Seasonal greetings and festive fun!

So, it’s Christmas Eve, and my backlog of technical blog posts is no shorter than ever… even so, I thought I’d share some of the more humorous items I’ve seen recently. You’ve probably seen them before (both of the videos have gone viral) but the first is an idea of how the Nativity may have been, had we been using social media at that time:

The second is a clip from The One Ronnie show – due to be aired over Christmas on the BBC. Those of you in the UK will almost certainly remember The Two Ronnies as part of the Christmas TV schedule and, although Ronnie Barker passed away, Ronnie Corbett teams up with Harry Enfield in this IT-related sketch:

It might not quite be up to the standard of Four Candles but I still think it’s funny, in a very British kind of way (judging my the number of times I’ve seen it tweeted this week, I’m not alone!).

My last festive offerings come from Liz Male Consulting (@LizMale), whose Christmas cards always provide much amusement in my house. Two years ago we had new building regulations for Christmas (Liz’s work is largely in the construction sector) and last year she was tweeting the Christmas story (a whole year ahead of the video above). For 2010 Liz has produced the Ministry of Austerity Ration Card which features such delights as the ConDem Christmas Cake and a special Seasonal Carol reflecting the times in which we live.

Thanks to everyone who’s supported my blogging/tweeting/other online ramblings this year. In a short while, I’ll be signing off for a few days with my family (and my new Xbox!) but I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all an enjoyable festive season and all the best for 2011.

Web 2.0 according to Mitch Benn (and I’ve given in and signed up for Twitter)

According to The Guardian, primary school children in England are going to be taught about web 2.0 technologies. This is probably a good idea, but I have some reservations too… after all, I’m the head geek in our family and it’s only a matter of time before my son tells me that blogging is passé and that I really should be doing something else that I haven’t even heard of yet!

Fans of The Now Show may have heard Mitch Benn‘s ditty from a week of so back, which highlights all the key points of web 2.0 technology in about a minute:

“A blog is just a diary you post on the Internet so everybody in the world can read along.
It means you’re under the impression that your every waking thought is a source of fascination but you’re wrong.
Then there’s MySpace which is mainly full of dreadful Indie bands who want a record deal although it’s a lost cause.
Then there’s Facebook which is mainly a way to reassure yourself that your buddies’ lives are just as dull as yours.

A podcast is a radio show you make and post yourself so it doesn’t matter if it’s really crap.
MP3s are just a clever way of stealing people’s songs which is why the record industry’s collapsed.
Wikipedia is a site where you could have looked all this up for yourself if you weren’t such a lazy git.
And twitter is for messages that last 140 characters or less and I’m the King of it!”

[Mitch Benn, The Now Show, 27 March 2009]

I thought it was worth sharing… and if you like to hear Mitch’s irreverant musical satire then you might be interested to know he has a gig in London this June which could be a giggle.

Anyway, if my son (who is due to start school in a few months) is going to learn about Twitter, I thought it was about time I got an account… I can’t promise I’ll update it (any more than I do my Facebook status) but, for those who really are interested in the minutiae of my life (are you? really?), I’m @markawilson and Mitch Benn just got a new follower…

If you still haven’t got a clue what I’m talking about, this video explains Twitter in plain English:

A sneak peek at the Vista SP1 source code?

Sometimes I get criticised for writing positively about Microsoft products and being critical of Apple – hey, with the MacBook Air, it’s hard not to notice the lack of substance – what next? an invisible Apple notebook? (thanks to Alex for sending me that – and he used to evangelise almost everything that Cupertino produced before Apple products started to get popular and they began putting shareholders ahead of customers). I like to think that I’m pretty objective but then again my day job does involve consulting on Microsoft technologies so just in case there is any bias around here I thought I’d redress the balance with a little spoof about some Windows Vista SP1 source code that seems to have escaped into the public domain:

  TOP SECRET Microsoft(c) Project:Longhorn(TM) SP1
  Estimated release date: 2008

#include "win95.h"
#include "win98.h"
#include "leopard.h"

char chew_up_some_ram[10000000];

void main() {
  while(!CRASHED) {
    if(first_time_install) {
    if(still_not_crashed) {

  if(!DX10GPU()) {
    set_graphics(aero, very_slow);
    set_mouse(reaction, sometimes);

  //printf("Welcome to Windows 2000");
  //printf("Welcome to Windows XP");
  printf("Welcome to Windows Vista");

  while(something) {


(I got this from multiple sources but they all seem to lead back to a Linux Format advert for TechRadar).

Now, the reason I’m posting this is that most Microsofties can appreciate the geek humour and have a chuckle. Sadly the Linux guys at FedoraForum chose to demonstrate their geekdom by descending into discussions of “the M$ tax” and other such ramblings in the vein of “my operating system is better than your operating system”. Yawn! One even commented that slow Vista sales were good for Linux (hmm… how’s that then? There may be a Mac revival going on in the consumer marketplace but I haven’t heard about a massive defection of dissatisfied Windows Vista users moving to Linux – quite the opposite in fact with many people simply reverting to using a familiar Windows XP installation).

I wrote over a year back how, rightly or wrongly, Windows XP would be around for a while yet and with Vista SP1 just around the corner it really does feel as though corporate customers are starting to get ready for Vista now. Personally, I’m looking forward to getting my grubby paws on a beta of Windows 7 (hopefully later this year).

Urgent client request

So here I am, last Friday before Christmas… trying to clear out my Inbox before the holidays and an urgent client request comes in…

We have received a late requirement for a virtualised global distribution system based on a traditional Linux Red Hat (with Red Nose) operating system utilising fat-client vertical drop-off delivery systems. The solution must be delivered by 24 December in order for the client to meet business deadlines and avoid massive disappointment to his customers.

The solution must be capable of scaling to meet global demand and have capacity to cater for worldwide overnight silent delivery.

Pull technology must be utilised using the open-source “Reindeer/Sleigh” principle and customer satisfaction is usually measured via the proprietary mince pie/brandy method. Alternative e-satisfaction measures have been tried but failed to satisfy the client.

Our client operates from a single site classified at top secret level using the latest encrypted/ virtualised addressing regime. I am allowed to tell you that the operating components (EL-VE-S) are highly resistant to frost.

Storage Area Network Technology Architecture (SAN-TA) is the essential core component.

Any design templates for a solution such as this from previous deployments (last December?) would be welcomed.

All those replying are guaranteed to have a great Christmas. The client has promised.

Happy Holidays

(Thanks to DT for letting me share this)

Dara Ó Briain talks about IT

So there I was, lying in bed in my hotel room, when Dara Ó Briain comes on the telly and starts talking about IT… it made me laugh a lot. So much that I thought I’d reproduce it here:

“[IT is] full of amazing bullshit job titles that didn’t exist 10, 20 years ago. You’re a developer for Christ sake eh! Do you have a web master in the office? [Yes] Of course you do. Yeah. Web master is my favourite of all of those – walking around the office going ‘I Am A Web Master. I Am Master Of The Web. Feel The Power Of My Fire Wall. It is not actually a wall of fire, no it is more of a protocol for e-mails, anyway, nevermind – I Am A Web Master. I am not social situation master – no I can’t do that at all no. I am not talking to women master – no there are too many variables in that situation as well I can’t be handling that’.

That, and my favourite thing about your industry by the way is ‘solutions’. You do love the solutions don’t ya? You know, when your computer’s not working and you’re kinda going, ‘ah, it’s not working, get the guy’ and one of your people arrives, in a cape, going ‘I, am a Solution Provider. You, you’re a problem provider, back away problem provider – you would not understand my solution, it is too technical for you, get out, get out of the room. Do not look at the computer – your eyes hurt the computer – get out! Have they gone? Lovely. Control – Alt – Delete…'”

[Dara Ó Briain, Comedian]

A light-hearted look at infrastructure optimisation

I’ve written before about Microsoft infrastructure optimisation (IO), including a link to the online self-assessment tool but I had to laugh when I saw James O’Neill’s post on the subject. I’m sure that James won’t mind me repeating his IO quiz here – basically the more answers from the right side of the table, the more basic the IT operations are and the more from the left side, the more dynamic they are. Not very scientific (far less so than the real analysis tools) and aimed at a lower level than a real IO study but amusing anyway:

The rest of my company… …involves the IT department in their projects. …accepts IT guys have a job to do. …tries to avoid anyone from IT.
My team… …all hold some kind of product certification. …read books on the subject. …struggle to stay informed.
What worries me most in the job is… …fire, flood or other natural disaster. …what an audit might uncover. …being found out.
My department reminds me of… …’Q branch’ from a James Bond movie. …Dilbert’s office. …trench warfare.
Frequent tasks here rely on… …automated processes. …a checklist. …Me.
What I like about this job is… …delivering the on the promise of technology. …it’s indoors and the hours are OK. …I can retire in 30 years.
If asked about Windows Vista I… …can give a run down of how its features would play here. …repeat what the guy in PC World told me. …change the subject.
New software generally is… …an opportunity. …a challenge. …something we ban.
My organization sees “software as a service” as a way to… …do more things. …do the same things, more cheaply. …do the same things without me.
Next year this job will be… …different. …the same. …outsourced.


Make me a sandwich.  What?  Make it yourself.  sudo make me a sandwich.  OkayThanks to a Red Hat geek gift guide that I stumbled on whilst writing another post, I just found a very amusing (I’ll resist the urge to say cool) T-shirt for sale featuring this cartoon – there’s more like this at the XKCD store.

If you like it, check out the XKCD comic too. Very funny. If you are a geek. I believe that I am.

Mac vs. PC (vs. Linux)

A few months back, I wrote a post about the Mac vs. PC ads (which, funny as they are, as a user of Macintosh, Windows and Linux PCs, I find to be a little misleading sometimes and downright untruthful others) before following it up when I heard an amusing Mac vs. PC parody on BBC Radio 4’s The Now Show. It was interesting to hear that Mac Format magazine judged the ads as ineffective because the largest group of consumers to whom they appeal are already Mac users (although Apple’s continuation of the Get a Mac campaign would suggest that it is working for them) and, in the comments on my recent post about some of the consumer-targeted features in Windows Vista being just as good as the functionality offered by Mac OS X, I was criticised for saying:

“Apple’s Get a Mac campaign draws on far too many half truths that will only become apparent to users after they have made the decision to switch, splashed out on the (admittedly rather nice) Apple hardware and then found out that the grass is not all green on the other side.”

Regardless of the effectiveness (or honesty) of the original ads, late last night, whilst researching for my rebuttal of those comments, I came across some more Mac vs. PC ads:

I’ve said before that the whole “my operating system is better than your operating system” nonsense is quite ridiculous really but the TrueNuff guys have it all just about summed up:

“Why would you love a Mac? Computers are computers. Macs are great. So are PCs. So are toasters – what’s your point? It’s just a computer – get over it.”

I’m enjoying the spoof ads though!

My computer is better than your computer…

A couple of weeks back, I posted some clips of spoof Mac vs. PC ads, as well as pointing out that the Apple campaign is a little… how can I put this… untruthful… at times. I couldn’t be bothered to report Bill Gates getting annoyed on US television over the whole Mac vs. PC thing but I can tell this whole episode has gone mainstream when British comedians start poking fun at the Mac vs. PC ads on BBC Radio 4.

I was laughing out loud when I heard last Friday’s The Now Show – so much so that I thought I’d share a short segment of the show here – thereby illustrating that the whole “my operating system is better than your operating system” nonsense is quite ridiculous really:

Jon Holmes: Let’s take two letters at the same time…

Mac: Dear Jon, I’m a Mac.
PC: And I’m a PC.
Mac: I wonder if you could settle, once and for all, the controversial debate that’s been raging as to which one of us is better for the home and which one is better for the office?
PC: Well it really is a tricky one that, isn’t it? Umm.

Jon Holmes: But the Mac or PC argument has of course been a source of techie conflict for years; personally I couldn’t give less of a t*ss either way – they both let you download p*rn don’t they – what’s not to like? But speccy computer enthusiasts on either side treat the Mac and PC divide like open war…


Admiral Horatio Nelson: The Battle is won Mr Hardy. Those Mac-loving scum have taken their stupid mouse that has only one clicky button and turned tail and fled. We can claim victory over those who would dare prefer an OS X operating system that utilises GUI and Unix underpinnings.


(Windows exclamation sound)


Admiral Horatio Nelson: Mr Hardy! I’ve been hit by a spam e-mail! I thought this ship’s Windows anti-worm and virus software had been configured to prevent unsolicited e-mails. I am done for.

Captain Thomas Hardy: Sorry Sir, the ship’s firewall was down. IT say there was a .DLL file error in the hold.

Admiral Horatio Nelson: It is over Mr Hardy. My battle is lost. Kiss me Hardy.

Captain Thomas Hardy: No thanks Sir, someone might film it on their phone camera and put it on YouTube and we’d look well gay.

Jon Holmes: PC or Mac, Mac or PC it’s causing a national divide pitching brother against brother, cousin against cousin, spoddy geek against spoddy geek…

Geek: At my signal, unleash Dell.

Jon Holmes: However, Mitchell and Webb aren’t the first double act to advertise computers either. Punt and Dennis did one some years ago, back when they were famous, in which they too had to pitch computer against computer but back then, there was no real contest as to which was the best…

Sinclair ZX-81: Hello, I’m a Sinclair ZX-81.
Space Invaders machine: And I’m a Space Invaders machine in the pub.
Sinclair ZX-81: I’ve got up to 1K of memory, an external cassette recorder (not supplied) and a lead to connect me to the back of the television.


Space Invaders machine: Yeah but I’m in the pub.

Jon Holmes: No contest!

The above work has been copyrighted by the British Broadcasting Corporation and the author believes that the republishing of the script and low-quality recording on this page constitutes criticism, review and news reporting under the terms of fair dealing in the United Kingdom Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA). It also represents free publicity for one of the BBC’s excellent programmes!

Mac vs. PC

PC guy - Mac guy

A few months back, I commented that Apple’s Mac vs. PC ads were amusing but it still strikes me as odd that a company with a brand as strong as Apple’s would drop to what is effectively bragging. Anyway, despite the rumours of Mac guy Justin Long being replaced (which he appears to deny on his website), new ads are running and they are still amusing… even if they do sometimes sail a little close to the wind (more on that in a moment).

The ads have grabbed the public attention so much that there are even spoof ads:Even Microsoft seem to be getting in on the act, and although the original source of the Zune vs. iPod clip below is unclear, it was reported to have been shown at a Microsoft event (I can believe that):

Meanwhile, the United States’ campaign has been so successful that it is now being rolled out in other parts of the world – David Mitchell and Robert Webb have been brought in as PC guy and Mac guy for the UK ads and it seems to work well (my favourites so far are definitely “Restarting” and “Virus“).

I said that Apple are sailing close to the wind here and this is why… I have to restart my Mac far more often than my Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 PCs – so that’s one of the UK ads that’s a blatant lie then. I’ll accept that view is a little subjective, so let’s objectively consider the new “Security” ad in the US which pokes fun at Windows Vista’s user access control:

…and here’s a screen shot from my Mac, after I change the default behaviour which allows me to run as an administrator although admittedly not as root (and with the client firewall turned off):

OS X authentication

I know the ads are largely about fun but isn’t this a case of the pot calling the kettle black?