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My laptop has a Bug July 20, 2010

Posted by mwidlake in biology.
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My laptop is suffering from bugs, and I’m not talking software.

It is warm and sunny here in the Southeast of England, which is not always the case during the British Summer, and I am suffering an invasion of little insects. Specifically Thrips or Thunderbugs. They are called Thunderbugs as they are supposed to appear in numbers when a thunderstorm is brewing. Like most Old Wives Tales it is utter rubbish. But kind of true too…

If you do not know, a thrip is usually a small insect about 0.15 mm wide and maybe 0.4mm long. So small, but visible. About the size of this:

,

Yep, a coma on an average LCD panel. And that is where the problem is. One has got into my laptop and under my screen and it is sure to die. It is currently scurrying around at the far left of the screen and I’m considering a mercy killing before it wanders further across the screen into prime acreage. I had this before on my old laptop. In that case it died in the middle of the screen and for ever more has looked suspiciously like a coma, or single ‘quote’, causing me confusion when it falls on top of emails, word documents and…. code. It really was a pain when it came to code. Even now, if I use that old machine it sometimes catches me out. It can merge with a letter in new and exciting ways, to subtly change a word or command.

I’m obviously not alone, a quick web search threw up some other people complaining of the same issue.

And of course it is a common knowledge that “bugs” in computing really did start out as insects getting fried in the electronics and valves of the very first machines in the mid-20th century. I wonder if that is really true or just another old myth? James Higgins seems to think it is real and who am I to doubt him. He has a photo of the evidence after all.

Friday Philosophy – Cats and Dogs October 2, 2009

Posted by mwidlake in Perceptions.
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I like cats. Cats are great. I don’t like dogs. I’ve been attacked by a nasty bitie dog and that is my reason. And dogs growl at you. And woof.

This is of course unfair, I have been bitten by cats lots more than dogs (seeing as I own cats and have never owned a dog, this is to be expected), cats scratch, cats hiss at you and yowl and they have been known to leave “presents” in my slippers.

My animal preference comes down to personal, even personality, reasons as opposed to logic. A dog needs attention, a walk twice a day, they follow you around and always want attention and tend to be unquestioning in their affection. Cats can often take you or leave you, will come when called only if they had already decide to come over and the issue of who owns who is certainly not clear. If you do not keep your cat happy, there is always Mrs Willams down the road who Tiddles can up and go and live with instead.

These same illogical preferences riddle IT I think. People make decisions for what I sometimes term “religious” reasons. As an example, I’ve worked with a lot of people who either are strongly for or against Open Source. There are logical and business reasons for and against Open Source, but it seems to me that many people have decided which they prefer for personal reasons {often, Open Source people tend towards anti-establishement and anti-corporation views, Open Source detractors tend towards supporting business and personal wealth}. They then will argue their corner with the various pros and cons but you know there is no swaying their opinion as it was not derived from logic.

In the same way I will not stop preferring cats to dogs. And I know I personally have a couple of Religious decisions about IT that are not based on cold logic {And I am not changing them, OK!}.

I think it helps to realise that people do make decisions this way (some make most of them this way, most make some decisions this way) and it’s not worth getting that angry or annoyed when someone seems to be intractable in their stance against your ideas. After all, you might have made a “religious” decision which side you are on and they can’t understand why you don’t agree with them :-)

opinions formed in this manner are difficult to change. They can and do change, but usually only over time and in a gradual way, certainly not from someone saying to them they are an idiot for preferring Sybase to Ingress and verbally berating them with various arguments for and against.

So, if it is only a work thing {and heck, computers and software really are not that important} be passionate, but try and be a little flexible too.

This post was, of course, just a shallow¬†excuse to include a link to a Cat thing – my favorite cat animation. Sorry Dog lovers {It’s your own faulty for liking nasty, smelly dogs}.

The Sneaky WHAT Strategy!? June 15, 2009

Posted by mwidlake in biology, Perceptions.
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OK, I can’t resist any more, I have to write a Blog about this. I apologise up front for any offence I cause anyone, it is not intended.

There has been a bit of a thread between my and Richard Foote’s blog about the Dunning-Kruger effect. This is his post on it. The Dunning Kruger effect (Jonathan Lewis told us what it was called) is where people have an over-inflated opinion of their own ability. Since the names of behavioral traits came up, I have been unable to get something out of my mind.

When I was at college I studied Zoology. In one lecture on animal behaviour we were told about the “Sneaky Fuck3r Strategy”. Yes, you read it right, that is what it is called. {I’ve stuck a ‘3’ in there as I’m concerned I’ll blow up some web filters}.

It was described in the context of Red Deer. A single dominant male has a harem of females during the breeding season. Other big, strong males will challenge the Dominant Stag and, if they win, will take over the harem. So, this one Stag has all the lady deer at his disposal, only challenged by similarly large, aggressive males.

Well, not quite. What sometimes happens is that, when the dominant stag is fighting off a challenge, one of the younger stags will sneak into the herd and mate with one of the females. Thus the term “Sneaky Fuck3r strategy”. Genetic testing shows that quite a few of the deer born are not fathered by the dominant male!

The one little twist added during my lecture was that it had been observed that one young male, male(A), would go and challenge the dominant stag whilst another young male(B) snuck into the herd. Then, a while later Male(B) would challenge the stag and Male(A) would have his turn. I don’t know if that was an unsubstantiated embellishment but is suggests smart as well as sneaky.

I really thought she was pulling our legs about the name, but the lecturer wasn’t. It is a real term, used by real zoologists, though mostly UK-based. You can google it but I won’t blame you if you want to wait until you are not at work to do so!

Many people lay the credit for the name to John Maynard Smith But this article with Tim Clutton-Brockhas an excellent description of the situation {click on “show Transcript” and I suggest you search for the word “sneaky”}. I am not clear if Tim did the original work on the subject though. For some reason I can’t fathom, wikipedia does not mention the strategy in it’s entries for either scientist…

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