the corner office

a blog, by Colin Pretorius

Punk-Rock Sea Shanties & Appalachian Death Polka

Well that's a bit obscure. The Wages of Sin, with Thee Spectres front-man Jesse James.
The Wages of Sin play traditional music for non-traditionalists. They mix Celtic with country with Appalachian with rockabilly with Tex-Mex with bluegrass, and follow the whole mess with a bracing shot of punk rock.
Demo mp3s. I'm tapping my feet as I type this, so I think I like it!

{2004.08.31 17:22} : Comments (2)


The majority of the weekend was spent playing with Gentoo. An emerge world saw a heap of updates to KDE and Gnome come down the line... many many many hours of compiling. Then I decided to try rolling my own Thunderbird. Not a good idea... that chugged away for hours. Then Eclipse... couple more hours, and finally OpenOffice which took nearly 13 hours to compile. The novelty of compiling my own stuff is wearing off. On the up side, apart from a looong list of things to tweak and sort out, I have a semi-usable system, and apart from minor details like mail and Notes access, I'm spending less and less time in Windows. Very few other distractions over the weekend - we rented a DVD on Saturday (Big Fish - very good), and met Paula and Lee and Andrew at the Manhattan Grill on Sunday night. Speaking of Manhattan, Paula's leaving soon on her company's annual ra-ra. This year they're going to Cancun and New York. Bah. It also turns out I missed a chance to meet up with Mr Blakey-Milner who was up to present at the Open Source Software Africa conference. It's only been, oh, 7 years since we last met up? :)

{2004.08.30 23:42} : Comments (0)

At last, I've hit the big time

Thanks to Mr Vaughan, I have me a gmail account. Thanks Jonvon! :-)

{2004.08.29 23:32} : Comments (0)

Day out

Ronwen and I were off to Cresta for lunch, and decided to catch a movie while we were there. It's been months since we last went to movies (always too busy or lazy). We ended up watching Around The World In 80 Days. Some less than stellar bits but overall good clean fun. The fight scenes with JackieChan! are always good fun. A good few cameos... Arnie didn't do it for me, but Rob Schneider's part had us in stitches. I ate too much though. Came home and spent the evening feeling sorry for myself on the couch and mooching around with Gentoo. R & I watched 'Coming To America' on SABC3. Still a damned funny movie - especially the various Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall characters. It's always a hoot to revisit or even rediscover the source of old gags and lines that are nowadays part of our common culture, 16 years later. As I said to Ronwen, it's painful to look back at the clothes and hair styles and music and think we grew up with that, but then again, if you're willing to re-embrace that 80s cheese, you can hook back into a lot of good memories.

{2004.08.28 03:42} : Comments (0)

Game Architecture and Design: a reviewlet

On Thursday night I finished reading Game Architecture and Design: A New Edition by Andrew Rollings and Dave Morris. No, I have no pretensions of getting into game development, but let's be honest, it's the coolest part of the IT industry, and I bought the book for a bit of armchair tourism, if you will. The fact that it took me months to finish is perhaps indicative that I found it pretty slow going. If I hadn't coughed up so much for it, I'd probably have given up. It's a fairly comprehensive treatment of games development - not much nitty-gritty technical stuff, but instead a detailed treatment of various aspects of the games making process - from the earliest design phases to the final goal of shipping a game. It is interesting and valuable in that it applies good old software development best practices and principles to the context of game development, and that obviously is still applicable to the boring work the rest of us do. Some of the principles almost seem heretical and counter to our images of what ubergeek game developers do - but that's the point the authors repeatedly make - games are BIG these days, and need a different set of rules now: the anarchic culture is actually holding the games industry back. The book is well written and I kept coming across truisms and examples and observations that had me thinking 'hmm, I should make a note of this' - but in the end I just didn't find myself excited about reading it. I can't say why - some sections just seemed to go on forever, and in general, I guess what I should call the "resonance to noise ratio" just wan't that high for me. There's some really decent, insightful and useful content, but not enough for me to say I enjoyed the book.

{2004.08.28 03:39} : Comments (0)

Strong faith, stronger odours

I remember this being on the telly weeks back. An old man dies, a so-called prophet says he will rise again, and so the family refuse to bury the body and wait for a magical day that keeps getting postponed. Now the cops have said enough is enough:
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African authorities will bury a 77-year-old man who has been dead seven weeks despite his family saying a "prophet" had promised them he would be resurrected, police said on Tuesday. Paul Meintjes's body was returned to his family late last week after the local mortuary refused to store it any longer. The body was kept in his widow's bedroom at their Free State home for three days before officials said it was a health risk and ordered it taken to the state morgue. "The body is OK -- it is still recognizable," police spokesman Sam Makhele told Reuters by telephone from Bloemfontein. "But after a few days out of the fridge the smell was not OK."
At the time I had one of my "bah religion" tirades which usually end with the missus saying "Colin. Shut up already." I just can't help but wonder what the family would have done if the fuzz hadn't stepped in. At what point do one's nostrils override one's faith? (via Gauteng Blog)

{2004.08.24 23:32} : Comments (0)

Quality control...

A Spanish-language version of Windows XP, destined for Latin American markets, asked users to select their gender between "not specified," "male" or "bitch," because of an unfortunate error in translation.
This and other balls-ups at CNET: How eight pixels cost Microsoft millions (via Ian Murdock)

{2004.08.24 21:47} : Comments (0)

It's in the air

Stepped outside this morning, and got my first dose of Johannesburg spring air. I could never put my finger (or nose) on it, but there's always a certain something when the season turns. Swell!

{2004.08.24 14:08} : Comments (1)

Gauteng housing space and sinkholes

I'm trawling through more interesting links over at Gauteng Blog. Apparently the small Gauteng province is running out of space, and more high-rise buildings are expected to be built over time. It will be interesting to see that play out, methinks. The ever-growing horizontal sprawl of housing complexes upon housing complexes growing out into the countryside around the city speaks to the Joburg mindset - after the formerly popular high-rise suburbs of Hillbrow and Berea quickly decayed and turned into a slumlands in the late 80s and 90s, your average Joburger is not going to rush off and buy property in an area with lots of high-rise buildings. Pity. Another interesting part of the problem is that a large part of Gauteng sits on top of dolomitic (limestone) rock, which isn't suitable for building houses. Why? 'Cause they can get swallowed up in sinkholes, basically. I grew up in the mining town of Carletonville which was particularly badly hit by this in the 60s. The mining in the area resulted in lots of water being pumped away, and large underground cavities being left behind as the water table dropped. These caused all sorts of unpleasantness. Throughout Carletonville, there were suburbs where one house on a block, or sometimes entire blocks were open land with nothing more than the original foundations of houses, because ground movement and settling had caused the houses to collapse or be destroyed to avoid the sinkhole threats. The bottom of this page (also linked to by GP) has a picture of a huge sinkhole in Kaolin street, Carletonville. We lived two streets up, and that area had plenty of empty lots. Freaky stuff. Those open lots with their uneven ground always had an eerie feel to them. By the 70s and 80s most areas were considered 'safe', but I remember that in one area a new housing complex quickly had to ban the construction of swimming pools, because all that extra water increased the sinkhole risk if pools leaked. Didn't do much for their property values, as I recall. Another side effect of all the mining was the amount of seismic activity and tremors we were exposed to all the time, so much so that you eventually didn't even notice them. I remember coming back to one of the Carletonville mines as an auditor. An auditing team of Joburg city slickers nearly soiled themselves and were almost diving for cover under tables when a tremor hit, while the locals, including myself, carried on doing our thing, completely oblivious to the seismic wibble. Some wibbles were worse than others, though, and we were always near the epicentre, so even we got frights now and then. I will admit that I resolved at a young age that California was probably one part of the world I'd probably not want to live in.

{2004.08.24 02:43} : Comments (1)


A question posed by Gauteng blog:
I have noticed that when I go down to the coast, my half-used shampoo bottle (I use Johnson's Baby Shampoo) is crushed. When I open the lid, it pops back into shape. Presumably, this has something to do with altitude and air pressure differences between the coast and Gauteng. It could also have to do with my poor packing technique, but I doubt it. Do manufacturers have to take this into account when transporting goods?
Since Joburg is over 1.7km above sea level, it's very definitely due to the changes in air pressure. I've always maintained that Durbanites, between the coastal air pressure and oppressive humidity, are exposing their brains to a form of slow pressure-cooking that definitely can't be healthy for them. It probably explains a lot about Durban, come to think of it. To answer GP's question: it is a transport issue. My aunt's sister and her hubby did a stint a few years ago as truck drivers in the USA. Transporting packets of potato chips (crisps) from California to elsewhere can be a problem: if trucks take the mountain passes to get inland, the packets explode at high altitude, due to the much lower atmospheric air pressure. If I remember their story correctly, potato chips have to be transported around some of the mountain ranges, so's to keep the chip packets intact.

{2004.08.24 02:23} : Comments (0)


Supporting a good cause: Hellkom is in hot water because parastatal monopolist Telkom doesn't like people saying bad things about them. Telkom will probably manage to squish the Hellkom site eventually, but the more negative publicity Telkom gets in the meantime, the better.

{2004.08.24 01:32} : Comments (0)


Nice, uneventful journey. Home is chaotic and dusty, just as we left it :-) I have ADSL Internet connectivity again. Words cannot describe...

{2004.08.23 19:11} : Comments (0)

Lazy week

Last night in Durban. Sad our break is over, but a little eager to get back home. It's been a relaxing week. On Monday we drove up to Maritzburg with my cousin Michael and his girlfriend Laura to visit my grandmother and aunt. M & L are moving to the UK and were flying on Tuesday - more folks off on an overseas adventure. On Thursday we went to the Durban Museum (of Natural History, I think), and the museum in the old courthouse. Nice but depressing - South Africans as a nation don't give museums the appreciation or support they deserve and it shows. We had lunch at Joe Kool's on the beachfront (it's been 3 years since our last visit, and the JK's chicken calzone was as goopy and excellent as ever). A stroll along the pier and back home driving through the 'old' suburbs on the hill. Durbs is a beautiful city, really it is. The weekend was spent at my parents' place where I managed to make my way through Jeffrey Archer's Kane and Abel, and picked up some cooking tips from my mom. I think I was also at least partly successful in satisfying the parental units that despite me being unemployed that yes, I'm a grown-up and I do know what I'm doing with my life and Ronwen and I are not about to go hungry or be thrown out in the streets just yet. Apart from that, I've basically spent the week lazing around, soaking up too much brain sludge on satellite TV and playing around on the 'puter. In addition to having some deep thoughts, I got Eclipse up and running again and stared at the screen trying to decide exactly what I felt like doing. I eventually banged out some code for pet projects, and spent quite a bit of time working through some parts of the Java API that had been hit-and-run affairs in the past. It's nice to be able to muck about with tech stuff and just play, without being in a mad rush to churn out working code. On a slightly more embarassing front, I would have posted something to the effect that it was roughly a year ago that I kicked the smoking habit, except that I'm afraid I've been "backsliding" a bit the past 2 weeks. Not quite regressed to the point of smoking full-time or buying m'own, but I'm guilty of the occasional post-prandial puff, and a few more besides. Eh well, the holiday's over tomorrow, and I'll be back on the straight and narrow again. Why is the all the fun stuff always bad for you?

{2004.08.22 22:07} : Comments (0)

Happy birthday Sandy!

Today is my sister's birthday. My sister is 3 years younger than me so when I do the maths I always get a shock to realise how old my "little sister" is. She'll always be my little sister to me though :-) Hope you have a great day, Sandy!

{2004.08.17 00:03} : Comments (2)

Files and document management

I'm devoting a few cycles to the issue of file system storage and representation. I know that very bright people have devoted lots of thought and research to this and it is exactly this sort of problem that fairy-dust operating systems like Longhorn are meant to help solve, but the small little problem domain I'm dealing with right now is filing and categorising all my "reference" files. (As an aside, all my files are stored in directories named after places from Middle Earth, and my reference folder is called Gondor - the scene with Gandalf digging through the old scrolls in the cinematic version of The Fellowship Of The Ring perfectly captured why I'd always chosen 'Gondor' for the reference stuff.) The saved web pages, web sites, ebooks, pdfs, Word documents, text documents, quickly typed notes and miscelleous files that comprise my library of electronic knowledge. My current 'system' such as it is, is fairly simple: categorised directories, subcategories, and subcategories again, like a great big tree. The problem is that it forces a single category on a document or set of documents. What's more, some directories imply categorisation and others imply structure of a single 'block' of documents. For example, an html version of an electronic book usually has one or more 'images' or 'data' directories. Which directories have semantic purpose and which are purely internal document structure? What's more, directory names like Teach_Yourself_DATABASE_PROGRAMMING_WITH_VB5_in_21_Days_2nd_Ed are not very handy, and vb_21_2 doesn't really do the job either. Somewhere in between is a what-to-name-it minefield that causes me more stress than the issue deserves, but I can't help myself. So while my system isn't unworkable, I'd very much like to overcome its limitations. There are a number of really great things I'd like to be able to do and they all revolve around the issue of categorisation and annotation. I'd like to be able to plop a bit of work about Java programming in Notes into a Notes and Java category. If it's related to web development, then I'd like to put it in a WebDev category too. I also want to be able to note that it's a document generated by me, and I want to be able to find other such documents with minimal effort. I want to be able to generate a list of ebooks, websites, etc. Of the many electronic books I have, it would be nice to store the usual book details, such as publishers, year published, editions, etc. I'd like a history of when things were checked in. I want to be able to add comments and descriptions and cross-references and notes as I work with documents. Does this venture firmly into the realm of document management systems? It's not an area I've worked with before, so perhaps these problems have been already been solved. Perhaps someone will think "you dufus, Domino.doc does this!" It's worth investigation, I suppose. Notes might provide a good way to store the metadata for this system because the ideas of multiple categorisation, full-text searching and so on are all already there. There are a few caveats, though. The first is that I don't want to store the documents as attachments: I want them stored on a filesystem so that I can dig around in the "raw" stuff if I like. So Notes would have to synchronise with the actual file system data (then again, so would other systems). I want the system to be cross-platform so that I can manage the library from Windows and Linux. Finally, (and perhaps contrarily), I would like the metadata to be easily browseable in a way that acts much like a file system browser, and it must be small and easy to use (or else I'll always just fall back to the file system, which would be pointless). Another thing I want is to maintain a strong distinction between the 'archived' version of some reference info and a more accessible version. What I often do is zip up the original html version of a book. Then, when I need to use it, I unzip it into the data directory of a home web server. At some point, things get out of sync and it becomes a pain to clean up. A system that knows what's where and what's "checked out" would be great, so that if the fancy takes me I can keep the metadata and archived, raw files and simply regenerate the more publically accessed bits. Well, this is what I *want*, and there's nothing stopping me from fidding with a simple little system to manage all of this. It's quite possible that I'll lose interest soon enough, but if not, it might be useful to others as well. That's assuming the wheel hasn't been invented already, of course. If you have any thoughts or ideas about how a problem like this should be solved, feel free to chime in.

{2004.08.16 16:35} : Comments (0)

Assignment done!

I'm zonked. Ronwen and I drove down to the UNISA office on Old Fort Road and dropped off my graphics assignment at 1AM. These late night runs aren't any fun. I spent more time working on this assignment than on the previous 3 assignments I'd done in Durbs combined. All to generate a measly 70 pages of source code that the lecturers almost guaranteed won't read. They'll check for nicely formatted header files and be done with it, if that much. Here's hoping they even *accept* the damned thing. It's 2 weeks late, and I just hope to high heaven that they give me the 10 measly credits I still need for the subject. I realised two things though: I really dig graphics programming and I really do like working with C++. But enough of that for a while. I'm worn out. We're probably going to spend another week in Durbs... here's hoping I get to resurrect some semblance of a holiday. We're off to Pietermaritzburg in the morning with my cousin and his dearest to see my grandmother and aunt. Best I get some sleep.

{2004.08.16 01:58} : Comments (0)

Friday 13th

Braai down at Michael and Belinda's this evening. Grant and Sue were there as well. Ribs ribs and more ribs. Awesome. Interesting talk with Grant about wireless/satellite data in South Africa. Veeery, veeery interesting stuff. On the studies front I'm still banging my head against this damned graphics programming assignment. It's taken me a depressingly long time to come to terms with lighting and the various subtleties of how OpenGL handles it. It would have taken less time if I'd actually done some meaningful RTFMing instead of rushing in and starting to tweak a huge, complicated chunk of lighting-less code without really knowing what I was doing. As it stands, I think I've ironed out most of the issues, except that the super-fancy object-oriented infrastructure I built to handle the rendering I wanted to do, is causing the lights to go out - literally. I can't figure out why and I've just about run out of time, so I'm probably going to have to rely on a less elegant system and just crank out as much code as I can with next to no reusability. Then again, that's what the model solutions from the lecturers always do, so fuggit. I'm not superstitious but if I was I'd be thinking that kick-starting the Olympics on Friday the 13th was quite a brave thing to do.

{2004.08.14 01:59} : Comments (1)

Resting places

Ronwen and I went down to visit my folks this evening. The conversation went to the issue of funerals and the fact that almost everyone wants to be cremated these days, and what people want to happen after they're gone. My mom and stepdad both want their ashes to go to the farm in Dundee. I've never been there but apparently it's a beautiful place. I knew we were into morbid territory when my mom started talking about "sprinkle me by the willow trees where all the ducks used to be." My grandmother, who's also quite elderly, and has given us a few scares in the last 2 years, told my aunt recently that when her time comes she wants her ashes scattered at the Pietermaritzburg Botanical Gardens because that's where her happiest and most peaceful times were. That's where my sister and I, and our two cousins, used to go with my gran every Saturday afternoon when we were children living in 'Maritzburg. My mom telling me that tonight brought a lump to my throat. Ronwen says she'd want her ashes scattered in the Drakensberg somewhere. The sad thing is, I don't think I have any special place I'd want to be scattered. Haunts from my youth would feel like cheating, somehow. More accurately then, I can't think of any place I've been to or grown so attached to recently, that I'd want someone to up-end my urn there. When I think about how far back "recently" stretches, I realise the extent to which my adulthood has been a blur, too much in a state of flux always for me to pick one place and say "this is the spot." So I'm currently Without Designated Final Resting Place. Is this a bad thing? Or is it a very firm affirmation that I'm nowhere near ready to shuffle off this mortal coil just yet? I think I'll go with the latter.

{2004.08.12 23:48} : Comments (3)

Sad news

Cancer took my stepdad's father last night. Everyone was expecting this but not just yet. He passed away in his sleep, and despite the sadness of losing him, I think everyone is grateful that it happened before his condition had deteriorated much further. I have very fond memories of Oom Bronkhorst and it's hard to believe that he's gone. My parents are leaving for the farm in Dundee tomorrow and the funeral is on Saturday. This is the second funeral in Dundee in less than a month - my stepdad's brother in law also passed away recently - and also from cancer. I feel really sorry for the family. Rus in vrede, Meneer Bronkhorst.

{2004.08.12 15:17} : Comments (0)

Working holiday

Sunday saw Kieron's christening and a Christmas lunch for Ronwen's cousins from Ireland (they weren't here for real Christmas, so the family had a pseudo-Christmas now). Apart from that I've been studying like mad. I've sequestered myself in the study here and surface only for tea and munchies (when I can't get Ronwen to bring the toasted gammon sarmies to me, that is ;-). Three assignments done since I came to Durbs, two to go. When we came down I rather gingerly asked Ronwen if we could cut the holiday short and head back up to Joburg after the weekend, if I wasn't making any progress. As it stands the lack of Internet connectivity has seen my productivity skyrocket, so much so that I'd be nuts to head back right now. At this point I'm a little too scared to take that observation to its natural conclusion, which would start somewhere along the lines of "so exactly how much time do I spend reading blogs and news each day?"

{2004.08.09 22:29} : Comments (2)

No mail

MWEB are so full of shit. I'm connecting via my mom-in-law-to-be's gatewayed machine which is dialling in to an MWEB account. I too have an MWEB account. Since it's her dial-up, these twats won't let me send my mail to an MWEB SMTP server despite SMTP authentication and the lot being enabled, because they think I'm relaying. Grrrr. I've had this grief in the past, I can only imagine what sorts of hoops I'll need to jump through, short of using their utterly shite, IE-only web mail interface. Screw you MWEB. I owe some people mail. If you read this and you thought I was just being rude, apologies for not getting back to you. Hopefully soon. *mutter*

{2004.08.07 16:32} : Comments (0)

Durbs by the sea

Safe and sound in Durbs after a mad rush getting assignments and admin and packing done and enduring a long schlep down in absolutely crazy traffic. Is there some big sports or holiday event I don't know about? It seems half of Gauteng decided to drive to the coast yesterday. Connectivity's a bit erratic (hastily setup home network, 56k dialup, chug chugetty chug) for the next few days. Busy recovering from the family engagement party champagne breakfast disteeng this morning. Good lord, by the time the extended families from all sides get together, it's a whole platoon of people. Really really nice though. The bummer is I missed out on the the rag-Ed-Brill-for-his-birthday deluge. Happy birthday Ed!

{2004.08.07 16:09} : Comments (0)

New Firefox and Thunderbird versions

I'm in a mad rush to get some assignments done before I bugger off on holiday. Quick breather in the interests of security, though: Mozilla Firefox 0.9.3 and Mozilla Thunderbird 0.7.3 are out. I wish I could remember which blog I read it on this morning, but apparently they fix new security holes. The Mozilla developers are getting a reputation for responding pretty quickly to security issues, which I find quite comforting. If you're still living in bug-ridden, spyware-addled, tabless, pop-up hell with Internet Explorer, then perhaps this is a good time for you to go and give Firefox a try. As a slight aside, if you were wondering what a Firefox is, I learned today, thanks to the Firefox Brand Name FAQ, that Firefox is another name for the Red Panda. What a cute little critter!

{2004.08.06 00:45} : Comments (0)

Nutty nurses

Heh heh. Cherryflava notes that his recent post relating to the Skechers ads with Ms Christina Aguilera has drawn the ire of a crowd of nurses, some of whom are rather new to the concept of "Internet", judging by the "I'm never buying shoes from your company again" sorts of comments he's getting.

{2004.08.03 18:19} : Comments (2)

Troll alert

Last week, I posted my thoughts on the Radicati integrity issue. A certain "Daniel Johnson" replied. It turned out that "Daniel" was posting from a rather suspicious IP address, and I sent him a fairly polite email asking about this. By Saturday, I had received no response, and posted a follow-up comment expressing my doubts about his authenticity. "Daniel" soon replied on my blog, and by email as well. He didn't do much to assure me that he was a real person other than to say "I am who I am," but I decided that I'd take the high road and give him the benefit of the doubt. I removed the questioning posts on my original thread, and instead replied with an apology and a more civil response to his "observations." Now it seems that the same "Daniel Johnson" has tried to get Bruce Elgort into trouble. Funny that, because in his mail to me, "Daniel" made it very clear that he didn't want to get involved in the intrigues. So much so, that he specifically stated this as the reason why he didn't want to speak to Bruce, after Bruce invited him to get in touch. So... on the one hand, "Daniel" isn't up to a conversation with Bruce, and on the other hand, "Daniel" is drafting long emails to Bruce's employer, complaining about his behaviour. Hmmmmmmmm. There seem to be too many similarities between things said in "Daniel"'s posts and mail, another potential troll's comments over at the Lotus Informer Blog, as well as the Radicati Group's response, to be pure coincidence. Any naive notions of giving "Daniel" the benefit of the doubt have pretty much evaporated, and only cold hard evidence to the contrary, none of which seems to be forthcoming, will make me change my mind. Y'know, I didn't want to get caught up in the bunfights. To be honest, I wasn't really interested in the report - I won't be having to defend Lotus Notes to anyone in the near future and it really was a File-13 story for me. And it's not like I'm anyone important, for crying out loud. I was just an outsider expressing a few opinions on the ethics of the situation, and that was that. Considering my personal experiences in the past few months, things like "integrity" and "dishonesty" are real triggers for me. I really have no time for liars and cowards these days, and "Daniel" appears to be at least one of these two things. This "Daniel", irrespective of whom he/she is, is a troll in my books. Comments questioning the troll's authenticity have been reinstated and a few Google-friendly cross-references will be added here and elsewhere. In my own small way, I'll do what I can to help discredit "Daniel Johnson," and the firm he seems so intent on defending. What an unsavoury lot they all seem to be.

{2004.08.03 01:49} : Comments (3)

Car prices

Wayne Wides has blogged about the issue of car prices in South Africa. Basically, the vastly-strengthened Rand means that prices *should* be dropping, but they're not. A number of excu^H^H^H^Hreasons are being put forward as to why this is, but a large part of it no doubt boils down to profit-taking by motor manufacturers. Some of these other factors do contribute though. I replied at Commentary, but I thought I'd post my (slightly edited) response here as well, because, well, because I can, dammit: -- I certainly agree that the articificial inflation of car prices isn't a good thing. Having said that, I have to give some credence to the argument that it's just not good business to actually _drop_ prices. I bought a (fairly) expensive car a year ago. My first new car, my first "luxury" car. A carefully considered purchase and a treat to myself after years and years of driving an old jalopy. If new car prices dropped, my car's already-dropping resale value would plunge even further. I would not be a happy camper. We know they're not really assets, but when you're laying down that much money on a single item, you want to at least *pretend* that your car has some real value. Not that I'm saying this completely justifies the car manufacturer's actions, but these "soft issues" are a consideration. There could well be a backlash amongst existing car owners, that outweighs the more obvious supply and demand factors. I've also theorised that this is the reason why there are so many reduced-interest deals, built-in maintenance plans etc on new cars: manufacturers can't reduce the ticket price, but by shouldering the interest subsidies and maintenance plan costs, they can maintain the *illusion* of static or slightly-increasing car prices, while in effect dropping the price of the actual cars themselves. (I did contract work with a German luxury car manufacturer, years ago. They pioneered low interest financial products in South Africa, and we all cynically knew that this was a way to keep their car prices inflated, consequently enhancing their perception as 'status' vehicles, way beyond what their real market value was.)

{2004.08.02 22:57} : Comments (0)

You get foul-ups, and then you get foul-ups

Fuggen hell... Baseline: RBC's Account Imbalance
A foul-up at RBC Financial Group, Canada's largest bank, stifled payroll deposits and left as many as 10 million customers uncertain of their bank account balances last month. That has prompted an internal review of the bank's technology and processes, and will likely result in millions of dollars in damages. The problem, which took close to two weeks for RBC to correct, began on May 31 when a single worker introduced a "relatively small number" of faulty pieces of code into the bank's transaction processing system, which then began issuing error messages to users. In press reports, RBC chief information officer Martin Lippert chalked up the incident to human error.
Indeed. How a person could insert untested, broken code into a bank's live transaction-processing systems without a zillion checks and balances going Beep Motherf*****! Beeeeeep! is rather frightening, but we all read Dilbert, we know it could happen. I have to wonder what's happened to this individual, though. Let's be honest, even if we haven't done it in a banking system, we've all played the "just one little tweak" game, and lost. It's not excusable, but if you don't know the true meaning of "oops" then you ain't been in the industry long enough. This is a serious issue, but you have to empathise with this poor bugger, just a little bit. Beyond that, I'm just awed by the scale of it. "Cost former employer more than 100 million dollars" is not the kind of thing you want on your CV, but it must make for one helluva story when hanging out with your geek mates. If you're going to fsck up, do it in style, man. (via Business Controls Caddy)

{2004.08.02 00:36} : Comments (2)

« Older | Newer »


tech blog


rssfeed posts

© Colin Pretorius