A little experiment in visual art

When I visit the data centre for work, I get my photo taken for a visitor pass. It’s often on a Friday — casual clothes day. The camera (and/or the printer) is black & white, low-resolution, and slightly awkwardly placed.

For some reason, the visitor passes have been accumulating in my desk drawer. Here are the pictures from some of them, stuck together.

Daniels1

They were a little repetitive, so I’ve only included a dozen of them, and I’ve applied some colours to the second row, and on the third row I’ve tried a few visual effects in Paint.Net.

Not exactly Warhol, is it. The other thing it reminds me a little of is the cover of A Hard Day’s Night. Ah well, something different, anyway.

(The full set, unmodified)

Personal geek history

My desk at work, circa 1994A piece of personal geek history: yesterday I had heard that a system I worked on when just out of uni in 1993 just finally got decommissioned.

Myself and my mate Brian got out of uni at the end of ’92, and looked for IT jobs. In early 1993 I landed a contract at a Big Company and Brian came on board too, and we wrote the first version of system “X”, using Visual Basic 2 (the application running on Windows 3.1), and a database backend using Netware SQL (virtually unheard-of now).

(It wasn’t really called “X”. It was a slightly-awkward backronym made up by the guy who thought of the whole idea in the shower, and who had managed to get us inexperienced graduates in to make it happen.)

The software was primarily used in a centre in Burwood, by several hundred users, many of whom had never used Windows and a mouse before. Being a small team, we were able to be very responsive to user feedback, and as well as being more productive, hopefully our user base enjoyed using the software, despite our garish screen designs.

It was an awesome sight walking around the centre watching hundreds of people using the screens I’d designed.

I do recall one funny moment one day when the power went out momentarily. Hundreds of PCs all rebooted at once, accompanied by a collective “ooooooh” from everyone in the place.

A less-funny moment was the day when one of the LAN administrators accidentally wiped the shared drive with all our source code… and then we discovered the most recent backup was several weeks old. This incident inspired Losing My Connection (sung to the tune of “Losing My Religion”.)

Later in 1993, or possibly the next year, the team was expanded and system got a re-write, which we unimaginatively called “X2″.

The re-write used Visual Basic 3 (still on Windows 3.1) with an Oracle database backend. We had some fun naming the Oracle server after computers from Red Dwarf — the main server was Holly, the dev server was Kryten, and the test/staging server was Hudzen.

I left the project towards the end of 1994. Brian left a little while afterwards. His experiences inspired an awfully funny superhero sproof called “ContractOr”, which exaggerated the different worlds of contractors and permanent staff for comic value. Alas most of it has been lost in the mists of time.

A permanent believes that…
Contractors are dangerous, mercenary, rogue coders who don’t take orders, make up their own rules and cause havoc for the fun of it. In addition they’ll happily switch to another job, regardless of the consequences, if they get a better offer. Oh, and obviously, they are vastly overpaid.

A contractor believes that…
A permanent employee is a lazy, unimaginative, shiftless, paperwork-following WIMP. They are only concerned with covering their arse and care nothing for improving work practices – only for making sure they don’t get blamed when things fail to happen YET AGAIN.

Brian went on to be one of the first employees of Sausage Software, who released the first major web page designer.

I did ask around about 10 years ago and was surprised that system “X” was still running. It sounded like it had undergone a re-write into Delphi, so I doubt by the end that there was any of our original code left. Perhaps only the name was still remaining from what we worked on. But it was still called “X2″.

Only this week did it apparently get decomissioned.

Given how fast technology moves, I’m still surprised the system lasted 18 years.

Shirts

A bit over a year ago I stopped wearing a tie to work, mostly because nobody else at work wears a tie.

When you wear ties, they can be the distinguishing feature in your work attire. When the tie is gone, it’s harder to get away with, for instance, wearing white shirts every day.

Shirts

So I’ve bought a bunch of different coloured/striped/checked shirts. Stocktake sale time is a good time to stock up. Van Heusen do quite a nice “European” cut, which is a bit slimmer than their normal “classic” slobby look, but not so slim every belly bulge shows.

I’ve got mostly blues, I have to admit, though recently I’ve branched into a few other colours; for instance a couple of hopefully-not-too-dull greys, one in lavender, one that is white with stripes of pink and a couple of other colours. Groovy.

The Loud list

At work I have a “Loud” play list, for when things are noisy in the office and I need to concentrate on something.

Loudness helps, but an all-encompassing sound is even better for when I need to drown out other noise.

Most artists in my collection have at least a few loud songs, but some which have more than others and are more prominent on the list, such as:

The Living End
Led Zeppelin
Powderfinger
Hendrix
Spiderbait, obviously
Hoodoo Gurus, especially their live album
Ocean Colour Scene
Green Day

Who else would be good?

Daniel is happy

I’m in an astoundingly good mood today. My week started off really crappily. You know the saga… boring job doing literally nothing… contracted until 21/11… can’t escape early. But no matter, ‘cos I got the most brilliant news last night.

For the first time in the universe’s recorded history, somebody is going to pay me for something I’ve written! No, I don’t mean boring corporate computer programs, I mean a bunch of words arranged together in an apparently witty and amusing combination. Writing.

Yes, bits of mine have been published before… the uni newspaper Naked Wasp (with their shocking page layouts and refusal to have articles delivered electronically), the inaugural Monash Comedy Revue (with it’s terrible "rip the script to shreds, then perform it in such a way that it gets zero laughs" production), and even, would you believe, a needlecraft shop newsletter in Palmerston, NZ!

But for the first time I’m making actual dosh out of it (unless you count the amount of writing I’ve done sitting at work being paid to do nothing.)

It seems like they’ll be paying me a reasonable amount for 830 words. Heck, it only took a couple of hours! Those 830 words will appear in the January issue of a slightly nerdy rag called "Portable Computing Direct Shopper", or something like that. They found me via something I’d written on the Web site. And they want more!

So, while it’s not quite "give up my day job" time, today nothing can get me down. I’m happy, happy, happy.

PS. No you can’t read the article here yet. But look out for the magazine.