Header image alt text

simon collis

musings of an omnivorous biped

Of course, we’ve all seen Blackadder Goes Forth. The Allied generals used to just throw men at things, not care how many casualties there were, and kept on doing that until… somehow, the Allies won the war. Neillands’ main topic – in fact the whole reason for this book – is to answer the question: if the generals on the Western Front really were so incompetent and didn’t care about casualties, then how did they win the war in the first place?

It’s an interesting question, and he takes 500+ pages to answer it. It’s actually a fascinating read, covering not the what or the how (there are soul-crushing accounts of Passchendaele or the Somme that will haunt you forever, should you choose to read them) but instead asking ‘why’ – why did they choose to attack here, or there, why didn’t they think of x or y or z? Read more

Jack House – Murder Not Proven?

Posted by Simon Collis on 2016/12/04
Posted in Reviews  | Tagged With: , , , | No Comments yet, please leave one

Murder Not ProvenHaving rattled through this in just over – ooh, 31 years – I thought I’d just quickly write about it.

The reason it took me 31 years to read is simple. In 1984 the BBC adapted it into a series. I watched, absolutely fascinated (coming from a family of fans of Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell, Ngaio Marsh and the ilk, that’s hardly surprising). What amazed me was the “not proven” verdict – that strange halfway house between “well, you might have done something, but they’ve not actually proved there was a murder there in the first place”. The series of four dramatic reconstructions having finished, I took the book on holiday to read. Alas, I left my copy on the boat on the way to France, having read only the first chapter.

So, 31 years… a record for me. Was it worth the wait?

Actually, yes. Read more

I hadn’t read this one when I picked it up in Cash Converters (yes, they sell books as well). It’s hard to find English books in Lisbon, so the two choices in the shop were Dan Brown’s Deception Point and this. Deception Point I read in three days and you can pretty much imagine that it was like his other books, should you choose to, because it is – as with most genre authors, you get the experience you expected. Having finished Dan Brown, I picked this up not really knowing what to expect. I knew that it was about the Spanish Civil War, but not much more than that.

For Whom The Bell Tolls follows Robert Jordan, a university Spanish teacher turned dynamiter for the Communist cause. We’re first introduced to him sizing up a bridge that needs to be blown up as part of a major attack. The inevitability of death figures throughout the book – Jordan initially believes he won’t survive the bridge attack and having accepted that, meets a woman named Maria who had escaped Franco’s forces. (So far I’ve not mentioned anything not on the back cover of my edition of the book – I’m trying to avoid spoilers, if you can believe that’s relevant for a book that’s currently 77 years old.) Read more

Don’t Care

Posted by Simon Collis on 2016/11/29
Posted in Comment  | Tagged With: | No Comments yet, please leave one

Just been through the spam pile. I like to do that manually from time to time, just for fun.

“Quit your job today and earn less than you do now writing nonsense for us” – don’t care.

“Your SEO isn’t very good. Buy expensive thing from us and you will get lost of traffic” – don’t care. I’m happy with the SEO I’ve got, which is pretty much none. That’s high maintenance enough for me.

“Writing is hard, we have a thing that will do it for you – search blahblahblah’s tools” – nope. I’ll write something on here when I can be bothered. When I can’t, I won’t.

And then there’s the usual set of “asdasdasdasdasdasdf” type spams too.

Sometimes, I wonder why people bother. Does this nonsense actually sell anything?

While I’m on the subject of Microsoft

Posted by Simon Collis on 2016/11/28
Posted in Technology  | Tagged With: , , , | 1 Comment

Here’s two free eBooks:

Spoiler: they’re about computer-y stuff. Don’t read if you’re hoping for a whodunnit.

SQL Server on Linux

Posted by Simon Collis on 2016/11/28
Posted in Technology  | Tagged With: , , | No Comments yet, please leave one

Microsoft have a preview of SQL Server for Linux now. There’s even an install guide. Good times.

615dsjiz3blI found this book in a branch of Cash Converters in Lisbon. Actually, scratch that – I found the 1966 edition in a Cash Converters in Lisbon. However the cover of mine is rather beaten up so I borrowed this image from Amazon. You can go buy that edition from Amazon if you wish – that’s not an affiliate link, by the way, as having moved out of the UK they don’t let me do that any more. But I digress…

The early chapters of the book are fairly easy to follow. This is probably because there’s not a lot of change in quite a lot of time, and it’s fairly easy(ish) to document that for the general mathematically ignorant (such as me). Generally speaking even my high level of mathematical ignorance is capable of coping with zero, and negative numbers and so on.
Read more

BCPL: The Language and Its Compiler

Posted by Simon Collis on 2016/05/28
Posted in Reviews  | Tagged With: | No Comments yet, please leave one

Bcpl: The Language and Its CompilerBcpl: The Language and Its Compiler by Martin Richards
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Published in 1981, I bought this when I saw it mentioned in an article on compilers, and someone mentioned this as being a model of what a book about a computer language should be.

It’s interesting to see the way in which this book works, and it’s probably a good model for low-level programming. A fascinating insight into a little-used language these days, and still quite readable even if you can’t get your head round BCPL. Modern programmers new to antique languages will find it strangely fascinating: no strings, no classes, no memory management. It’s about as low level as you can get, and yet there’s concepts in there (write once, run anywhere) that are bang up to date in the latest languages.

A fascinating read for anyone seriously interesting in the history of computing.

View all my reviews

/edit: I originally had the name as “BCPL: The Compiler and its Construction”. Doh.

A fly

Posted by Simon Collis on 2014/10/16
Posted in Comment  | Tagged With: , , , | No Comments yet, please leave one

I’ve been a bit quiet of late on this blog – for reasons that I’ll go into at a later date – but I wanted to just share a little incident that happened today.

I work from home now, which means that I have my own little office upstairs. It appears to be a room that the flies like a lot. By flies, I mean houseflies. Your standard, everyday flies. Musca domestica. Not mosquitoes, anything that bites, or anything like that. Just flies. Read more

Comments are fixed now

Posted by Simon Collis on 2014/07/30
Posted in Uncategorized  | No Comments yet, please leave one

Such is the life of the self-hosted WordPress blogger… *sigh*