Windows Azure – MSDN Spending limit

Nicely done, Microsoft!  Um, but…

With the MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) subscription, you get a certain amount of Azure computing time to play with to learn how it works and develop applications.  Pretty neat stuff!

One issue was that if you accidentally used too much in terms of time/resources, you’d get billed.  Microsoft has handily solved this by imposing a spending limit of $0 on your account (see their blurb on this HERE).  If you accidentally go over your monthly freebie allotment, they shut your stuff down until next month. 

If you want to make sure your stuff never gets shut down and you are OK with getting billed, then you can remove this “spending limit”. 

However… that’s when a little Microsoft gremlin creeps out of the web page and says “once removed, the Spending Limit feature cannot be re-enabled”… um… excuse me?  Are we (well respected Microsoft software developers) to believe that it is harder to flip a bit to 1 in our account record than it is to flip it to 0?  How absurd.

If I were in charge, it wouldn’t work this way.  I would allow the user to set an arbitrary spending limit ($0 as well as anything else).  This spending limit could be set/reset by the user at any time.  Now THAT would be a very handy solution.

So, bottom line for Microsoft… A+ for the concept, C- for the execution.

To all the kids who were born in the 1930’s 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s!!

Ok, so this isn’t original, it’s been kicking around the net in one form or another, but my previous post reminded me about it so instead if listening to me whine, here it is for your convenience:

TO ALL THE KIDS WHO WERE BORN IN THE 1930's 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's !!

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us.

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes.

Then after that trauma, our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags.

Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle.

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.

We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank soda pop with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because……

WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.

No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape movies, no surround sound, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms……….WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them!

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever!

The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL!

And YOU are one of them!   CONGRATULATIONS!

You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own good.

and while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were.

Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn't it?!

Generation “Bubble Wrap” – Gen BW

We had the “baby boomers”, then “Generation X”, then “Generation Y”… I think today’s crop of kiddies should be called “Generation Bubble Wrap” (or “Generation BW”).  It appalls me how ridiculously over protective parents are these days.  Surprisingly enough, I even have a couple of examples :-p

In an elevator today, I rode up with a woman and her small child.  Of course, the child naturally wants to push the button for the floor, so Mom says “push 5”.  The child reaches out and Mom shrieks “NO!!! Don’t use your finger, use your elbow!”  ROFL  Really?  It was one of the hardest things for me not to bust up and ridicule the woman.  So, I’m doing it here instead.  As I mentioned in my Quick! Santiize That! posting, immune systems are wonderful things, but they need exercise.  This poor kid is probably kept drenched in hand sanitizer 24×7 based on Mom’s response.  I predict the kid will grow up needing therapy for obsessive compulsion disorders like constant hand-washing, and will probably die an early death by her poor body being attacked by some small bacteria that manages to get through, which MY generation wouldn’t even notice because we actually have an immune system.  Do you remember the ending to War of the Worlds?  That’s how the aliens died.

Last week, my wife and I were watching HouseHunters (or something similar) on TV.  If you haven’t seen the show, the format is that some person or couple is shown 3 houses (on camera, who knows how many they really see), and then they decide between them.  The heart-palpitating fun for the viewers is to try to guess which one they are going to pick.  It’s seriously nail-biting stuff, folks.  Anyhow, I digress… This couple was looking at the 3 homes and comparing the pros/cons.  There was one house in the group which met all of their requirements wonderfully, but they didn’t get it because it had a couple of stairs (split-level), and (gasp) sharp corners on things (fireplace, breakfast bar, etc), and they were worried about their child.  We had to hit pause, look at each other and say “Really?  What complete morons”.  I mean sure, I can see that you might want to avoid a house with a large 200ft unfenced sink-hole right in the middle of the back yard, but come ON now.   Short of wrapping little Tommy in bubble wrap after dressing him in the morning, the kid really needs to learn to be careful not to run into things, not to touch hot stoves, etc, etc.  What’s the best way to learn?  Experience.  Do it once, it hurts, and the kid doesn’t do it again.

From checking around with other old farts in my generation, it seems to be fairly common that we weren’t molly-coddled as kids.  We’re pretty healthy adults as a result, and the amazing thing is that most of us have both of our eyes, most of our fingers, limbs, etc.

On the other hand, when I think about it from a survival angle, I guess I’m glad that this generation will be such wimpy losers.  I’ll never have to worry about getting mugged by young thugs when I’m pushing my walker down the street.  I’ll just sneeze and that’ll send them shrieking and running, Purell bottles a-pumpin’

uJam – lots of fun creating music

If you like music and have time on your hands, check out www.ujam.com

It’s a web app which lets you sing or whistle a tune, then add accompaniment to it.  This is similar in concept to Microsoft’s old Songsmith product, except it produces much better results.  If you look on YouTube, you’ll find all sorts of examples where people took popular songs, isolated the lead singer, dumped the vocals into Songsmith, then uploaded the hilarious ultra-cheesy results.

I expected similar from uJam but was pleasantly surprised.

It’s pretty easy to get interesting and fairly quick results from uJam. Sing a song into it, and it will come up with accompaniment which doesn’t sound too horrible right out of the box. Musicians will wince at some of the chord choices, and it doesn’t always figure out the song structure properly, but it’s reasonably quick gratification.

For my first attempt, I “rejammed” one of their sample pieces.  That eliminated me having to sing or play anything, I was basically remixing and tweaking.  That was interesting and served as a quick way to get to know the program and styles and sort of how it works.

I then decided to try something more ambitious, and all mine.  I whistled a tune I wrote many years ago, converted that to notes, tweaked note recognition and timing errors (that took ages, what a pain!), then cranked out 8 different versions (styles) of the song. It was fun.  All in all I spent over 20hrs getting that thing right.

I had done a version of my song with a custom “style”, which means I specified exactly which instruments are to be used to accompany my lead instrument (for which I chose Lead Guitar).  Last night, I isolated each of the instrument tracks for this version, downloading each as a separate mp3 file. I loaded all these files into MixCraft, re-balanced the mix the way I wanted (which is not necessarily the way uJam likes it). I then took things out to un-busy the thing a bit. For example, with MixCraft, I was able to eliminate things like excessive Tympani rolls – uJam just goes nuts with drum rolls all over the place and it makes the whole thing very muddy. I did other stuff too, eliminating a couple of instruments I originally had in the “style”, and finally came up with this mix. Enjoy!

http://www.reverbnation.com/play_now/song_11923629

In summary, it’s a great program, especially if you want to crank out a “demo” song or just have fun with it.  Being a perfectionist is very time consuming so perhaps it’s actually easier to just play the various instruments yourself in the long run – LOL

uJam tech support did tell me about some of the improvements they have on the slate, and I think this product has some really great potential.  Give it a try!

Enhancing images on TV and in Movies

Have you noticed how laughable it is the way they portray image enhancement on TV and in movies?  They take some blobby blurry picture, hit a button and poof! Crystal clear (for the non-geeks out there, it doesn’t work that way in real life).  This video-strip cracked me up, taking it to the logical extreme:

image

Ladle Rat Rotten Hut – Aguish Languish

I remember this one from waaaaaay back in high school.  That was a long time ago, before electricity was invented.  In fact, we had to watch TV by candlelight.

Anyhow, I thought it would be amusing to dig this up for your enjoyment.  There are also many more examples of “Anguish Languish” on this site.

The idea of this is to use different words to convey meaning.  Howard L Chace, a professor of French wrote a book of collected stories with substitute words to demonstrate that the intonation of spoken English is almost as important as the meaning of the words themselves.  So, if you read this out loud and listen to how it sounds, not what the words are, you’ll find the original story.

Heresy ladle furry starry toiling udder warts–warts welcher altar girdle deferent firmer once inner regional virgin. This sentence means: "Here is a little fairy story told in other words–words which are altogether different from the ones in the original version."

Ladle Rat Rotten Hut

Wants pawn term dare worsted ladle gull hoe lift wetter murder inner ladle cordage honor itch offer lodge, dock, florist. Disk ladle gull orphan worry Putty ladle rat cluck wetter ladle rat hut, an fur disk raisin pimple colder Ladle Rat Rotten Hut.

Wan moaning Ladle Rat Rotten Hut’s murder colder inset.

"Ladle Rat Rotten Hut, heresy ladle basking winsome burden barter an shirker cockles. Tick disk ladle basking tutor cordage offer groin-murder hoe lifts honor udder site offer florist. Shaker lake! Dun stopper laundry wrote! Dun stopper peck floors! Dun daily-doily inner florist, an yonder nor sorghum-stenches, dun stopper torque wet strainers"

"Hoe-cake, murder," resplendent Ladle Rat Rotten Hut, an tickle ladle basking an stuttered oft.

Honor wrote tutor cordage offer groin-murder, Ladle Rat Rotten Hut mitten anomalous woof.

"Wail, wail, wail" set disk wicket woof, "Evanescent Ladle Rat Rotten Hut Wares are putty ladle gull goring wizard ladle basking?"

"Armor goring tumor groin-murder’s," reprisal ladle gull. "Grammar’s seeking bet. Armor ticking arson burden barter an shirker cockles."

"0 hoe! Heifer gnats woke," setter wicket woof, butter taught tomb shelf, "Oil tickle shirt court tutor cordage offer groin-murder. Oil ketchup wetter letter, an den– O bore!"

Soda wicket woof tucker shirt court, an whinny retched a cordage offer groin-murder, picked inner windrow, an sore debtor pore oil worming worse lion inner bet. Inner flesh, disk abdominal woof lipped honor bet, paunched honor pore oil worming, an garbled erupt. Den disk ratchet ammonal pot honor groin-murder’s nut cup an gnat-gun, any curdled ope inner bet.

Inner ladle wile, Ladle Rat Rotten Hut a raft attar cordage, an ranker dough ball. "Comb ink, sweat hard," setter wicket woof, disgracing is verse.

Ladle Rat Rotten Hut entity bet rum, an stud buyer groin-murder’s bet.

"O Grammar" crater ladle gull historically, "Water bag icer gut! A nervous sausage bag ice"

"Battered lucky chew whiff, sweat hard," setter bloat-Thursday woof, wetter wicket small honors phase.

O, Grammar, water bag noise. A nervous sore suture anomalous prognosis!"

"Battered small your whiff, doling," whiskered dole woof, ants mouse worse waddling.

"0 Grammar, water bag mouser gut. A nervous sore suture bag mouse!"

Daze worry on-forger-nut ladle gull’s lest warts. Oil offer sodden, caking offer carvers an sprinkling otter bet, disk hoard-hoarded woof lipped own pore Ladle Rat Rotten Hut an garbled erupt.

MURAL: Yonder nor sorghum stenches shut ladle gulls stopper torque wet strainers.

Words of wisdom to live by – how important is our customer

It was Mahatma Gandhi who, during a speech in South Africa, in 1890 said:

"A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependant on us, we are dependant on him. He is not an interruption of our work, he is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider of our business, he is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him, he is doing us a favor by giving us the opportunity to do so."

Bungee Jumping–Oh Snap!

On Dec 13, 2011, Bungee jumper Erin Langworthy’s rope snapped, letting her fall into the Zambezi river at Victoria Falls, Africa.

Here’s a link to the story:
 http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/Africa-Monitor/2012/0109/Oh-snap%21-Bungee-jumper-plunges-into-Zambezi-River-at-Victoria-Falls

I particularly love the quote on page two where one jumper in a party chickened out: The one who didn’t jump had asked the bungee operator what would happen if the bungee cord breaks. The tour operator grinned: “We’ll replace it.”

I’m one of those high-risk individuals and all my life have tended to (successfully) do high-risk activities such as: Skydiving, Skiiing, SCUBA, flying airplanes, driving fast cars, rock climbing, rapelling, marriage, etc.  However, there are two activities that I won’t do; Bungee jumping and Hang Gliding.  The whole key to successfully doing high risk activities is risk management.  The entire time you are engaged, you are constantly doing that.  I think that’s why some people are successful and some hurt or kill themselves – its’ the ability to constantly manage risk and make decisions. 

Bungee jumping just strikes me as dumb, with far too many things that can go wrong which are outside of your personal control.  The cord could (and does occasionally) break.  The cord is not one cord, it’s usually many, and you could get tangled up in that bunch of cords.

Hang gliding is also fairly hazardous.  To give you an idea (in relative terms) how hazardous, consider this:  When the wind was too high to skydive, we’d sit around at the drop zone in Californa City eating burgers and watching video of hangliders crashing into trees, hills, each other, or other mishaps.  So this is an audience of skydivers, laughing at how incredibly foolhardy these people are.  Think about that.

Brisbane Times: Python tried to kill my son

A friend of mine sent me this link: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/a-python-tried-to-kill-my-son-mother-20120101-1pgxg.html – Thanks Mike 🙂

As I’m the local reptile expert, he asked me if I believed the story (we all know that the media would never lie or get anything wrong, right?).  I said yes, and made some other pithy comments on various excerpts from the story.  Here they are for your enjoyment:

Yea, I’d believe it.  My guess is that this would be a carpet python.  The largest I’ve ever heard of is 8ft (I owned one that big) but they usually top out at 6ft.  They are native to Australia, and when hungry they can be somewhat less than selective and will strike at anything warm that moves.  They aren’t really very bright.

"He just screamed only once and I just grabbed him and tried pulling the snake off but I couldn't budge it."

This is dumb – it’s not difficult to uncoil a snake.  Start at the tail and unwind it – they have very little ability to stop you doing that.  If you start at the head, that’s a different story.

Mr Tunnie grabbed the snake's head and squeezed as hard as he could before he began unwinding the python from Kye's body.

Head squeezing? Pointless.  Start at the tail – geez.

The snake then turned on Mr Tunnie and wrapped around his arm, cutting off circulation.

ROFL – oh, waaaaa – for an adult, a carpet python isn’t big or strong enough to do any appreciable damage.

Kye had to be revived twice after he passed out en route to Mossman Hospital, and later stopped breathing while being transferred to Cairns Base Hospital.

This is where education would have been very helpful.  If they had done the right thing to start with, the kid would have suffered only a bite, which goes away in less than a week.

A test for venom came back negative and X-rays revealed the snake had not crushed Kye's ribs.

Venom?  LOL! Pythons don’t have venom!  Also, constrictors do NOT break bones, even in small rats and so forth (which are much weaker than human bones).  What they do is to constrict the rib cage, then when the prey breathes out, they apply enough pressure to stop the prey from being able to breathe in again.

He was released from hospital the following day with four bite marks and bruising to his lower leg.

Yea, typical minor stuff.

However, two days later the toddler was waving goodbye to his deadly attacker as he watched a snake-catcher release the python into rainforest.

"Bye bye, Bitey," the toddler called as the snake wound itself up a tree.

I’m really glad they didn’t kill the snake (in the US, they would have, because they are usually idiots).  Kids are remarkably resilient, eh?