  It’s light, and very similar to my Lenovo notebooks from work that I had used for 8, 10 hours a day for a very long time.  I did consider a MacBook and others, but my fingers are so, so used to the Lenovo keyboard.  A new notebook with a different keyboard layout and feel can bring a lot of frustration, and be hard to get used to again (sort of like a rental car with the levers for the wipers and turn signal switched from one’s own car).

It did take a little patience to get the machine set up.  There was a massive 4 Gigabyte Windows 10 update needed to what was already loaded on the machine.

Then, when I downloaded and attempted to install Google Chrome (as browser instead of Microsoft’s Edge), the infamous blue screen of death came up. Aargh.  Microsoft calls it a ‘stop screen’ – and these days the blue screen is not a dead stop requiring a hard reboot.  Electing to re-install the very large OS update did the trick.

Such a clean ma-chine! (as Queen would sing in ‘I’m in love with my car’), on my somewhat cluttered desk. The Lenovo X1 Carbon* (5th Gen), 16 Gb memory, 512 Gb SSD, Intel Core i7 7th gen., full HD res, 2.5lbs.   *Carbon fiber in the outer shell, and a magnesium frame.

Wednesday/ boot and nuke it

I have a number of old PCs, notebook computers and external hard drives that I have mothballed, but that I had not yet taken to the recycle shop here in Seattle.  Although I had deleted all the files from them*, the drives still need to be scrubbed.  (Yes, I could physically destroy the drives with a hammer, but that is messy and I wanted to avoid it).

*Deleting files just change some of the pointer information on it. It does not remove the file from the drive.

It took about 3 1/2 hours to erase the old 60 Gb drive on my notebook computer. (Modern drives are easily ten times bigger, so it might take a long time to erase those).

I finally found a solution: a military grade drive erase program called Darin’s Boot and Nuke program (DBAN).   It’s open source software and free for personal use, but it does take a little work to set up and use. (Here’s a review).

First, download a program and use it to burn a boot file onto a DVD.  Then set up the computer with drives to be erased, to boot from this DVD (not from its hard drive). The program then lets the user select the hard drive or external drive that should be obliterated (overwritten).  OK, time to pay attention. Verify twice, erase once (along the lines of the tailor’s motto ‘Measure twice, cut once’). The warning says ‘This program irrecoverably destroys data’ .  Yes. That is what I want.

Tuesday/ Google Maps to the rescue

I turned on img_8621-smGoogle Maps and its voice navigation assistant again tonight – for the trip back to Pleasanton. There is a complicated freeway interchange at Pleasanton that I am not yet familiar with.   As I started out, the female voice said confidently ‘You are on the shortest route, and will arrive at 7.28 pm, despite some traffic on the way’.

Weird, I thought, first time I heard the ‘despite some traffic’ part. Well, it turned out there was a big accident on I-680, and Google Maps steered me onto a feeder road (San Ramon Valley Boulevard) that runs along I-680, instead.   And sure enough : it was 7.28 pm when I pulled up at the hotel parking lot.

Monday/ the BAPI is unhappy


The remains of the day .. the Marriott hotel’s conference room where our testing was done, after everyone had left.

We survived our first day of user acceptance testing.   One of the defects found was a problem with a Business Application Programming Interface.  ‘BAPI’ is SAP’s proprietary name for the more general software term Application Programming Interface.  APIs are blocks of code that enable different software applications to use these standardized building blocks of code (programs) to exchange data in a standardized format (interface).

Our SAP installation interacts with an external project scheduling application (one of arch-nemesis Larry Ellison’s Oracle products called Primavera P6).  The BAPI that connects the two systems need to be fixed.


Friday/ attack of the botnets


There was a massive cyber attack last Friday on the internet here in the United States (affecting web users in other parts of the world as well : Brazil, Germany, India, Spain and the U.K). Authorities are still trying to determine who was behind it. (A group calling themselves ‘New World Hackers’ claimed responsibility on Twitter – without proof).   The diagram from TIME magazine shows what happened.  A botnet of internet-connected gadgets (surveillance cameras, printers, digital video recorders were deployed).  These devices have weak or non-existent security, and we may soon see legislation that will force manufacturers to build in more security.  They had better hurry : there are an estimated 6.4 billion things connected to the internet already, a number that will balloon to 20.8 billion just four years from now in 2020.



Wednesday/ the Marea cable

Construction on the Marea cable has started : the highest-capacity sub-sea cable ever placed across the Atlantic, and the first to connect the U.S. to southern Europe. Construction started in August, with completion scheduled for October 2017.   Bloomberg news reports that cables have been laid on the ocean floor for a long, long time : the first trans-Atlantic telegraph cable in 1866.    The Marea cable will be paid for by Microsoft and Facebook, and be able to carry up to 160 Terabits per second of data.


Is that a depiction of Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook CEO) in the picture? I’m sure it is.

Monday/ postcard from France

A postcard from France landed in my mailbox on Monday (not for me : it’s just for an address close to mine, so I will put it back in the mail).  But hey – let me check out this postage stamp first, I thought.  It celebrates the bicentennial of  ‘steam navigation’ (vapeur is French for steam).  The first successful steamboat was invented by the nobleman Marquis de Jouffroy.

Here’s a blurb from WIRED magazine about the cutting edge steam boat technology of that time : ‘The Pyroscaphe (Greek for ‘fire boat’) steamed upstream at 6 mph without a sail, and the crowds cheered this technological marvel. But after 15 minutes, the boat began to break up under the pounding of the engine. De Jouffroy quickly and cannily steered the boat ashore, and then bowed to the cheering multitudes’.