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Let the unboxing begin

Thursday, 15 November, 2018

ThinkPad


Forsyth namechecks Snowden

Wednesday, 14 November, 2018

What if the most dangerous weapon in the world is not a nuke in a backpack but a 17-year-old boy with a brilliant mind, “who can run rings around the most sophisticated security services across the globe, who can manipulate that weaponry and turn it against the superpowers themselves?” That’s the premise of The Fox, the new thriller from Frederick Forsyth. Born in the year of the Munich Agreement, when British, French and Italian leaders agreed to Hitler’s demand for the German annexation of the Sudetenland, Forsyth has grown up in a world that has experienced its share of evil in his 80 years. The latest manifestation, in his latest novel, is the Vozhd, a Russian word meaning “the Boss” or, in the world of crime, “the Godfather”. When Forsyth was 15, the old Vozhd, Joseph Stalin, died. The new Vozhd is Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and one of his prized assets arrived in Russia in 2013, having fled from Hawaii. Snippet:

“When defector and traitor Edward Snowden flew to Moscow it is believed he carried over one and a half million documents on a memory stick small enough to be inserted before a border check into the human anus. ‘Back in the day’, as the veterans put it, a column of trucks would have been needed, and a convey moving through a gate tends to be noticeable.

So, the computer took over from the human, the archives containing trillions of secrets came to be stored on databases… Matching pace, crime also changed, gravitating from shoplifting through financial embezzlement to today’s computer fraud, which enables more wealth to be stolen than ever before in the history of finance. Thus the modern world gave rise to the concept of computerized hidden wealth but also to the computer hacker. The burglar of cyberspace.”

The Fox


So, farewell, then, ThinkPad X1 Carbon

Tuesday, 13 November, 2018

It was, when it appeared in 2012, a real alternative to the MacBook Air. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon had a 128-gigabyte solid-state drive instead of a hard drive, 4 gigabytes of memory, an Intel Core i5-3317U processor and a 14-inch (360 mm) screen with a resolution of 1600 by 900 pixels. The keyboard was backlit and spill-resistant and the whole package was as tough as old boots. Indeed, the Rainy Day X1 once popped out of a poorly-zipped rucksack and hit the frozen pavement with a heart-stopping whack. But it booted up subsequently as if it had merely fallen upon a quilt of eiderdown.

Now, reams and streams of words later, the replacement keyboard, minus U, O, B and N, is beginning to look like Bobby Clarke’s smile, and the engine cannot produce the kind of power needed to keep a dozen Chrome tabs open, Spotify playing, WordPress running and a host of other applications purring. The time has come to replace our loyal and reliable five-year old ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Farewell, then.

ThinkPad X1


The IoT is a mess

Monday, 12 November, 2018

The problem with the IoT (Internet of Things) is the huge gulf between hardware and software. So proclaims the blog Digits to Dollars, which is a product of “a multi-purpose consulting firm” called D2D Advisory Inc. that helps companies “achieve their long-term financial and strategic objectives.” D2D was founded by Jonathan Goldberg, who can be found at the “intersection of Technology and Finance.”

What makes the IoT so complicated is that an oil company might want to collect data from thousands of different sensors over hundreds of miles of pipelines, while a shipping company might want to track thousands of pallets thousands of miles away.

Why is IoT such a mess? Snippet:

“IoT networks need two things, they need a network for communications, and then modules, attached to ‘things’, that communicates to those networks. But compare that to all the use cases possible. That oil company needs a long range network, cellular will not work because of the remote locations involved. The module can probably have power, but needs someone to go out and install them. By contrast, the cellular might work for a local delivery fleet, but then everyone fleet will need different sensors built into the module (e.g. temperature, location, activity, camera, whatever). Then remember that none of these companies actually build their own modules for anything, so they have to find someone capable of that. For those of in the technology business, the idea of finding a manufacturer in Asia to build a module is not too remote, for everyone else it is literally the other side of the world. Further complicating all this is the fact that there is no company on the planet capable of providing all the electronics needed — including four or five different flavors of radios and a dozen categories of sensors. The combinatorics behind this are one of those math problems with more answers than there are atoms in the universe.”

Bottom line: There will be no IoT platform. Instead, different solutions for different industries will emerge. “Time to stop dreaming and get building,” say the D2D writers.


Never such innocence again

Sunday, 11 November, 2018

The beautiful MCMXIV by Philip Larkin captures the fragile peace in the final days before the carnage of the Great War. MCMXIV deserves re-reading on this Remembrance Sunday 2018 because MCMXIV is the year 1914 in Roman numerals and Larkin’s decision to title his poem MCMXIV rather than “1914” or “Nineteen Fourteen” means, perhaps, it’s meant to be read like those inscriptions on tombs or war memorials.

Never such innocence,
Never before or since,
As changed itself to past
Without a word — the men
Leaving the gardens tidy,
The thousands of marriages,
Lasting a little while longer:
Never such innocence again.

Poppies


They shall grow not old

Saturday, 10 November, 2018

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”

Laurence Binyon (1869 – 1943)

For the centenary of the First World War, Academy Award-winner Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) reveals the conflict as people have never seen it. Using state-of-the-art technology to transform audio and film archive footage that dates back more than a century, They Shall Not Grow Old brings to life the people who can best tell this story: the men who were there.

Each frame was hand-colourised by Jackson’s team and the footage 3D-digitised and transformed with modern post-production techniques, enabling the soldiers to walk and talk among us. Using only the voices of those involved, the film explores the Great War on the front lines. The veterans who survived tell their stories and recall the humility and humanity of those who represented a generation forever changed.


#Friday: Fasting & Reading

Friday, 9 November, 2018

“How long does getting thin take?” asked Pooh anxiously.
“About a week, I should think.”
“A week!” said Pooh gloomily. “What about meals?”
“I’m afraid no meals,” said Christopher Robin, “because of getting thin quicker. But we will read to you.” — A.A.Milne

Pooh


That ancient fence, the night

Thursday, 8 November, 2018

“The unwelcome November rain had perversely stolen the day’s last hour and pawned it with that ancient fence, the night.” F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise

November night at home


Churchill: Walking with Destiny

Wednesday, 7 November, 2018

It was published in the UK last month and yesterday in the rest of the world. The Rainy Day copy will arrive today. Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts deserves to be called a contender as it weighs in at 1.5 kilogrammes. The index runs to 60 pages, the author’s notes to 37 and the bibliography to 23. No wonder Amazon is offering a 40 percent discount on the Kindle version. There have been more than 1,000 previous studies of Churchill’s life, the publisher helpfully warns us, so anyone intending to add another tome to the heap had better have something original to offer readers. By all accounts, Andrew Roberts has. His access to and analysis of previously secreted materials is what makes the difference. Then, there’s the historian’s depth of vision.

Why did Churchill loathe Hitler from the get go? According to Roberts, the young Winston had seen Islamic fundamentalism close up in India and the Sudan and this sharpened his senses for nihilism. What he experienced was “a form of religious fanaticism that in many key features was not unlike the Nazism that he was to encounter forty years later. None of the three prime ministers of the 1930s — Ramsay MacDonald, Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain — had seen true fanaticism in their personal lives, and they were slow to discern it in Nazi Germany. Churchill had fought against it in his youth and recognized its salient features earlier than anyone else.”

Expect similar snippets from Churchill: Walking with Destiny in the weeks to come.

Churchill: Walking with Destiny


Democracy in America

Tuesday, 6 November, 2018

“I do not know if the people of the United States would vote for superior men if they ran for office, but there can be no doubt that such men do not run.” — Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

De La Démocratie en Amérique by Alexis de Tocqueville was published in two volumes, the first in 1835 and the second in 1840. The title translates as “On Democracy in America”, but the English translation was simply called Democracy in America.

Alexis de Tocqueville


Seoladh na nGéanna agus na nGamhna

Monday, 5 November, 2018

The Irish Gaelic for goose is and the plural is géanna, so a flock of geese translates as scata géanna. The activity of collecting, herding or driving the geese is seoladh na ngéanna. As regards gamhna (calves), they’re below the photo of this fine scata géanna.

Seoladh na nGéanna

A calf is gamhain and calves are gamhna, and all that’s by way of saying that the English for the traditional song, Seoladh na nGamhna, is “driving the calves”.

Tá crainnín cumhra i lúib na coille
Is ragham araon go lá ann,
Mar a mbíonn ceol na n-éan dár síorchur a chodladh
Is geobhaimid na gamhna amárach.
Gabhaim cead saor ó mhaor na coille
Féar a thabhairt go lá dóibh.
Le fáinne an lae béam araon ‘nár seasamh
Is ag seoladh na ngamhan fén bhfásach.

There’s a fragrant bush back in the wood
And we’ll both go there until day comes,
Where there is birdsong to bring on sleep,
And we’ll find the calves tomorrow.
The woodman will readily permit us
To give them grass until day.
With the dawn of day we’ll both be afoot
Driving the calves on the common.