Wednesday, 2 March 2011


Sharksdonteatpeople. Well, not often anyway. When I started preparing this blog entry, I was asked, why sharksdonteatpeople? Well, it’s simple; I could have called it ‘dogsdontbiteme’ which is also true (apart form every dog I’ve had, all of which like nothing better than to bite my hands, arms, feet, whatever. But that’s in play, and they are in their opinion being gentle. My current mutt is a staffy X and his idea of gentle can be quite painful, but then you need to see what that jaw does when he intends to bite!), But that seemed to personal, so sharksdonteatpeople it is.

SHARKS: If sharks ate people, I shouldn’t be around to be wasting your time with this badly written blog, I should have been fish food many years ago. I was privileged enough to grow up within spitting distance of the ocean. Indeed one of my earliest memories (and I can already hear the “no-one has memories from that age” BULLSHIT!!! This is not my earliest memory which there is a family photo somewhere to prove) was making a toddling run for the sea, leaving granny in a stat of panic. Swim, like hell, I had only started walking…

Anyway, much of my life was spent on that beach (and others) and in the briny. Indeed the time the law required me to waste in school was giving grudgingly. Now, pretty much one nautical mile (that’s about 2km) to you landlubbers, from that beach is a bell-buoy (still there today), and by the time I was in high school, I used to swim out to it (and sometimes that swim was a lot more than 2km with the prevailing currents). Then climb up on it, an activity which used to cause the fur seals much confusion and sit there watching the sharks swim around. Totally fascinating.

Only some years later did I learn that this point in the sea is hunting ground for those same seals feeding around the rocky pinnacle the buoy is there to warn ships away from, and the sharks I enjoyed watching were those so called man-eaters, the Great White, and this was also their feeding ground in the area. There are also other species around, including Hammers, Duskies, Raggies, Zambezis and more…

And surfing – I have surfed much of the SA coastline form Elands Bay to Durban, often alone in the water in some of the more remote and isolated spots. And swim anywhere, form Kosi Bay to the west coast. So, there you have it sharksdonteatpeople, and if one day one decides to break the rules and have a Michael dinner, so be it.

Enough trivia about me, I am starting this blog to let you the reader suffer through what I call ‘Mikes Rants’, a series of occasional thoughts, opinions and other odd mutterings I share with my regular e-mail correspondents.

Today’s muttering is about what I call ‘The Certificate Man’

MCSA, MCSE, MCSD and all those other acronyms, what a bloody joke… I have never yet come across one of those that has the foggiest idea what to do with a windows platform computer (or any other for that matter…. All those courses they take, what an absolute waste of time and money. (With due apologies to those genuine computer geeks that already knew everything they needed to know BEFORE they ever considered MCSE or whatever it’s called) Please, this bunch of new age certificados, has no idea what a reference book is for, or how to use the information it contains, if it’s not something spoon fed to them in their ‘course’ they are clueless…

Rather spend the money on a set of reference books from Microsoft library – they contain everything needed to sort out any windows related problem, proper references on C++ and other languages, and WORK IT OUT… It’s the only way – all the courses in the world will never give you the depth of understanding needed to know what is going on in the mindless machine that is a PC….

Maybe I’m just from the wrong generation… At the time of my life when I was the age of these school leavers, computers were in their infancy – in fact before Clive Sinclair launched his ZX and Spectrum, if you wanted a computer, you built it yourself, from hundreds of parts… Programming was by manual switches, Displays, what were they, a row of LEDs or lamps… Keyboards, what’s that?

Granted, the first genuine PCs came quickly thereafter, but there were no ‘courses’. We all had to learn what we were doing ourselves, with maybe the help of other enthusiasts. Windows hadn’t even been thought of… there was BASIC, a programming language (along with the mainframe languages, COBOL, FORTRAN, and some others). Then came a wonderful thing called CPM  (And how many of you MCSE’s even know what that was) Well monkeys, Control Program for Microcomputers was an early step along the way  to windows, command line interface. Then a bit later came DOS from IBM. Disk Operating System allowed one to use a thing called a floppy drive, and a bit later, a hard drive….. All of these were command line, BASIC language overlays…

Granted even further, BASIC in its later versions only had something like 126 or thereabout commands (in some special instances near to 190 e.g. HP BASIC).

The point is, we had no courses to take… In fact, WE WROTE THE BOOK. Our entire generation of ‘nerds’ (which includes Bill Gates & Steve Jobs) laid the groundwork. No, not all of us went on to become Gates or Jobs, in fact many of us participated in other industries, but the fact remains, what these certificados are being given pieces of pretty paper for, is knowledge we taught ourselves years ago, and continue to gain, without the assistance of being spoon-fed..  (ASK THE LINUX GUYS THESE DAYS).

Maybe I’m biased, as in my original profession; we had no courses available (that was in the mid 70’s) and I had somehow decided to pursue the technical field of radio communication electronics. The available courses were NTwhatever, light current electrical, NTwhatever, heavy current electrical, neither of which had the slightest bearing on radio coms. But, there were plenty of technical manuals around, even in this southern point of the dark continent. Some years later, someone (a highly respected person in the field in those days, and a professor of some obscure subject, asked me what I called myself in my work. My reply was, I didn’t call myself anything. This gentleman (whom I will call Tim,  then quizzes me as to what I did in detail. Finally he said, you’re an engineer, as that best describes your activities (which included system design, prototyping and product development among other things). I said I couldn’t call myself that, as I did not have the ‘paper’. Tim’s reply was the only difference between an engineer and a layman, was an engineer knew where to look for information when needed, and how to utilise it.  So true.

Which brings me back to my original story of the MCStwerp; Some years back, the company I was with managed a very busy website, so busy in fact we had to upgrade to a first tier hosting solution (to prevent lawsuits and such, no name will be mentioned, enough to say it was one of the Big 3 providers around at the time. Well, that’s when the nightmare started. This site needed to be updated DAILY as new customers came on board, and existing clients made changes regularly. First of all, we had to provide the new ISP service with the site on CD, as they ‘couldn’t upload otherwise’ What Crap… Then, I tried to do a site update using ftp (File Transfer Protocol to the IT illiterate out there) no connection, the server refused to allow ftp. Send e-mail, phone the ISP, get promised immediate action. Well, 3 WEEKS later and innumerable conversations with their so-called ‘engineer (AKA MCStwerp), our clients were rather upset, and there was still no ftp service available. Now, before I go any further, the site was being managed on our side from an Apple Mac, running OS9, and not from a windows machine, using Dreamweaver for design and synchronisation. Eventually I had enough, and got hold of a Windows Web Server manual, which was read in the bath on a Sunday evening. On Monday I called the MCStwerp and told him exactly what to do; it was quite simple, the server security settings hadn’t been set to allow the incoming ftp request from anything other than a Microdolt application (I know I misspelled Microsoft). Form zero knowledge of the operating system, to problem solved in less than 90 minutes reading time.

Me, I don’t have the time in my life to waste getting pretty pieces of paper to hang on a wall – if you want one, I’ll spend 60 minutes with Adobe InDesign and Illustrator, and give you whatever certificate you want with my name on it (But that will cost you for my time – caveat emptor) I cannot justify spending 12 months, or longer, to learn something that I can otherwise upload into my grey matter in a few hours, days or weeks, just to have a little piece of toilet paper with my name on it. Fuck That!!!!!!!!

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