Sunday, April 29, 2007

Great Teamwork

On Thursday and Friday most of the folks from the IBM Software group in the UK were shipped out to a big Country House in the sticks for a two day meeting. In this modern virtual world of home offices, voicemail, emeetings, instant messaging and all the other great collaborative innovations, there is nothing that can beat meeting up with Frolleagues face to face, having a few beers and a few laughs and just generally catching up. Of course there was a strong educational theme to the event with a business update as well, but plenty of time to let our hair down an have some fun. Not to mention a "team bonding" session that didn't suck!

Great as it is to meet the whole software team, it is always nicest to catch up with my Lotus Frollegues since these are the folks that I work with everyday even though we are spread all around the country. So imagine how touched I was to get home from this great teaming event to find a big box waiting on my door step. It is a hamper full of great baby stuff from the Lotus Tech Sales team.

It contains loads of cool stuff. Mittens, Rattle, Cap, baby shampoo and soap etc. It was a lovely surprise and couldn't have topped off a great teaming event any better. Many thanks to Brian and all the team from Ali, Lucy and I.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A picture vs. 1000 words

Scale is often difficult to comprehend. But I think this image is a great way of showing the relative sizes of the major players in the Solar System (what's Pluto doing there! Tsk). There are more of these amazing images here

Sunday, April 22, 2007

My Last Meal

I haven't been to the Doctors for about 25 years. It's a male thing. But with the little Sprocket arriving and me being about to hit 40 years old I figured it was about time to get myself registered with a Quack. Of course it was totally painless and the nurse who took my vitals was lovely. But with me being a couple of ounces over my ideal weight they wanted to check my cholesterol levels. No problem with that except they have to starve you before the blood test. So from 9:30pm until tomorrow morning I'm not allowed to eat or drink anything other than water. Most people would probably not have a problem with this. But I'm not stranger to a midnight snack or a nightcap. There is also the not insignificant chance that following the results of a cholesterol test I will be told I can only eat tofu and lettuce.

So given that terrible possibility, what should my last ever meal be? Duh! A bacon sandwich of course. Now my favorite foods in the world is mushrooms. Mushroom and bacon are a marriage made in heaven. So should I poach or grill them? Nah! Fry them in oil and butter.

Clearly the butcher has confirmed that this is pretty cool bacon.

Three slices should just about suffice for a sandwich.

Just for the vegans, I add a few tomatoes to make this a healthy dish.

Next up is a couple of thin slices of wholemeal bread with olive spread. Sadly I didn't have any of that cardboard rubbish - so it's two doorstep of farmhouse crusty white with lashings of butter.

Now this is starting to look like the perfect bacon butty. Just don't make the mistake of adding chavy ketchup. Also - the tomatoes should be side orders - putting them in the sandwich will make it too moist.

So there you have it - the perfect bacon sandwich. If I might be so bold I would recommend a chilled glass of Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc as an accompaniment.

Why would I reveal my secret recipe for the ultimate bacon sandwich to the world? Well if you had been counting you would notice that this is the 200th post on Ports Thoughts. It's OK. You don't need to send a card.

Remove a security tag redux

A month or so ago I posted a story about how I was forced to remove a security ink tag from a suit I had bought. You can read all about it by clicking here. The feedback I received from that post made me realise how common a problem this is. Little did I expect that so soon I would be faced by a similar challenge. Some top friends of ours bought us this lovely dress for our new born daughter Lucy

A quick look under the hem and there it is - our friend the security tag.

Aside from the fact that this device is neither green nor from Marks and Spencers, it is apparent that it looks different from the ink tag I documented in the previous story.

However, even though it is white and round rather than green and oblong, a quick look at the back shows that it is fundamentally the same. A bigger front piece that holds the "payload" and a pin clicking it onto the garment with some sort of clutch arrangement hidden in the middle somewhere holding the two parts together. Sadly there is not enough room to use my small pliers to cut the pin. It is in too tight.

The next thing I notice is the filthy big hole in the side of the device. Looking through it I can see that there is a similar but smaller one on the other side. This seems strange because it makes it quite easy to see that this couldn't be an ink tag. Firstly there just isn't enough room but secondly I can see through the device and there are no vials of ink there.

In comments from the last story, some folks suggested using a cigarette lighter to melt the top off the device. That may or may not work but I'm sure that it would stink and possibly drop melted plastic on the garment. Others suggest getting out their power tools to decapitate the device. But there is no need for that nonsense. It doesn't take a genius to realise that the weakest point is going to be that hole. Let's poke a thin screw driver in the hole and waggle it about a bit.

No great sup rise. The hole starts to enlarge. This takes very little effort.

In this photo you can see that the smaller hole below is very obvious. If you use a Phillips style screwdriver then this is the perfect anchor point for the end of the screwdriver.

My little screwdriver slices through the plastic like butter

The success of the thin screwdriver in starting to create a larger hole is unquestionable, but it makes sense to move to a bigger screwdriver to finish the job off.

Almost immediately using the thicker stronger screwdriver the top of the device pops off. Do I see a spring?

Despite the difference in exterior appearance it starts to look like the device is very similar to the Marks and Spencer device.

A quick disassemble shows that once more the core of the device is created by a one way clutch comprised of magnetic ball bearings which grab the pin if you try and pull it out but readily allows you to push it in against the pressure from the spring.

The main difference (aside from not using ink vials) is that the pin has notches in it to help the ball bearings grab it. However, just like the Marks and Sparks device, this should be opened by using a powerful ring magnet to pull the magnetised ball bearings away from the pin and release it. It's only a shame that the monkey on the till didn't do that and prevent me having to disassemble to device in order to use the dress.

Here you can see the bit of the security tag that will set off the alarm if you leave the store. However, I'm not going to explain anything more about it. If you want to find out how to deactivate store tags then go somewhere else. I have no interest in helping shop lifting scum. I post this article simply to help the many folks who get home with a legitimately purchased garment to find an annoying dongle has been left on it.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

N = C + {fb (cm) . fb (tc)} + fb (Ts) + fc . ta

The title might look a bit complex - but it is actually the formula for creating the ultimate bacon sandwich, at least according to scientists at Leeds University. Some might say that this is a frivolous way to spend research resources but I absolutely disagree. Whilst some of these lab coated monkeys waste their lives on esoteric rubbish like string theory and pan dimensional quantum resistance conjectures, it is good to see some boffins working on the improving life today. A proper British bacon sandwich is a thing of beauty and anything science can do to perfect this design classic is alright in my book.

The full story can be found on the BBC web site.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bugaboo Buggered

I just love the opportunity to congratulate excellent customer service. In February Ali and I had selected a Bugaboo combo pram and push chair because friends had advised us that they are worth the extra cash that they cost. We bought it from Mothercare in Kew. We could not believe it when we first used it in anger last Saturday - it broke! After spending several hundreds of pounds on the pram I was really frustrated that we might be without a pram for our 10 day old baby while it was repaired.

But I was pleasantly surprised. I walked into Mothercare and showed them the fault and they immediately said they would replace the faulty base unit. This even involved them opening a base unit of a different colour to get the part I needed. I was out with a fully functioning pram within less than twenty minutes. So well done Mothercare in Kew.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A few pictures of Lucy Elizabeth

Since some readers will be interested in pictures of Lucy whilst others are more interested in my incisive views on life and technology and yet others just want to know how a security ink tag works I won't keep posting them here. Further pictures and Lucy related stuff will be here at

Monday, April 02, 2007

Help me web experts!

So here is the thing. I love my Dr Who inspired logo for Ports Thoughts. You can see it at here . What confuses me is that sometimes the logo shows up when this web log is viewed but on other times it doesn't. In a previous life I have spent about 10 years working in IT support so I know a few bits and bobs about trouble shooting - but this one has got me floored. Sometimes the logo shows and sometimes it doesn't. I have three machines at home - an Linux Thinkpad T40 Laptop, an AMD WinXPSP2 home machine and a Thinkpad T60p also with WinXPSP2. Depending on whether I use IE or Firefox, sometimes the logo's show and sometime there is nothing. But there seems to be no pattern. When I view the source I see (you will probably have to view source to see the source code - I see this picture in line but the exact same code doesn't show as a logo ... wassat all about?)

removed dodgy code

The HTML seems fine to me but clearly I'm missing something - either about HMTL or my blogging provider Blogger. Either way - if you can help explain or fix the behaviour you will earn a pint of beer. If I know you this will be quite easy - if I don't we'll sort something out.

Update 6th April MW you were correct. There is something odd/wrong/strange about the way Google was hosting the image. I moved it to and it is working now in all browsers on all platforms. So the pint is yours - although it will probably be a can when you pop over to see Lucy :-). Ta Mate.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Headline news - Ports Spawns!

Click for a bigger version. Obviously I will be posting loads of other pictures of Lucy and Ali soon. I suppose I should be painting the spare room pink rather than playing in Photoshop but I know my strengths :-) And before any of you conspiracy theory types think this is all an April Fool joke - here is unadulterated proof that Lucy is ...
a) Cute as a button
b) Quite little
c) Daddy's gorgeous little munchkin

Ain't that cuter than a kitten? Incidentally - funniest text message so far was predictably from Marcus refering to the due date being April 1st "... And she is on time, well project managed!". Ali found that very amusing - but secretly I think she was agreeing :-)