Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Flags for web browsers

Many programming environments have a feature called "flags", that allows one to mark lines of code, and jump to them when required. This is a brilliant, and could be extended to the web. Those of us on dial-up connections often view the "printable version" of a web page, so that we can read offline at our leisure, instead of clicking through a paged article.

The problem is that printable versions are long and it is easy to lose one's place in the article. I wonder if would be possible to add a feature that replicated the flags feature for web browsers?


I will never understand why many otherwise clean people don't wash their braai grills, assuming that "the heat from the fire will kill the germs".

I have no idea if the heat from a braai fire can kill germs, but I have severe gastroenteritis, and I suspect that I got the virus that caused it from an unwashed braaistand which had been lying on the floor for weeks.

It could just have been a coincidence that I got sick after the braai, but I cannot help but wonder if my discomfort could have been avoided if I had just avoided the meat.

Charmless politicians

I watched an etv interview with the South African cabinet minister who is heading the SADC observer mission to Zimbabwe, and I was struck by how absolutely defensive, imperious and charmless she was.

I makes me wonder how many of our elected officials would survive if they had to campaign for their seats directly, and try to appeal to voters. My guess is that quite a few would not even try .

Sunday, March 20, 2005


In the highly unlikely event that you missed the Sunday Times front page, a number of chilli products have been contaminated with Sudan dye, a carcinogenic food colorant.

Although the Sunday Times seems to be sensationalizing the story a little, I will be keeping away from chilies for the next few months, and from brands mentioned in the article for a long time (unless I find out that there was a flaw in the testing process).

1 Apologies for the title, I know that some people find adding the suffix -gate to any scandal to be annoying

Update: Local bloggers react to the story. The consensus seems to be that the story was blown out of proportion by the Sunday Times.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Inane observations about management

One of the careers I thought about pursuing was management consulting. Other opportunities arose, and I'm quite happy as a software developer (which requires a substantially different set of skills).

1. It is obvious that some training (even of an informal type) in management is essential for everyone, from team leaders up, in any industry.

2. Without a well-defined structure, an organization staffed with the best people will degenerate into a group of rival power bases, where having a power base, and using that power base to protect oneself is more important than doing the right thing for the organization. The unfortunate outsiders who do not have a power base are punished by management for the mistakes/incompetence of those who do have a power base. This often seems to happen in family businesses, for example, where the management is too timid to confront family members, often to the detriment of the company.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Links 12/03/2005

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Wasting money

Laurence, and a lot of other people at Commentary are upset about the "renaming" of Pretoria.

The city centre will retain its name, so the name "Pretoria" will not vanish entirely. The City of Tshwane has been in existence for around 5 years, so registering it as a place name is not a big issue. In fact, apart from the name being registered, it appears that little else will change.

What will be interesting is whether the area that comprises the entire municipality is registered as "Tshwane", or just the old city of Pretoria, which is a part of Tshwane. Registering just the old Pretoria as Tshwane will probably cause confusion in places like Centurion, which were not part of Pretoria, but are part of Tshwane.

I also was taken aback when I read this report that the name change may cost 1.5 billion Rand.

I grew up in a rather underdeveloped part of what is now Tshwane, and despite the promises of the municipality, the infrastructure remains in a poor state, and it is economically underdeveloped. 1.5 billion Rand would be a nice sum to kickstart development, instead of being wasted on a symbolic and meaningless gesture.

By the way - it seems politically foolish for the ANC to give the opposition a hot-button issue with which to mobilize support.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

How to make street renaming simple

According to the Sunday Times Metro, the Tshwane council wants street names in Pretoria to change. It doesn't really matter to me, since the only time I visit the Pretoria city centre is when I need to drive across the city (Pretoria doesn't have a complete outer ring road), or when I need to visit government departments (hardly ever).

I also think that Paul Kruger and his contemporaries are long gone, as are the people who they wronged, and renaming the streets of the city centre would be a waste of time.

Also, the potential for confusion is real, especially when street renamings are arbitrary. The ideal situation would be for a logical grid system to be used in renaming the streets - all north-south roads could be named with even numbers, and all east-west roads with odd numbers. Or something like that. And the number of street renamings should also be limited to those figures who are truly offensive.

But, politicians, being politicians, will probably opt for political names. Streets named after figures like DF Malan, and HF Verwoerd are the most embarrassing, and richly deserving of renaming. Unfortunately, these names are also often the names of main roads in many towns.

The potential chaos caused by a renaming can be mitigated if a nationwide mapping between old and new names is established. For example, all HF Verwoerd streets in South Africa could be renamed after say, Oliver Tambo. All DF Malan streets could be named after Beyers Naude, following the precedent set in Johannesburg. It will ease the transition between old and new names, and, if people are given a small list, they are more likely to adopt the new names quickly, and with minimal confusion. A lot of arguments against street renaming will also be blunted - old business cards, phone books and maps will still be valid - all the user would have to do is look at one list -valid for the entire country-, and they would know what the new street names are.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Jo'blog responds on rape post

Despite what some people think, anal rape is not supposed to be part of the prison experience, nor is it an acceptable form of punishment, in South Africa, or anywhere else.

Calling for someone to be raped is sick. I stand by my previous posting on this topic.

Why I like petrol price regulation

I don't know much about microeconomics, so I'll have to take Vaz Lube's word that government regulation of the petrol price is a bad thing. It probably even leads to higher overall prices because of decreased competition, I don't know.

And, frankly, I don't care. I like the convenience of being able to fill up anywhere, and knowing that I'm paying the same price as everyone else in the area. I like the idea of going into a garage - any garage- and saying, "full tank-unleaded" without worrying about the price. I don't need the hassle of looking for lower-priced petrol, and calculating whether the cost of driving across town to fill a half-tank of petrol will be offset by a 20 cent/litre saving. Life is complicated enough already without worrying about being gouged by petrol station owners. I don't care if average prices come down, I only care about knowing, with 100% certainty, that I am not paying more than the average price.

It's probably stupid, and economic blasphemy for me to say so, but in this case, I feel better off having the government set petrol prices using a convoluted formula, than leaving things to the whims of the market.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Local blogger advocates prison rape

"I hope he lives. I hope he goes to prison. I hope the inmates fuck him a new ass...! "

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

How not to sell your products

If you sell components to developers, and build your own site using those components, you had better be sure that your site works properly.

Update - 21:00: The site is fixed, but the manual download page still has broken links, and the newsgroups load, but very slowly.