M256—software development

Perhaps I might start down the road to designing a proper solitaire thingee?



I sat the exam on Friday. How did it go? Well, I think. There have been no, “what was I thinking of?” sudden blinding-flash slaps-own-forehead moments over the weekend. Marks will have been lost but not too many I hope. I’m confident of a grade 2, perhaps even… Whoa there! For the first time in two years I managed to complete the an exam paper, that should be enough for now.

this site

If there is anyone still reading this rubbish you will have noted that things have gotten a little quiet over the last few months. I wish I could give you some solid reasons as to the why of that but I just lost the will to write for a while. After all the maths I felt a bit jaded and as I was enjoying this course I saved my typing-efforts for the course fora. I also got involved in a regular Sunday eluminate sessions with some great folks that required quite a bit of pre- and post- work. Writing here just seemed to be at the back of the queue.

Then there was the little matter of the shared java.net project, yes solitaire again I’m afraid. As usual it died a natural death but I wrote a lot of words, drew a lot of diagrams (both class and sequence) and got a load of good feedback. I now have a couple of months to get these in some kind of order, so that I can inflict this project onto my coursemates on M362 and M366.

There will always be times when the appetite dies. I know that, being diagnosed as a coeliac, I know that strongly. The loss of the ability to eat a, proper, sandwich is something that you really don’t want to experience ever. It makes it very hard to eat anything, ever. This course, and especially the people that I met through it has reset my appetite for both my OU studies and for what I want to do here.

For me a corner has been turned and as usual that corner was turned due to an interaction with OU people. I’m not so sure that I help others in the way that they help me—what I am sure of is that this site is about the best chance for me to attempt that. So for my last year I will be posting often. It’s the very least that I can give back to something that has given me so much.


the weather…is a sod

This morning I froze my way to work in a t-shirt, tonight as I sit stewing I’d like to rip it off my scrawny-form and dance naked into some kind of basin that contained, even the memory of, cooling water. That’s probably enough of that…

Elemental hotness drove a peely-wally burn-target like myself in for the weekend, to slow-bake like a tomato in, what some celebrity chef, might describe as, ‘a nice dry heat’. Suffer the little children? Make them live in a house like mine then. I did and I still don’t like it.

I hate the heat, and what I hate about it most is that when it is at its most unforgiving I have to venture out to give succour to the plants. My wife kicks me so out. Watering at high-noon, I can see why cowboys preferred the shooting of each other then. Far easier to get shot and bleed your life away than to feel that you are a bit-part actor in some Sun-based boy-melts movie. You know the one—you are going to die, but at least the plants have a slight chance of producing a crop.

I did manage to get a lot of work done TMA wise, albeit in the shades of the day and the just-about-normal bits of the night.

Since my last moan I’ve had a good look at what went wrong with me. And do you know what? It was all the same things that went wrong in the past. Who would have seen that coming?

Actually I realized something a wee bit more important. I spent much of Saturday night doing something that I didn’t need to—completing a complete test-bed for the supplied code for TMA03. I could have just done the needed bit, in fact I could have just done none of it at all. I know the answers without doing anything. But where would be the fun in that?

But I had fun.

And that’s what I’ve been missing—fun. Perhaps not fun in your sense but I have a monkey-must-know take on the world. For too long now maths has been a hard-slog; one that feels like I have huskies squatting in my pockets—huskies that will only pull my sledge if I can get my hands out of these bloody gloves.

Well, well? When I go back to the cold of maths I’ll try to get my hands out of my gloves. Time for fun?


even longer time no post

Nearly four months of silence—well not entire slience: I’ve posted much vapid-tripe in the OU blogs and I’ve been waffling in the course fora. But essentially my mouth has been shut, my fingers off the key-board and my brain un-evacuated.

For a while now I have been in the slough of despond; in the sense that I can’t even be bothered to fight against the gits sailing on my own wee sea-of-troubles, never mind the gits sailing your sea. I do things, important things like TMAs at the last possible minute, and I do them badly. I piss-mess around at nonsense when I should be doing the vital. I sit in the sun, drunk, penning useless comments in the margins of text-books that I only half-get. I make meals that I don’t eat, I promise things that I don’t do, I do things that I can’t mean.

All this is yipping self-serving shite. I know what I need to do—so I’m a bit tired and burnt out? Despite the maths-failure taking a gouge out of my soul I know that I can still do the computer stuff, granted not as well as I once thought that I might. Still I’m better than it than most. This slough of despond navel-twattery must stop! Time to shake the napper and wander back out into the evening of serious learning.

To cop-out, to not try, to make excuses; these are things I know of old. They are not my real-friends of which here are many in the OU and elsewhere. Friends who have many-many more hurdles than I, this awful loser-expectation of mine is just an act of blatent intellectual cowerdice—circumstances conspired = neil crapped it.

Hands up, who’d want to be that neil? I don’t. I’m sick of myself and me; this failure of bravery, this failure of pride, this failure to see the barriers and want to go beyond. That is failure. That is failure that doctors call organic.

I’ve had a good go at myself here, with reason: a) I’m guilty of the crimes; b) I want things to change. We all have bad moments, on this journey of ours: it is important to know how you are going to handle the fact that you are falling apart. This is the way that I do it for me.


whoops…long time no post

I have little to offer in the way of excuse, sometimes you just go off the boil. I suspect that it’s a wee bit more than that—I’m having trouble getting anything organized, in any area of my life, I just footer. Although this might not be the full story: I have a computer course again.

It’s almost two years since I last did a computer course and any proper programming. Two years of pure maths, maths that’s probably beyond me, maths that I love but which does not love me. So coming back to computing feels like slipping into a just right-warm bath.

According to the course schedule we are on unit 4, I am on unit 8 and when I finish this typing this tosh I’ll be heading off to the shared solitaire project to do some stuff.

I have a TMA for this course due in about a week, I finished it days ago. I have a maths TMA due in about three weeks; haven’t even looked at the units. I sense problems with my computer/maths course balance.

My problem is that I have no appetite for doing anything other than pissing around with solitaire. Computer or maths; don’t care, just solitaire.

shared project

Some of us M256ers set up a shared project on java.net to…yes, that’s right, to create a solitaire application. I have a good feeling about this.

Last time we had a shared project, same subject, we wrote loads of code but I felt that we didn’t get to the heart of the problem. [At some point we imported something that showed the dependencies, we all said our local equivalent of, “jings”. There wasn’t a lot of white-space on the diagram.]

This time we are writing a detailed set of specification documents. Documents which, during the writing thereof, have exposed the many flaws in my previous attempts to tame the thing.

The dark-side of all this computer-happiness is that I have a maths TMA tapping at my shoulder, a resit of a course that I hated and a mind like a Swiss cheese.

I’ll let myself have computing fun until Friday, then the logical choice is formal logic…help!



I’m officially annoyed, I can’t connect to the localhost on my work computer and I can’t think of a reason why this should be so. I’m tempted to dive into the Apache httpd.conf file and hack away, that thought is the thought of a madman. The thing is XML and is parsed who knows where, by who knows what. I’m comfortable enough with XML but even the person/group who wrote the schema for that file wouldn’t mess with it in a sixties carefree fashion.

You just don’t play with these things.

Besides, I’m not sure that this is the real problem. [I hate a problem where I haven’t got iota one of an idea of where the problem really lives.] Still, I have two other theories:

  • Cock up: some sys admin has updated something that has broken things that they never meant to break
  • Conspiracy: some sys admin, directed by pointy-headed management, has decided that nobody, below a certain level, needs a development server
  • I’ve done something stupid. I was messing around with some stuff but when I mess I create restores and I’ve restored to no effect. [Although, for my work computer, I may not have all the permissions that I’m used to(?)]

No, this is someone else’s bad.

It’s not giving me a proper HTTP error message, just that that my request couldn’t be handled and was possibly malformed. What does that mean? Is my server online? The server is telling me that it is, why isn’t it the client telling me what the server said was wrong? Because the client isn’t getting anything at all from the server? In which case why isn’t it just saying, "cannot connect". Does this make sense?

Well maybe it does mean a wee bit to me maybe; but to any sane person it’s the equivalent of saying, “we cannot deal with this animal, it might be a cat”, when you try to buy a packet of crisps. Proper error messages folks! Give us a chance at least.

In the end; I don’t really need a development server at work but I’m still gravely pissed that I don’t seem to be allowed one. I have a deep suspicion that I’m the only person in the entire organization who knows what a development server is for. Don’t get me started on a staging server…



The course web site went live today. All the usual first-day-type activities have been taking place—people saying hello [lots of people, my type of people!], tutors welcoming us newbies, setting some ground rules and, this being a computing course, many questions about getting the course software-tools loaded. Fun, fun, fun!

The books haven’t started their journey yet but we have the online PDFs to be going on with and I have a new UML diagram making application glowing on my taskbar. When I get home tonight I’m going to get into serious play-mode with it.

I must admit I’ve really missed my computing courses, a year with the maths was enough for the moment methinks. I am loving M381 but there’s a lot about it that is 'computer-y' compared with, say, the horrid geometry. There were times last year when I was mired in, the sequential proof of closure or wallpaper patterns, where I feared for my continued sanity.

Nope, new year, time once again to build things. Better yet, time to learn how to plan to build things properly. I will build the solitaire thingee!

Off to read some units…