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An engineer, a mathematician and a computer scientist..

An engineer, a mathematician and a computer scientist are being interviewed to become CFO of a big company. The CEO asks, “What is two plus two?”

The engineer whips out his cell phone, uses the calculator, and shows it to the CEO. “Two plus two is four!”

The mathematician whips out his portable whiteboard, scribbles some stuff one it, and shows it to the CEO. “This proves that two plus two is four!”

The computer scientist whips out a computer model, shrugs, sighs and asks, “How much do you want it to be?”

Via ./

The Great Zucchini

It’s a bit long (and not new), but still the best thing I’ve read thus far this year.


Like many others, I installed Google Chrome on my computer shortly after it was released to the Web earlier in the week. There is much about it to like: the interface (literally, the “chrome”) is easy on the eye – contrasting strongly with Firefox’s rather utilitarian out-of-the-box experience – and very smooth in operation; click-dragging tabs to open as new windows being a particular highlight.

The practice of hosting each tab in its own process seems like overkill if/when most tabs contain a document for reading rather than an application for interaction, although this may seem a quaint observation in a few years’ time, when eight-core (and more) PCs are all the rage. It was with one eye on the proliferation of “chrome.exe” processes in Windows Task Manager that I spotted “GoogleUpdate.exe”.

As a rule of thumb, automated update processes and services which run all the time one is logged onto’s one’s computer but for which new downloads are only occasionally made available seem a bit of waste of time and space. And then there are so many of them: Apple has one for iTunes/QuickTime, Sun has one for Java, and Google has at least three of them – a “Google Update Service” (which is installed as a Windows Service) for Google Earth, “GoogleToolbarNotifier.exe” (which is installed as a start-up program in the Windows Registry) for the Google Toolbar, and now “GoogleUpdate.exe” for Google Chrome; and these are just the ones of which I have recent personal experience.

Would I that they adopted Firefox’s approach – checking for updates while the software is actually running. But they don’t, so I killed “GoogleUpdate.exe” on sight. A short while later, however, it was back; I just presumed that Chrome, which was still running, had detected its absence and re-spawned it, which seemed logical, given the nature of the application, and thought not more of it. Shortly after booting the computer, from cold, the following morning, I came across it again, but before I’d launched the browser; lacking an equivalent for either Live Bookmarks or Flashblock, Chrome has not yet supplanted Firefox.

Auto-update programs such as “GoogleUpdate.exe” are often launched, at system start up or user login, via HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run or HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run in the Registry, or maybe as an “Automatic” Service. But “GoogleUpdate.exe” is started via a task added to Windows’ Task Scheduler Library by Chrome’s installer. On my machine, this task was triggered to start “When [the] computer is idle.” It will literally start when you have your back turned to it.

Disabling the task prevents the program from being restarted at the next opportunity, and – as of the current version of Chrome, anyway – seems not to have any effect, adverse or otherwise, on the operation of the browser. Section 12 of the EULA does require users to “agree to receive.. updates” to the software and to “permit Google to deliver these to you”, but specifies neither a mechanism nor a schedule, so to invoke “GoogleUpdate.exe” manually (the path to the program is given in the task’s properties) would seem to be in compliance.

“The open positions require extensive travel on Earth and in space.”

NASA are recruiting (U.S. citizens only).


Like some others I had a problem yesterday with one of the updates pushed out by Microsoft as part of “Patch Tuesday“: ‘Security Update for Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 Service Pack 1 (KB937061).’

Windows Update downloads and attempts to apply this update to machines on which one of the matching Visual Studio 2005 SKUs (see here) has been installed. The update addresses a “Vulnerability in Crystal Reports for Visual Studio [which] Could Allow Remote Code Execution.” However, Crystal Reports for Visual Studio is an optional component of Visual Studio 2005 and so, as was the case on the Acer, is not always installed.

So although Windows Update would report that the update as having been “successfully” installed, it would in short order re-prompt to install it again. And again. And again, ad infinitum. (On Vista, I have entries in WU’s ‘update history’ for one, two, three.. eight “successful” installations of this update..)

On the Acer, adding Crystal Reports to the Visual Studio 2005 installation enabled WU to properly install the update and subsequently recognise it as having been installed; incidentally, the process of actually installing the update seems to happen perceptibly more quickly than that of not really installing it but reporting it installed all the same.

Finally, subsequently un-installing Crystal Reports for Visual Studio seems also to un-install the update, whereupon Windows Update prompts, again, to install it and one is, presumably, apt to find oneself back in the same cycle.

This Ain’t Your Grandpa’s Derivative-Securitized Derivative

Capital Spreads, a financial spread betting firm operating out of The City in London, publishes a daily commentary on the state of the markets. Of last Thursday, they wrote (amongst other things):

[Thursday’s] comment made the point that the current trading activities were not sane ones for punters to be involved with, as a trading company I am happy to se [sic] that our clients completely ignored this piece of advice and managed to trade around 22,500 times in the 24 hr period (a quite spectacular record for Capital Spreads). I wish I could be as happy with their overall performance but sadly given the volatility this was not the case. Some punters made very good money but, in the main, most were caught in the headlights and run down.


Statement on Security

I couldn’t help but notice the emphasis David Cameron placed on the role of the “public” in reference to the recent attempted/failed “attacks” in London and Glasgow during his response to the Prime Minister’s Statement on Security; a reference to John Smeaton?


My Photos on Flickr

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