The Old Coot Network

The Old Coot Network is different from the Old Boy Network in several ways – and is probably similar to the relationship between the Old Dear Network and the Old Girl Network. I’m not sure if the differences are based upon nationality  but I’ll bet they have something to do with class.

Old Boys and Old Girls are traditionally former classmates at a private school. The Old Coots and Old Dears are from further down the market. But it does not stop them from being equally useful.

Take this week – I was concerned about the health and safety of this computer and called at the local Apple store to discuss it. I was handed from the greeter to a very attractive young woman with startling eyelashes and given time to ask my questions…but was immediately assured that they were groundless fears and that I really should toddle off. To help me toddle I was given the telephone number of the Apple Care help desk.

My net investigations then suggested that the Apple Care desk probably wouldn’t – at least not until I paid them some undetermined fee.

So it was on to the Old Coot Network – the people in my former trade that actually deal in and with Apple products for photographers’ use. They were more than happy to discuss my worries and to provide guidance toward a couple of anti-virus and anti-malware programs – the same ones they use for their photographic business. I came home, did as I was bid, and finally got the reassurance that all was well.

I am now curious to see whether it was beyond the policy of the Apple store to make the same recommendation or to tell me of their own, similar, product. I shall call at another store in their chain before I make any further judgement.

 

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Security Breaches, Or How To Panic The Game Into Breaking Cover

There are many different techniques for a hunter when they are trying to get the game to show itself – some adopt the sneak-and-creep approach that tries to blend in and give the prey a false sense of security. Others use the big-noise ploy to frighten the animals into leaping from cover. Some just throw out chum – chopped-up whitebait, packets of hot chips, or free tickets to Johnny Farnham concerts.  All three are valid propositions.

One of the best new approaches is for a hacker to tell everyone that they are in terrible danger from hackers, and to direct them to a site that will protect them by harvesting private numbers and passwords. If this sounds a little like the federal government, you have to remember that both the hackers and the politicians learned their trade in the same private schools and may well end up sharing their experiences in the same cell.

The business of computer and internet security is so complex, of course, that it defies normal understanding. Like the mysteries of religion, this creates an opportunity for a priestly caste to step in and control the confused. The fact that the saviours are also the people who invented the danger is sometimes overlooked, in both circumstances.

To some extent this priestcraft is a good thing – if you are prepared to go blindly along with the directions of the experts you will eventually get somewhere – just be careful who you follow. The same principles apply to computer expertise and turf consultancy, and in some cases it seems to be done by the same people. If you are a fan of three-card monte games played in a doorway off a side street you should be perfectly at home.

Where the idea of priestcraft can be seen to be turning to more general benefit is in the fact that there are still several major electronic religions. You need not worship at the same keyboard altar as the person in the next cubicle. The teams can be played one against the other for the benefit of the perplexed. If one discovers a vulnerability of another, they will trumpet it in the mainstream long enough for the guilty party to either slink away or invent a repair for the problem.

You cannot stand firm upon ancient belief when it comes to computers – some prophet is always coming down off a mountain with a shining face and two more tablets of silicon – in many cases the glory turns out to be residual radiation and the wild hair is the result of opening the back of the desk-top a little too early. In any case, you are going to have to adapt, adopt, and update every so often – just do so at the behest of reputable firms and not Flash Harry. As irksome as they can be at times, the major suppliers like Apple and Microsoft really do maintain their own demesnes eventually.

None Of My Darned Business

Have you ever sat there and actually considered how many things in your world are none of your darned business?

I did just this recently and came up with a surprising number of topics that I need never address. The fact that I have done so in the past meant that I was making myself or others unhappy to no purpose. I could have saved my breath to cool my porridge and improved my days no end. Here’s a selection of opportunities that I can take in the future to butt out:

a. The bad driver on the road who swerves and rockets about between lanes – who tailgates and lurches and cuts in. No sense me raging about this behaviour – nothing I do is going to abate it. All I need do is steer clear and stay back and let him…or her…meet their fate by themselves. Hopefully it will not occur where I have to stop and render aid.

b. As the love affairs of others are not my business, neither are their hate affairs. I can hope, in humanity, that everyone will be loved and true and content. If it happens I will cheer. If it does not, I shall remain silent.

I’ll help out – though I draw the line at moving furniture these days – but apart from general sympathy and the occasional cup of tea, I think I should keep my opinions to myself.

I shall have to work on controlling my wince, when I hear details.

c. I’m not going to poke anyone in their religion or politics, for fear of something oozing out. If they will aid me in this by not exposing themselves so blatantly on Facebook it would be appreciated. In turn, I shall not hand out pamphlets or sell religious relics at cocktail parties.

d. While I might be uncertain if anyone’s religion is really sacred, I am convinced that their bank accounts are. Thus their financial affairs will be treated with dignity and respect. I shall not beg money of them, nor steal it when they are out of the room. Likewise I shall not advance sums that would expose them to embarrassment or me to inconvenient loss.

e. I shall try to exercise a complete sense of tolerance towards the dress of others – and hope that they can be as kind to me. I’m retired, with a wardrobe of odd, if serviceable clothing left over from the last 40 years. I am comfortable with most of it and hope to wear it out in a frugal manner. I’ll need to remember that others may be doing this as well.

f. I’m not so sure if I can treat the speech and writing of others in such a laissez-faire manner – particularly if they are addicted to foul language. I wasn’t brought up to it and still find it an offensive thing to hear. Indeed, in the mouths of some, it is actually ridiculous.

I might have to balance a middle ground in this one – grit my old teeth and take no notice up to a certain point and then just walk away after that. The real decision will be whether to ever walk back…

g. The musical, artistic, and visual tastes of everyone are personal, and I must stop mentally judging them when I hear or see what pleases them. The judgement need not be bad – I quite approve of some things, but need to remember that my opinion is not called for either way.

This’ll be a work in progress for a few years. With any luck it may make me more of a gentleman, or at least a calmer and kinder individual.

” This One Is Named Henry…”

I stood behind myself in Bunnings today and I am very proud to say that I did not kick myself in the arse. The fact that I was wearing thongs would not have made a difference – for a while there I was prepared to break a toe if need be.

It was the oak strip and mdf board aisle – the one down the back near the waste bins. I rounded the corner at a fast lope looking for two sheets of 3mm 1200 x 900 mdf to make an airport hard stand ( As you do…) and was brought to screeching halt by me. I was blocking the aisle with a Bunnings trolley and carefully selecting the most suitable oak strips and mdf boards for my project. I have no idea what my project is.

In case this all sounds too mysterious for words, consider that we all have a doppelganger somewhere – that we generally never meet. In most cases the doppelganger looks like us, and all who see them can recognise the fact. I my case the chap picking out the wood was nothing like me in appearance, but exactly like me in actions.

I could see him eyeing every piece of wood to find out whether it was straight or twisted – not really a thing with short lengths of oak and flat sheets of mdf. Then scanning each piece from either end about half a dozen times and then going back to consult a paper list pulled from his pocket. This went on for a dozen bits of wood, and the list went back into the pocket and came out again a dozen times.

I was surprised that he did not pull out a carpenter’s square and/or ruler to check whether the dimensions listed on the price tag were accurate.

I just sat on the big stack of marine ply and watched…and waited. I kept a pleasant smile upon my face and thought about happy things. For what seemed like 12 hours. When he finally decided that he had enough wood, he slowly pushed the trolley away. I brushed off  the spider webs and lichen that had been growing on me, dived for the mdf shelf and grabbed two pieces.

I’m not a vindictive man. Or a rude one. But I could see what was going to happen if he hit the cash register before me…so I literally flew down the side aisles to beat him to it. I may have been a bit precipitate, as I could hear an avalanche of hammers and wood clamps falling behind in my wake, but I made it in time. I got through the till before he arrived with his list.

I cannot say whether I will be a different shopper in the future, but I will at least look over my shoulder and let other foursomes play through while I consider the fall of the green.

Well Goodness Gracious Me

I have been resigned for a long time now to the sound of the telephone ringing just before tea-time. It’ll be the land line – not the mobile – and it will have the classic silence and clicking before a subcontinental voice comes on and lies to me.

The lie will be one of the classics  – Telstra Technical Department, Microsoft Technical Support, Australian Taxation Office, Australian Federal Police, roof solar panels,etc.

It will commence with the voice asking me if I am Mr. Stein, or the householder. I have learned to ignore this question and ask directly to whom I am speaking. Generally they will give a first name and a slightly mumbled organisation name. Very few of them ever admit to being a Gupta or a Ranjit…it is always a Brad or a Janet. In many cases you can hear the Hindi being screeched in the background and in one instance I could swear I could hear the humidity…

I’ve tried everything. Abruptness, sugary sweetness, baffled confusion, a heavy German accent…none of it seems to stem the flow of bullshit from the receiver’s earpiece. It’s only a whim or the effect of the afternoon cocktail that makes a difference between swearing at them and singing to them. But I grow tired of it – especially when I have better things to do.

So now I am going to start firing off a series of letters of complaint to the only authority who can put a stop to it – the Indian government. If they are going to host these electronic bedbugs, they can be held up for airing as well as the bedding. I’m sure it will be for the most part futile, but the pleasure to be had in abusing a dignitary for a dollar is cheap enough amusement.

The Long Dry Wait

We are told by political spokespeople that there is a terrible lack of jobs for young people in Australia. Generally the spokespeople are trying to get us to vote for their candidates – to give them employment with a hefty salary. As so few of us have the statistical resources that the political parties do, we are frequently inclined to believe them.

And then we encounter trade languishing for lack of employees and are left hanging on the outside of counters trying to catch the eye of the overworked retail or hospitality staff. Sometimes we wait out the time and sometimes we just slope off unsatisfied – but in both cases the problem could be remedied by engaging more workers and training them more extensively.

I’ll give some shops praise – Bunnings, our local hardware store – has a wide variety of workers there who can operate the tills, fill the shelves, find the tools, and move the pot plants. You never languish at Bunnings and the tills ring pretty merrily all the day. Same thing in IKEA.

I went to a tavern in our city yesterday, however, where the exact opposite occurred. The Belgian Beer Café serves good beer and reasonable pub food, and occupies a central position on a major street. It seems set to coin money with the hungry and thirsty of Perth – particularly on a sunny summer lunchtime.

The staff would make it so if they could, but there is only so much that three people can do when there are dozens of customers. Bless them, they tried, but the 15 minute wait at the bar finally got to me and I elected to leave, come home, and drink a glass of water rather than a $ 12 pint of beer.

It’ll be management, of course, and the attempt to save money on wages. But how will they persuade me and the other dry throats to come back and try again? We might occasionally see signs that say ” Under new management ” but I’ve never seen one that says ” We actually have enough staff. ”

Perhaps the idea would be to bring an esky into the front bar and offer stubbies around to the people waiting…

Famous Hollywood Mathematician Confesses His Sines

In an exclusive interview with anyone who would stay still long enough, famous Hollywood mathematician, Louis C. de Nominateur, has admitted that he has been guilty of transversal since the early 1990’s.

This confession comes on the eve of revelations by a number of female academics that de Nominateur used his position as Monomial at Berkeley University’s Nonial Institute to press them for favours. The fact that he was contented with favours from a Cracker jack box is neither here nor there. If he was going to whistle, they were determined to decide where it would be.

The use of improper fractions has also been cited as the reason so many of the complainants  failed to gain tenure at the University. There have been rumours of trinomials.

The law firm of Scalene, Johnson, and Congruent has been engaged to prosecute the case in California. As soon as the plaintiffs decide how much money they would like to possess, writs will be served on the defendant. The first hearings are not expected to take place until the internet has delivered a judgement favourable to the complainants and there has been adequate time for the memes and outrage to take effect.