In the 24 hours or so a number of videos from the upcoming Microsoft Flight Simulator has been showing up on YouTube, and I want to share some of them with you. These are not my videos.
Exactly 100 years ago today, on December 20, 1919 my uncle Karl-Heinz Groeling was born in Subowitz, in what was then Germany. Today the town, located just south of Gdansk (Danzig in German), belongs to Poland and is called Sobowidz. His parents were Robert Groeling (1890-1984) and Elsa Groeling (nee Hecke, 1893-1978). Karl-Heinz had three younger sisters: my mom Marie-Luise (1926-1987), Anneliese (1928-1946) and finally Katja (born 1932).
Following Germany’s defeat in World War I, the Versailles Treat forbid Germany from having an Air Force. After Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, Germany started training pilots in secret. In addition, a program started to prepare young men for future pilot training, by using gliders and sail planes.
My uncle started flying in 1936 or 1937, probably through the German Air Sports Association (Deutscher Luftsportverband, or DLV e. V.), an organization set up by the Nazi Party in March 1933 to establish training of military pilots. I was told he once flew over the market in the center of Lauenburg, where the family now was living, with a sail plane, which caused some complaints from the city and an earful from his mother. He was probably lucky that his father was already in the Wehrmacht (Army) at this time, and not at home.
In addition to enjoying flying, Karl-Heinz was also a gifted musician. He played violin, piano, organ and trombone. He was, however, not allowed to practice the trombone at home, due to complaints from the neighbors. When I was a child my mother spoke about the time when he played as a member of a band on a cruise ship. The Nazi dignitaries on this cruise were served the best food, and the band was allowed to eat the same food. According to my mother, her brother hollowed out the breakfast rolls (“Brötchen” in German) and feed the innards to the seagulls. Then he filled the cavity in the bread with butter and enjoyed his self-made delicacy. To him the butter was the luxury and he took full advantage.
In September 1939 Karl-Heinz had just passed his entrance exams for the university (“abitur”) when WW2 broke out. He volunteered for the Luftwaffe (Air Force), however, he was rejected at first for being “too tall”. A month later the decision was reversed and he received order to join the Luftwaffe.
Karl-Heinz flew Fieseler Fi-156 “Storch”, a light forward observation and medical evacuation aircraft, as well as Junkers Ju-52 transporters. Using the Ju-52, he took part in the Battle of Stalingrad, attempting to supply the German 6th Army with food and other supplies after it was cut off and surrounded, as well as evacuation of wounded soldiers out of the city.
He served as Unteroffizier, an NCO (Non-commissioned Officer) rank that is most similar to Sergeant (OR-5). He was acting as a squadron leader (“Staffelkapitän“), a position which normally is held by a major. Incidentally his father, who was a lieutenant by the end of WW1, ended up with the rank of major during WW2.
Towards the end of the war, Germany was lacking both aircrafts and fuel for them. Karl-Heinz was assigned to an anti-aircraft artillery regiment, in German called Flak (from Flugabwehrkanone). In Germany during WW2 both anti-aircraft artillery and airborne troops belonged to the Air Force, not the Army as in most other countries.
My uncle served in the 6th battery, Flak Regiment Hermann Göring (a.k.a Fallschirm-Flakregiment Hermann Göring) , which was part of Fallschirm-Panzerkorps Hermann Göring. I have been able to find a chart showing the organization of the unit at the beginning of 1945, and according to it my uncle would have been in the 1st battalion (the triangular flag with a 1 next to it).
I am not an expert on German WW2 organizational charts. Normally the numbering is from right to left. I was once told that the 6th battery is most probably the symbol all the way to the right, which indicates a towed battery equipped with the German 8.8cm anti-aircraft gun. It was probably towed by a half-track, e.g. Sd.Kfz. 7, or possibly a truck. (video)
In the beginning of 1945 Karl-Heinz was in East Prussia fighting the advancing Red Army. The 88mm anti-aircraft gun was not only used against aircrafts, it had been found to be efficient against armored vehicles and tanks as well, so he was serving in an anti-tank role.
German units were encircled in the Heiligenbeil Pocket or Heiligenbeil Cauldron (German: Heiligenbeiler Kessel), after they were denied their requests to retreat. Zinten (now known as Kornewo, Kaliningrad Oblast) was the scene of bloody battles. Both sides paid a heavy price in terms of casualties. Karl-Heinz Groeling was one of those casualties. He was wounded on February 23, 1945, shot through the left lung. He was moved to a field hospital, then a hospital ship and finally to a hospital in German-occupied Denmark, where he arrived on March 10.
In the early hours of March 16, 1945, at 3.10am, Karl-Heinz Groeling passed away, just 25 years old. He is buried at the beautiful Vestre Kirkegård in Copenhagen.
My parents named me after my uncle, something I consider an honor.
Thirty years. It can feel like an eternity, or like just yesterday. That is how long I have been working in the IT industry, as of 2 weeks ago.
When I graduated the Swedish equivalent of High School in the spring of 1988, I did not know what lay ahead. If anyone would have told me where I would be 30 years later, I am not sure I would have believed them.
Computers, and especially programming, was my big interest. I had spent every available hour in the computer room in school. I went there during breaks between classes (if only 15-20 minutes) as well as during lunch break (usually 1 hour long. I learned to eat really fast, to maximize my time in front of the computer… Then after school I often spent 4-5 hours learning to program, either from books, magazines, or from other students.
After I graduated, I was not really motivated to go to college. But I found an intensive one-year college level education in systems programming and computer science. It would be classes 8am to 5pm, 5 days a week. Today you would probably call it boot-camp…
Unfortunately the class did not make, it needed a couple more students. So in the beginning OS September 1988,after about 2 weeks of classes, we were told to come back in January. We were encouraged to find a job or internship in the mean time. So I started to call around to different companies I found in the yellow pages.
After a few days I got a hit, a company was looking for a first line support technician. I sent in my application (I did not even have a formal resume) and a copy of my high school grades. A week later (on a Friday) I had an interview, and the following Monday I started working there. This company was Microsoft.
Needless to say, I learned a lot at Microsoft. I return to the class during the spring semester, worked at Microsoft during the summer break and then again after I graduated at Christmas.
After a year in the Air Force for the (then) mandatory military service, I intended to go back to Microsoft, but I was offered a job as a programmer at another company, and I jumped at that option. From there it just continued, via 5 years as an IT journalist and then over 20 years working mainly with Lotus (later IBM) Notes and Domino.
There are times when it feels it was just like yesterday I was writing Pascal code for a computer running CP/M-86 as operating system. Or when my coworker and I, who lived in the same apartment building (but on different floors and in different ends of the building) decided to run RG58 coax cable between out apartments, so we could network our computers. Or when I went scuba diving in Egypt and brought an IBM ThinkPad 701C (the model with the expanding keyboard) and a digital camera with me, so I could write a diary to publish on my personal website. Yes, it was pretty much a blog, way back in 1995…
But when I look at how technology has changed, it feel like the middle ages.
Our network at school (yes, we actually has one!) had a hard disk the size of a small shoebox, and with a capacity of 30 MB, to be shared between students and teachers. Yes, it’s not a typo. 30 Megabyte! Today most hard drives have at least twice that amount of memory just for cache…
Compare that with my mobile phone, on which I am writing this post while riding a bus from Dallas to Houston. It has 2185 times that memory (64 GB) built in. I have an additional 200 GB in the form of a micro SD card. This amount of storage would have been unfathomable 30 years ago.
Today we have internet access everywhere. I can sit in my car, in a restaurant or on a bus in the middle of nowhere and still have access to all the knowledge (not to mention cat videos) in the world. In fractions of a second I can perform a search that would have been virtually impossible 30 years ago.
I can turn on and off the lights at home, no matter where in the world I am. I can check the temperature in the different rooms and change the AC settings, if needed. I get an automatic alert if there is smoke I the house, or water where it is not supposed to be. And I can check the status of my laundry remotely.
I can talk to the computer, phone and other devices and have them turn lights on or off, tell me what the weather will be later that day or the next few days, or play any music I ask it to play. This is just like in Star Trek or 2001, except it is for real.
I can buy anything I need from the comfort of my home, or from anywhere in the world, and get it delivered within a day or two, sometimes even the same day.
At the same time I do miss the days back when I started with computers. It was like a new frontier, an unknown area where you had no idea what could happen next.
I still remember the excitement when I managed to create something new and cool, and I got it to work after spending countless hours working on it and troubleshooting the code. It is rare that I feel that excitement today, in the same way. But it still happens. .
I am very fortunate to be able to work with what I love, and have been able to do it for this long. I am looking forward to the next 30 years with great excitement.
The other day I received a packet from Switzerland. Inside I found two calculators from SwissMicros. This is a company who created and sell clones of the famous HP Voyager series (HP-11C, HP-12C, HP-15C and HP-16C) as well as a version to emulate HP-41.
I received one full-size DM-15L (which was introduced just last year) as well as the original credit card sized DM-15. I picked this model as I still have my original HP-15C that I got in 1983 so I could compare them side-by-side.
SwissMicros have made an amazing job. I have just started playing with them, but they work just like the original.
The attention to detail is pretty amazing. On the back of the larger DM-15L there is even the same set of formulas, functions and error messages as on the original. There are of course some differences. The case is not plastic but titanium, and held together by four screws. The keys are flatter that on the classic HP keyboard, but the feel of the keyboard is almost identical, something that really impressed me. On the credit card sized DM-15 the keys are almost totally flat, but still easy to use despite the small size.
There is also a USB port to allow users to connect to the computer to update the firmware or even access the content, something that did not exist back when the orignal calculators were introduced in the early 1980’s. SwissMicros also claim to have fixed some of the bugs found in the original calculators. There is also more memory available by using a special firmware. The fact that you can upgrade the firmware is very nice. These days we are used to that, but back in the 80’s that was unheard of.
Another neat feature is that there are 3 different fonts to choose from. The original of course only had one font. The letters on the display are a little bit larger than the original, making them easy to read. The calculators also run at a much higher speed than the original at 48 MHz, but the speed can be slowed down to 12 MHz with a special key kombination. The batteries used are CR2032 instead of three button cells of the original. The 2011 HP-15C Limited Edition used two CR2032 batteries. You have to open the case (remove the four screws) of the SwissMicros calculators to replace the battery, instead of just popping of a small plastic door. I think it’s a good improvement as that little door was prone to get lost.
Thanks to the metal case the DM-15L is slightly heavier than my old HP-15C, but not by much. It weights 130 gram (4.5 oz) vs 118 gram (4.1 oz), with the credit card sized DM-15 coming in at 57 g (2 oz).
The price is a bargain if you compare with eBay, where the originals often ar sold for $300-400 or even more. The full-size L-models are all 119 CHF (Swiss Francs) and the credit card sized models are 89 CHF. The DM-41 models are each 10 CHF more. This translates to almost exactly the same price in US dollar as I write this.
So what is my verdict? I am pleasantly surprised. Both models are very nice and the quality of engineering is what one would expect from Switzerland. The case of both model feels really nice, and thanks to the titanium they seem almost indestructable. I would not be worried keeping any of them in my pocket for daily use.
The full size models come with a black case very similar to the original one. For the credit card models there are cases available for ordering separately.
Is it worth $90 or $120 to own them? Absolutely. I still use my HP-15C almost daily, and not having to worry about losing it or having it damaged is worth a lot. Or perhaps you got rid or lost your original calculator and feel nostalgic and want to once more experience what many call the best calculator ever made. Yes, it is not the original HP, but it is pretty close and to an acceptable cost. And the credit card sized models are pretty amazing, showing how far we have come in 30 years.
Disclaimer: I got the calculators for review from SwissMicro after they contacted me and offered to send me two samples. If I would have known about them earlier I would probably have purchased at least one.
As some may already know I was recently laid off after 14 years as a Notes and Domino developer at my workplace. I suspected for a while that some staff reduction would be coming soon, but I was a bit surprised that I was included since I am the only Notes developer in the company.
I had for a while considered to do consulting and freelance development. My wife as well as several friends have been encouraging me for years. So this was just the push I needed.
I am starting my own company, Demand Better Solutions, where I will focus on Notes and Domino Development, application modernization and migration as well as building brand new web applications and websites.
I realize that me being laid off is just a business decision. It is not personal. Several of the business critical applications at my former employer are developed using IBM Notes, but the executives have for years been talking about moving away from the platform. Of course they don’t realize the huge amount of work needed to do this, but never the less this was/is their ultimate goal.
The reason is that they feel (based on what they hear from other executives) that Notes is old technology. The fact that IBM has been slow in modernizing the interface, and that many of the templates still look like back in 1999 when version 5.0 was released does not help this perception.
Last fall all our email at my old job was moved to Outlook, and ever since I have heard users complaining about missing Notes and certain functionality they were used to. A lot of integration between Notes applications and Notes mail were also lost, and I had to re-create it in different ways. You often hear stories about people complaining about the Notes client, but most of our users wanted nothing but to get it back…
My old employer also uses Visual FoxPro, a product where the last version was released in 2004. It has officially been discontinued by Microsoft, but we use it for several important applications. So I don’t think that even a product being discontinued is driving a huge number of migrations. It is the perception of how modern the product is that matters. And that perception is almost 100% the way the product looks.
To a user the interface is the product.
Create a modern looking application and nobody will question (or care) what tool was used to build it.
The last 3-4 years I have been learning new web technologies, like jQuery, Bootstrap, Ajax, JSON. I have been able to use much of that at work, as well as in several side projects. I also started learning C# and .net. After the layoff I sat down and started looking at (among others) php and mySQL as well as researched frameworks like AngularJS.
As a developer I have to keep up with new technologies, or I will be left behind. But it is hard when you work full-time, have side work and then have a family and house to take care of. Having some free time the last few weeks enabled me to focus on learning some new things.
I don’t think the Notes client will be developed much more, almost everything is moving towards web applications these days anyway. But IBM Domino is something totally different. It is an very capable and powerful development platform. With some skills in web technologies and a good understanding of the Domino platform one can build some amazing applications.
IBM recently released FixPack 7 and announced that the current version of Notes and Domino will be supported for at least five more years, until September 30, 2021. New functionality will be provided through Feature Packs, not version upgrades.
But Domino is just one tool of many. I am looking at LDC Via as another data store, as it very closely resembles Domino with a MongoDB-based NoSQL backend. Salesforce also has many similarities with Domino. The transition would therefore be fairly easy. AngularJS is another popular technology, with version 2.0 soon to be released. And we of course have IBM’s BlueMix offering, where MongoDB is just one of many technologies offered.
As a developer we need to learn new things constantly, the language or tools we use does really not matter. We should pick the proper tool, whatever fits the project.
Do you want to modernize your Notes and Domino applications?
Let me and Demand Better Solutions help you!
I won’t be able to attend IBM Insight in Las Vegas later this month, but I know several of my fellow ESS (formerly known as ICS, formerly known as Lotus) Champion will be there, as well as champions from some of the other divisions of IBM.
This will be a massive conference, with over 1,600 sessions, technical training and labs. It will cover data management, cloud, analytics, content management, Watson and much more. I really wish I could go, but I hope some of the session will be streamed.
The last few years I have revisited the stories of some of my childhood favorite sci-fi authors, and in particular Robert A Heinlein. It is fascinating to read stories written in the 50’s and 60’s and compare them to what actually happened.
Last week I finished The Door into Summer (1956) which takes place in 1970 and in 2000. It is amusing to read about the household (and other) robots and how they are programmed using a kind of electronic tubes. My robotic vacuum at home is the size of a pizza box, not the human sized robots described in the book. Voice recognition is mentioned, but according to the book it is too complicated and bulky, except for a very limited vocabulary. Today we have voice recognition in every mobile phone, and programs like DragonDictate (later Dragon NaturallySpeaking) have been around since the late 90’s.
In The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966) one of the main “characters” is the computer Mike, who takes up a large building and control all of the Luna colony. This echos the quote attributed to IBM’s Thomas J. Watson: “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers”. The philosophy back then was that centralized computer power was the way to go, not the distributed systems we have today. And they were still using telephones with wires in the future. Today we use smart phones with more computing power than Heinlein could ever imagine, and probably more computing power than the computer in the book.
And in Starman Jones (1953) the crew calculate their position largely manually, with the help of a computer that requires all the input data entered with binary switches, and returns the data in binary code using lights. The positions of the stars (used for the calculations) are recorded using “plates” which have to be developed, in other words traditional photography. Digital photography have today pretty much killed off traditional “chemical” photography using film.
There are of course many examples of where authors been right and describe technical equipment which have actually been developed, like the water bed (Heinlein in aforementioned The Door into Summer) and tablet computers (Orson Scott Card in Ender’s Game from 1985).
So in many ways we already live in the future, and in an even more amazing and technologically developed world than even the greatest sci-fi writers could imagine. I don’t think anyone envisioned Internet and it’s importance, even if Orson Scott Card does write about a world wide computer network used for information and discussion in Ender’s Game. But by that time Internet already existed (just not the world wide web) and the electronic bulletin board systems (BBS) were becoming popular in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Personally I started connecting to BBSes in 1986 (possibly 1987) and in 1990 I connected to my favorite BBS almost daily.
Sure, we don’t have the flying cars everyone expected, or even the hoverboards from Back to the Future II (1989). But I believe that the rise of Internet is perhaps the single most important event in recent history. It has revolutionized shopping, you can now connect to a site on the other side of town or the opposite side of the planet and talk to people or purchase products. We have sites like Wikipedia and Stack Exhange where we can learn things and ask questions, not to mention online learning.
We have home automation that rival what is described in sci-fi books and movies. At home we are renovating (or rather rebuilding from scratch) our bathroom. We are going to install a Moen digital shower system as well as a pretty high-tech toilet. We already have a number of Insteon lights all over the house, controlled though a hub and a smart phone app (some lights are even turned on and off on a schedule based on sunset and sunrise), as well as a robotic vacuum. The latter is cleaning the house twice a day by itself, which is keeping the pet hairs under control and improving the air quality substantially. There is so much more you can do to your home these days, including changing the temperature remotely and even monitoring and controlling your hot tub.
My car has a radar to automatically break if someone walks out in front of the car, and this feature has been improved even more in the latest models. When the car is not braking by itself, the radar assisted cruise control let you drive safely behind other cars while you stream live radio from the other side of the globe through the Internet to your phone and then over bluetooth to the car stereo.
I love living in the future.
Owners of Windows 7 and 8 will be able to upgrade to Windows 10 for free when it is released later this year, Microsoft announced at their big Windows 190 even today. A consumer preview release will be available for free shortly, but a date for the finished version has not been announced yet.
Among the other news is that Internet Explorer will be retired as of Windows 10 and be replaced by a new modern browser (code name Spartan) created from the ground up. The start menu is back, and Cortana (Microaoft answer to Apple’s Siri, and already available on Windows phones) will be available for the desktop as well. Talking about desktop, Windows 10 will support multiple desktops, similar to what Linux users have been able to enjoy for years.
Google today announced that they are discontinuing Google Glass, the somewhat controversial eyeglasses connected to your smartphone. The product may be dead, but the project is not officially abandoned. Google will continue to invest in their enterprise offering Glass at Work, and they say they plan to release a new model of the device “when it’s ready”.
This add Google Glass to a long line of other products and services Google have abandoned. Who does not remember Google Wave, an attempt to reinvent email? What about Google Answers? Google Video, an attempt to compete with Youtube, before they ended up buying that company instead? What about Dodgeball, the mobile social networking site purchased by Google whose founder left and went on to start FourSquare? There are many other products also shut down by Google, or companies bought up and later killed.
So with this kind of track record, I am not sure I would trust Google Apps with my enterprise data or business critical applications. Yes, Google Apps is not a free service for businesses like Gmail, but neither was Google Glass at a cost of $1,500 each. So being a paid product does not seem to stop Google from killing products.
As you may have read lately, Verizon have implemented a system that adds an HTTP header item in all web communication that originates from mobile phones on their network. Each phone/user get their own unique ID, which is transmitted to every website being visited (except if SSL is used), no matter if you have privacy/anonymous surfing turned on in the browser. The id stays with the phone, no matter if you connect in a different city or if you get a different IP address.
This series of about 50 characters is called Unique Identifying Header (UIDH) and is a key part of Verizon’s internet advertising program. And even if you as a user would opt-out of the targeted ad on Verizon’s website, any web server or ad network out there can build their own database of users based on the UIDH.
What has not been as widely mentioned is that AT&T is doing exactly the same. They add a header item called X-ACR (which is 350 characters long) to all outgoing communication. And this one you can not opt-out of, as AT&T have not even confirmed that they perform the tracking. According to this article, T-Mobile is also testing something similar.
You can test it yourself at http://lessonslearned.org/sniff. Make sure you are not connected using wifi, then simply open that link from your smart phone and you will see what headers you are transmitting. I tested it myself, using my AT&T phone, and verified that the X-ACR header is there.