Friday, September 29, 2006

Haunted by an old exercise room:

In the mid 1990's, the company I worked at floated some stock and was able to carefully design the "just perfect" offices for themselves and move into them. (C. Northcote Parkinson has a law about this that I discussed last March 6, and yes, that company was then dying from within even as it moved.)

The director of engineering was a runner and felt very strongly about physical fitness in the office. He arranged for our new building to have a "gym", a large room with mats, weightlifting equipment, a treadmill and an exercycle. I was of course far too busy programming to use any of this equipment, but I passed the room frequently as I walked about the building, and I knew - as did everyone else - that the room was virtually unused. Eventually the equipment disappeared, and it became a meeting room.

Many years have passed since then, and now I can only ask myself: what could I possibly have been doing at that company that was more important than using the exercise room?

Friday, September 08, 2006

The ABCs of Product Serial Numbers!

There’s a lot of buzz right now about how people are RECHECKING their battery serial numbers at the Dell web site and discovering, after changing zeroes to “ohs” and ones to “ells” (or vice versa) that their battery IS a fire hazard. (I’ve rechecked my batteries for ohs and zeroes but I still have to recheck AGAIN for ones and ells.) In discussing this matter - here’s an example - everyone seems to assume that figuring out what’s a digit and what’s a letter is OUR problem. That infuriates me! It’s Dell and Sony’s problem. Here are the ABCs of product serial numbers, which both companies seem to have blithely ignored:

  1. If serial numbers must use all ten digits, they must NEVER use ells, esses and ohs. Period.

  2. If companies stupidly persist in ignoring rule one above, then serial numbers must be set up so that each character, by position, HAS to be a digit or a letter. That way a data entry program that validates serial numbers can prevent you from entering the wrong symbol. (E.g.: “The third character MUST be a letter. You entered a digit. Please correct this character.”)

  3. If companies astoundingly persist in ignoring rules one and two above, their programs that search the data base of serial numbers should automatically search for all possibilities! For example if I enter 012345, they should search for 012345, O12345, 0l2345, Ol2345, 01234S, O1234S, 0l234S and Ol234S. (See how hard it is to tell them apart?)

  4. If companies dumbheadedly persist in ignoring rules one, two and three above, they can still go to great lengths to make sure we know how to distinguish these symbols in the serial number before we type something in.

NOTE: Currently at the Dell battery web site, they provide this wonderful advice:
Common errors include distinguishing between alphanumeric characters:
· letter "O" from the number "0"
· letter "S" from the number "5"
· letter "l" from the number "1"

They then leave it to you to guess how many times you’ll have to re-enter your serial number to rule out all the possibilities. Gee thanks!

Dell and Sony YOU figure out how to save us from zero/oh/one/ell/ess/five confusion. You made this mess, you clean it up!

(The Precision Blogger will now resume his scheduled hiatus. Sorry, but this topical issue was too important to ignore.)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Pluto at its best ..

I'm not blogging, but please check out James Lileks' wonderful column about Pluto.

Backyard tomatoes harvested so far: Cherry, 467. Plum, 70. Big, 28.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


I'm going to take September off this year. I hope to have lots to say next month. My next post will probably be on October first. Meanwhile, I'll occasionally post to my other blog at realIdSucks. Take care, everyone!