Author Archives: David

Cardboard Analyst

Have you ever had a problem that has you absolutely stumped … and you ask a co-worker for assistance or post a message to an online forum (like a midrange.com mailing list) for assistance.

Then, quite soon after you ask for assistance, you finally discover the answer yourself?

This is what I call the ‘Cardboard Analyst’ phenomenon (I’ve also heard it referred to as “Rubber Ducking”) … where the person (or people) you are asking for assistance don’t necessarily provide direct assistance, but force you to look at the problem from a different perspective.

It’s my theory (which may or may not be backed up by research) that forcing your brain to break the problem down into terms that you can describe to someone else, gives you a new perspective on the problem and new insight into what the problem actually is.

Personally, I’ve found that if I just try to explain what the problem is to someone (even my wife, who’s not super technical), I’m able to find the solution I want. Occasionally, I’ll be explaining a problem to someone in my office when my voice will trail off and I’ll start thinking about another avenue of exploration. Often I’ll thank the person I was talking to for their assistance … to which they will respond “Glad I could be of no help”.

Oddly enough, the person I am talking to has to be able to respond … often asking me questions that make me think about it. I once tried using our cat as a cardboard analyst … but it didn’t work .

So next time you’ve got a problem that’s got you particularly stumped … try explaining it it someone. You’ll be surprised how much help someone can be even if they don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.Categories

This is a repost of an article that appeared on the IMHO blog.

Job Search Observations

As some of you may know, last year I started searching for a new job. Due to the pandemic, it wasn’t the best time to start such a search, but ultimately I was able to find a new position that I’m really happy with.

While most of my experiences with potential employers were positive, some were distinctly negative. This post is going to outline some of those negative experiences (without being specific) in hopes that companies may learn from them.

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Speed Up Time Machine

If you’re using an Apple Mac computer, you may have observed that the fantastic backup system Time Machine, may run slowly. This is especially noticeable when you are doing the very first backup (when it has to backup the entire system).

I was frustrated by this a while ago when I purchased a new hard drive to do my backup’s on.

After a bit of digging, I found that time machine’s performance is throttled so as not to impact system performance.

There is a way to remove performance throttling using a system control statement.

debug.lowpri_throttle_enabled

If you use the sysctl command to set this to 0 (zero) then time machine will not be throttled. If it’s set to 1 (one), it will be throttled.

I created a little script called ‘speedup-timemachine’ that lets me turn the option on and off.

‘speedup-timemachine on’ will remove the throttling.

‘speedup-timemachine off’ will return the throttling.

Below is the script. Just copy the script, paste it into a text editor, save the script to a location on the path, and make it executable (chmod a+x scriptfile).

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Thunderbird and ‘reply-to’

This is another one in the ‘Things to remember’ category.

For some reason, by default, Thunderbird does not use the ‘Reply-to’ header in emails. This headers tells mail software what address that replies should be sent to. It’s commonly used for mailing lists so that replies are sent to another address, such as the the mailing list itself, instead of the address that sent the message.

To change the default Thunderbird behavior, you have to tweak a setting.

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Catching spam with repeated phrases

This is more of a ‘for future reference’ post than anything else.

Recently my mailing lists have been getting hit with stupid spam (what spam isn’t) that invokes bible related conspiracy spam. The messages reference bible verses multiple times.

To catch the spam, I put in a rule that matches bible references.

It’s a pretty simple rule … it looks for specific bible chapters followed by a number colon number.

body LM_BIBLE_MULTI /\s(matthew|revelation|john|corinthians|thessalonians|luke|romans|ezekiel|mark)\s+\d+:\d+/i
describe LM_BIBLE_MULTI Contains bible verses
score LM_BIBLE_MULTI 0.5

The thing about the spam I’m trying to catch is that it references the bible verses multiple times. The above rule only catches a single bible verse reference and adds the score.

To increase the score for each individual hit of the rule, you need to add the following to the rule:

tflags LM_BIBLE_MULTI multiple

This way, every time the LM_BIBLE_MULTI rule is hit, the score increases by 0.5. The more bible references in the email, the higher the spam score.

The multiple modifier for tflags is available in SpamAssassin 3.2 & higher.

Regular Expressions in RPG

One of the things that RPG isn’t particularly good at is string scanning & manipulation.

Many other programming languages support using Regular Expressions (or regex, as they are often referred to). Java, PHP, Node.JS, Python, & Perl have support for regex’s built in.

Regular expressions are a very powerful tools for parsing, analyzing, and manipulating text. It should be noted, however, that with such power also comes the possibility for complexity. Some regular expressions can get VERY VERY complex. See the end of this post for a VERY complex expression.

A true regex master can create a functioning expression that is indistinguishable from modem line noise.

– Unknown (maybe me)
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Full Screen Windows 10 in MacOS Parallels

As a Mac user, I sometimes find my self needing to use Windows 10. To do this, I run it using the Parallels virtual machine manager.

One thing that bothered me, when was running Windows in full screen mode, was that the MacOS dock would pop up when I moved the mouse pointer to the Windows task bar.

I would have to move the mouse pointer away from the dock, let it drop back down, and then move the pointer back to the Windows task bar without going to the bottom of the screen.

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PCMLTOOLS

I’ve started a personal open source project. Something I’ve been meaning to do for quite a while.

The project is PCMLTOOLS — utilities designed to make working with the Java Toolkit for IBM i (JT400)’s Program Call Markup Language (PCML) easier to use.

The first tool is a Java class to allow a developer to retrieve a ProgramCallDocument object (which is normally generated from PCML) directly from a *PGM or *SRVPGM object who’s modules were compiled with the PGMINFO(*PCML:*MODULE) option.

The URL for the PCMLTOOLS project is https://github.com/fallingrock/pcmltools.

This is the first open source project that I’ve started … and I’m still getting the hang of github, so it may be rough around edges.