Victim of my own success

After the summer break, I got busy setting up a new eLearning platform for our local university. It was an upgrade from a version I had introduced to a limited group of students last year, and offered lots of features for interactive learning with a sleek interface.

In the last two weeks, my colleagues and I have set up around 15 courses, with over 700 registered users. However, what started as a little experiment on my shared virtual server, is now a monster with a constant appetite for database queries; the result is frequent warnings of overload, impatient students (definition: anything longer than instantaneous), and further warnings from my hoster of CPU throttling.

As if this weren’t enough, there’s a DDOS attack underway.

DDOS warning
DON'T PANICCCCC!!!

I hope it’s not my students trying to upload their assignments :oops:

Pissing in the wind

I’m halfway through an Outlook training day for which I signed up after Outlook 2010 was introduced at our university over the summer, replacing the previous Groupwise system. I had hoped for a sleek overview of an ultra-efficient workflow, but instead we’re working our way along the toolbar, stopping every now and then to send each other emails trying out the new tricks: customized voting (No; No; No) and Directing all replies to the least IT competent colleague.

Time’s dragging, though, so I started fiddling around and tried to set up an auto mail storm. In rules, I set every mail from myself to be forwarded to myself. I had hoped that it would create a perpetual cycle of self-mailing, but sadly it stops after one cycle. Too bad.

Anyone got some other impossible rules?

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’

Keep those wagons rollin’ …

Life is rollin’ on chez les Bacon — school’s almost out for summer, my contract at the university has been extended for another year, baby Didi is up and walking, and we interviewed a woman last night to come help clean for us, which of course meant we spent a mad hour tidying up before she came so she wouldn’t be frightened off.

On the work front, I see that a big translation I did recently on child witches in Africa has made the news. As with many of the texts I do for UNICEF, it produced very mixed emotions: on the one hand, it feels good to contribute to improving the lives of the kids; on the other, their lives are just so goddamn miserable, and people can be so extremely cruel and sadistic that I sometimes felt physically disgusted.

Meanwhile in my day job at the university, I’m alone in the office, having opted to push my holiday dates back to better match our oldest two kids’ break (the summer holiday is staggered in the Netherlands over three different periods to reduce the mass exodus in August).

The IT people have “upgraded” (sic) our system to Outlook and Office 2010, so I’ve spent the first hour reinstalling my own apps. If you consider we have upgraded from using Novell for our email, then you will understand that we are running about five years behind the cutting edge.

Now, everything seems to have stopped running … maybe I shouldn’t have tried to install Adobe CS4, Flash Player, VLC player, and 17 Firefox add-ins at the same time …

Back to work. Rawhide!

Don’t believe the hype

iPad in Google trends
iPad slips from hype topspot
Now that the brouhaha is beginning to fade, maybe we can take stock of the absurdity of the latest product launch by Apple. For those unable to attend the event in person, there were live blogs galore and even a blow-by-blow retelling of what was happening inside by vloggers refused entry.

The irony is delicious: the latest most sophisticated information system being explained in Chinese whispers.

And of course, the story ends in wildly differing versions, from fan- to craptastic.

The only consensus was the high snigger factor of the name — altho’ after the 7th iTampon tweet, the joke was pretty much milked dry.

As one of the many who cannot afford an iPhone, iBook, iTouch or iPad, it seems ridiculous that so much energy is spent in discussing a new gadget. It’s not jealousy on my part, understand; owning an iPad belongs in that post-lottery-win fantasy, where I’m floating on my white leather chaise longue in an infinity pool in St Barts (hey, it’s MY fantasy). Apple has succeeded in generating so much hype about its products that it barely needs to do any promotion itself — we do it ourselves. Nice one, Steve.

And why do we get so excited by a new toy? Because of the need to be “in” with the in-crowd (baaa-aaa), to look down on the have-nots (p-tooo).

It reminds me of a quote about photographers:

Amateurs are concerned about products;
Professionals are concerned about price;
Masters are concerned about light.

It is the amateur’s doomed belief that if he just had the latest product, regularly, he would be able to rank as a pro. The point is that having a better camera is no substitute for practice and talent. Doisneau or Capa wouldn’t have taken better pictures with this year’s latest camera.

Instead of placing our faith externally in an object, we should spend more time investing on the internal.

(… but if I do win the lottery, then I’ll be wearing this Leica necklace in my fantasy …)

Future proofing

I’m trying to get my head around joining up various online activities. It’s a challenge, which may be ultimately pointless, but the potentialities of crossover are too inviting.

Current linkups include Squeezebox to and from Flickr, LastFM and Facebook; Stet (this blog) to and from Flickr, LastFM and Twitter, with a pending bug query for Wordbook for Facebook integration.

I have a nagging feeling that this type of laborious cross-linking will seem hilarious in the future, say about three years from now.

My 10-year-old daughter has already checked out of life and in to a virtual world, Habbo, where she is currently working as an unpaid doctor.

Is this the future?