Forget everything you knew about coding (or perhaps remember, depending on your age)

This Christmas I’m going to embrace the past.

COmmon Business Oriented Language (COBOL) 85 standard was the first language I was taught. Napier University was a feeder into the banking and insurance industries in Edinburgh at the time and they had sizeable COBOL farms. It proved profitable too, as a number of students I knew went to the US to alleviate Y2K bugs in thousands of legacy applications. COBOL had fallen out of favour in US colleges.

Continue reading Forget everything you knew about coding (or perhaps remember, depending on your age)

MT254 TMA 01

First TMA on MT264 (Designing applications with Visual Basic) got returned today – 96%. I’m very pleased with that and exceptionally lucky given that I read the material in a week, attended one on-line tutorial and wrote the assessment in a couple of days.

I’ve seen complaints on the module forum that tutors aren’t getting assessments back to quickly enough. The cut off was the 15th (I submitted on the 13th) and it was returned on the 27th, I don’t really see what the problem is.

Nested selection reared its head again but I didn’t lose any marks for it. In every programming module I’ve been picked up for using Else If so I played it safe and used nested If statements. So I was advised to use Else If proving I can’t win!


Developing a developer

Still some way to completing my degree part-time (at the end of this academic year I’m half way). I’m not soliciting my services – just looking for advice from the community and if anyone has a few minutes it’d be very much appreciated.

I enjoy mathematics and programming, my degree modules have revolved around the two, covering Java and VB.Net (its a very Windows centric place the Open University but it’s getting better). I’m in the UK and would like to go back to Edinburgh for family reasons when I leave the services in a couple of years time. Looking at the job boards, there’s a lot of Java contracts in the area.

Has anyone got a job with only open source experience? Does anyone know of any open source projects that are Java based and would be a good starting point to build on the fundamentals? Are there other qualifications or courses that you recommend? What are employers looking for? Does anyone work in a specific field that utilises both maths and programming? Is there a language that is in particular demand or do you find that good experience is more value? What’s a realistic starting salary?


Someone asked me yesterday “You’re good with computers, can you give me a copy of Photoshop?“. Aside from the fact I run Linux on most of my computers, I’m not keen on being accused of software piracy on the basis that I’m “good with computers” or any other reason. I made the mistake of asking why he needed it, he wanted to resize some pictures – so I suggested

His answer? “Oh no that’s free, it’s bound to be rubbish.”

Strange, I thought he wanted Photoshop free.

Samsung NP-RV511-S02UK

I bought a new laptop the other week, a Samsung NP-RV511-S02UK. I have been using a Samsung NC10 dual booting Ubuntu and XP. An NC10 is a wondrous thing but when push comes to shove, a 1280×600 resolution is too small for Visual Studio work – especially when you want to see a PDF at the same time.

Continue reading Samsung NP-RV511-S02UK

Repair Samsung NC10 MBR

I removed Ubuntu from a Samsung NC10 yesterday, now the F4 recovery option doesn’t work. Please excuse the lack of screen shots on this Howto but I couldn’t think how to capture from the recovery manager and camera shots look rubbish.

It would appear that Samsung uses a custom Master Boot Record (MBR) – so for Grub all is well because you can choose to boot into the recovery partition and away you go. However if you have followed any of the usual guides to removing grub (such as running an XP CD to a recovery console and typing fixmbr) F4 will not launch the restore tool.

System Rescue CD is a great tool to have handy on a USB key. You can, so booting into it run this command:

fdisk /dev/sda

Now pressing “p” should show you that the recovery partition is 1, so type “a” then “2”, “a” then “1” to make it bootable. Now write the partition table by typing “w” then reboot. At this point you will boot into the recovery manager and be able to recover but the F4 key will not still not be available at boot and of course trying to create a backup will not work either (as Windows will be booted on restart).

Once Samsung Recovery Manager III has loaded up, press Ctrl+Alt+F10 – I had no idea there was a management mode until I read this page (French) but be aware its only available from the recovery partition. It asks for a password – “secos” (without the quotes). Once in management mode, click the “Image” tab and select “Export” then “Select Location”, I used “D:”. Click “Start” and accept the dialogue box that comes up. This is a backup of the recovery partition.

Once this stage is finished, select the “Tools” tab, insert a spare USB stick and click “Admin Tool USB”. It will format the USB stick and then install some utilities. It takes a couple of minutes. Once finished click the close button in the top right and it’ll ask if the computer should be turned off – say yes.

Boot with the USB key we just made, bringing you to a completely different recovery menu. Click “MBR Fix” and then close the application.

Now when you reboot you’ll notice that the MBR has been repaired and F4 once again boots into Recovery Manager III.

Compaq CQ10 failed BIOS update

A friend brought me a Compaq CQ10 over earlier. It seems it lost power during a Softpaq BIOS update. Initially the screen was booting to the HP BIOS recovery screen, attempting to rewrite and failing around 10%. I tried a few things and nothing worked, until the owner mentioned they’d upgraded the RAM.

Sure enough, it was a different size and type to the original specification so I refitted a 1 Gb 666MHz stick I had lying around from a previous upgrade and rebooted.

This time we re-flashed, verified and rebooted. Then it kept repeating this cycle so I took off the back panel (use the orange latch visible when the battery is removed) and removed the CMOS battery. After a short pause (30 seconds or so) I put it back and rebooted. This time there was an error message about the CMOS settings (unsurprisingly) and it rebooted.

However this time we got the Compaq BIOS boot screen, so I hit the escape key to enter BIOS. Then hit F9 to load default values, accept it and hit F10 to save values and hey presto the system is back up and running.