The Anonymous Widower

Health Lessons From Lockdown

Are some of us learning things about ourselves during lockdown?

For myself!

Mental Health

I certainly think, that I’m handling the mental side well, as I’ve had several lockdowns in the past, usually when I want to get some software written.

Another programmer has told me, that he has used lockdowns to get software written in the past.

I am certainly getting bored though! You can only do so many serious puzzles from The Times.

Normally, if I feel bored, I get on a train or a bus and go somewhere interesting.

Exercise

I’m taking exercise regularly and go for a regular walk most days. I’d probably walk more, if I felt like taking public transport more. But, I do feel, buses and trains could be a place to catch COVID-19.

Drinking

My house tends to get a bit warm, so I’m drinking a lot.

Not strong alcohol, although there is quite a bit of 0.5% Adnams beer going down my throat, but mainly, still lemonade, tea and water.

The amount of fluid seems to have cured my periodic constipation.

On the other hand it does seem to have increased my INR, so I have reduced my Warfarin dosage from 4 to 3.5 mg. per day.

Sleep

I seem to be sleeping well! But then I always do!

Conclusion

Except for the boredom, I think, that I’m doing OK.

April 27, 2020 Posted by | Transport, Uncategorized | , , | 2 Comments

I Apologise For The Quality Of My Latest Posts

Since swapping to a Microsoft Surface Studio Pro 2 and Windows 10, the quality of my posts has got worse.

This is because they seem to be incompatible with WordPress.

It annoys me terribly, as I was brought up in a letterpress print works, where nothing less than perfect pages were tolerated.

I suspect I need to return to Windows 7!

I have improved them by reediting them in Windows 7 on my old laptop.

I certainly couldn’t recommend a Microsoft Surface Pro and Windows 10 to a blogger, who uses WordPress.

 

March 14, 2020 Posted by | Computing | , , , , | 3 Comments

Class 755 Trains Are Now Running Between Ipswich And Cambridge

According to this article on the East Anglia Daily Times, the new Stadler Class 755 trains are now running between Ipswich and Cambridge stations.

The article also makes these points.

  • The Class 153 trains  will be retired at the end of this week.
  • More Class 755 trains wll come into service in the coming weeks.

There is a software problem that restricts full operation, which should be fixed in a couple of weeks, which is described like this.

A new piece of software is due to be installed within a few weeks – but until then passengers heading east from Elmswell and west from Kennett are being taken by bus to the next station.

Both Elmswell and Kennett are simpler stations, with short platforms.

This Google Map shows Elmswell station.

And this Google Map shows Kennett station.

I wonder, if with these stations, selective door opening is needed the on one platform and the layout doesn’t fit the original software.

When you write software to work in a large number of situations, it’s difficult to make sure you cover everything.

Greater Anglian’s solution of a bus to get around the problem is not an ideal solution, but it should work, until the software is fixed.

 

November 26, 2019 Posted by | Computing, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Ultrasound On A Chip

The latest episode of BBC Click is a must-watch.

One section is about a new ultrasound device from Butterfly Network.

Their product called Butterfly iQ; is an ultrasound sensor on a chip, that converts a smart phone into a full function medical ultrasound machine.

But as an engineer, who knows a bit about this sort of technology, I doubt that all the applications are medical ones.

Typical hospital ultrasound machines cost tens of thousands of pounds, but the price of the sensor on the Butterfly Network web site is in the order of a couple of grand. Software is probably extra, but even so, Southampton Hospital has bought four and one is in their paediatric ambulance.

I have one big question.

Is the device open source? This would enable, an imaginative programmer, as I once was, to convert the device, so that it is able to perform an important application.

I would be very disappointing if it wasn’t!

To get a snapshot of the power of ultrasound, read the Wikipedia entry for ultrasound.

A Video

I found this on the Internet.

As you can see, it’s not very big.

Conclusion

This is an amazing development and it will revolutionise so much of healthcare and other fields.

October 19, 2019 Posted by | Computing, Health, World | , , | Leave a comment

The Chilling Power Of Drones And Software

This article on the BBC is entitled Saudi Oil Attacks: Images Show Detail Of Damage.

Read this article and then say, that drones can’t be used to create death ad destruction or merely havoc, like flight disruption at a major airport.

Consider.

  • Automation is such, that drones can now be launched on a fire-and-forget basis.
  • You can’t jam an autonomous drone!
  • There is nothing to stop a top quality programmer creating evil software.
  • Much of the software, used for evil purposes, is probably also used to write business, research, engineering, scientific, educational and other types of software.
  • The genie is well and truly out of the bottle!

14/09/2019 will become a notorious date in history.

September 16, 2019 Posted by | Computing, World | , , , | Leave a comment

How The Boeing 737 Max Disaster Looks To A Software Developer

The title of this post is the same as this article on IEEE Spectrm.

It is the best article, I’ve read on the disaster and I agree with nearly every word the writer has written, except perhaps some of his spelling.

Like the author, I am a software developer and I have had over a thousand hours in command of light aircraft, although I don’t fly now!

I have this feeling that this affair, will go down in history as one of the worst business disasters of all time!

I certainly won’t fly in any 737 again! Or at least not for a long time!

August 2, 2019 Posted by | Business, Computing, Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Boeing Says It Could Halt Production Of 737 Max After Grounding

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on the Guardian.

This is the first paragraph.

Boeing said it could halt production of the 737 Max jet on Wednesday as it reported the company’s largest ever quarterly loss following two fatal accidents involving the plane.

To my mind, this is a self-inflicted problem caused by trying to stretch a 1960s design too far past the end of its design life.

Boeing realised that they needed a new larger plane and developed the fuel-efficient Class 787 Dreamliner to replace 747s, 767s and 777s.

It was total management failure to not planning to replace the 737 with a smaller plane based on Dreamliner technology.

Will Boeing Solve The 737 MAX Problem?

Compare it with the Class 710 train, that also had software problems that delayed the launch.

  • The Class 710 train is a totally new train, with masses of new features, liked by operators, staff and passengers.
  • The Train Management and Control System of the Class 710 train was very challenging to design and program.
  • If a train fails, it only comes to an embarrassing stop.

On the other hand, the following can be said about the 737 MAX..

  • The 737 MAX is an update of a 1960s design.
  • The mathematics of the 737 MAX must be challenging.
  • The computer system hasn’t been properly designed, programmed and tested.
  • If a plane fails, it’s a lot more than an embarrassing stop.

Boeing seem to have made a tragic mistake for airlines, passengers and them,selves.

Engineers will probably solve the software problem,but will that be enough to save the plane?

July 25, 2019 Posted by | Computing, Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

My Latest Thoughts On The Boeing 737 MAX

I had this message read out on BBC’s Wake Up To Money this morning.

I have been involved in the programming of several first-of-their-kind computer systems dating back to 1969. They are always late ad usually need a couple of goes to get it right! Boeing didn’t do enough testing.

Although, I’ve been mainly involved in programming user systems and I’ve never controlled anything  by a computer program, I have worked with a lot of people who have. One team, I worked alongside, programmed the world’s first computer to fully control a large chemical plant.

But even, when I was writing something as big and complicated as Artemis, you had to take into account, that not everybody using the system, thought the way you did.

Those that fly aircraft differ in one area, that has nothing to do with sex, racial type or religion. Their experience of flying aircraft varies from a couple of thousand hours upwards.

It is no surprise to me, that some of the great aircraft stories of safe landings in difficult circumstances have been done by very experiences pilots, often with years of flying less reliable military aircraft.

They have used their experience to get themselves and their passengers out of trouble

It should be noted that the pilots of both the Indonesian and the Ethiopian planes, had several thousands hours of experience.

  • On the whole, human beings are generally risk averse and pilots are no different to the rest of us.
  • We also don’t like surprises.

How many times have you installed a new copy of a popular software system to find that it is radically different and it takes you several weeks to get used to it?

When I was writing Artemis, I made sure, that, I didn’t create any surprises for customers all over the world. The software was also tested to destruction.

Getting a calculation wrong in Artemis, would be unlikely to have had fatal consequences.

Conclusion

Have Boeing with their MCAS computer software fix to cure the inadequacies of an obsolete air frame, made two big mistakes?

  • They have created an airliner, that goes against pilot experience?
  • They didn’t do enough testing.

I will not fly in any 737 until the day I die!

June 17, 2019 Posted by | Computing, Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

And Finally!

They have been a long time coming, but today two Class 710 trains, started running on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

I took these pictures.

They certainly stand out with their large orange noses.

A few thoughts on various topics.

Doors And Controls

The doors are all double and wide as they should be for easy entry.

There are also full door controls on each side of the door and a door opening button in the door itself.

So on a crowded train, there won’t be the problem, you get on some trains, that the buttons are blocked by a large person standing in the way.

Information Displays

They are clear and very much follow the style of the displays on the Crossrail trains.

Although, they do have a clock, that seemed to be liked by other passengers and myself.

I also suspect the displays can be used advertising.

Noise

Like the Class 345 trains, they are quiet inside.

Seats

The longitudinal seats are as comfortable as those of their elder siblings; the Class 378 trains.

There are also lots of armrests.

As on those trains, passengers find their own place to put their legs and the passage up the middle of the train seems to stay free.

There are also no perches either side of the door, as in the Class 378 trains. It this to cut out canoodling?

USB Sockets

There isn’t a large number and they are only accessible from a few seats.

This picture shows the sockets on a Vivarail Class 230 train.

 

I think each armrest should have one.

Wi-Fi

I tested it and it worked

The Train Software

If I was designing something like a train, a tram, a bus or a car, the vehicle would have a backbone, that was compatible with the Internet.

The train software, that seems to have caused the delay could even be an operating system, like the one on your computer or phone.

In my experience, operating systems are very difficult to write, but once they are working, the following is possible.

  • They work for all compatible computers, phones or trains.
  • They can analyse the hardware to see what they’ve got connected.
  • A large team of programmers can write compatible additions, just like thousands write apps for mobile devices.

I also believe that testing operating systems work as they should is one of the most difficult things to do in computing.

I don’t believe that the delay to the Class 710 trains because of software problems has been overly long in my experience.

Complex systems just take an awful long time to get write.

The good news though, is that if Bombardier have got their design right, they may well have cracked the computer systems for all other Aventras.

Conclusion

They tick a lot of boxes and I like the design.

I also feel that if Bombardier have solved the software problems, then Aventras could be delivered in a steady stream.

 

May 23, 2019 Posted by | Computing, Transport | , , | 3 Comments

Does Outlook 256 Have A Mind Of Its Own? It’s Just Appeared From My Computer

Outlook 256 must be one of the biggest piles of doo-dah I’ve ever found.

Firstly, it locked up, so that it wouldn’t respond to any of my commands.

So then I rebooted my computer, as one does.

It is now no longer on the task bar and I can’t find out where it is in the computer’s menu.

Allthe other programs in Office 256 seem to be working.

April 23, 2019 Posted by | Computing | , , | 3 Comments