Quality Lost

Just as the true test of a man’s character is how he behaves when alone, the true testament to quality is when a craftsman builds an item, and let’s say a watch here, and pays attention to the quality of his craftsmanship on parts that will never be seen by anyone else but another watchmaker. Software development is a craft, let no-one tell you otherwise.
In this world of “production line” software development we are losing the internal quality (and external but that is for another article) of our software. Why does this matter? Purely from an aesthetic perspective, it matters, even if you cannot see it. It matters that care and pride has been used to craft a product that will last as long as you need it to. We used to have full payroll systems that ran in 1 Kilobyte. I joke not. These were crafted with a tremendous amount of pride and care to get them to be fully functional but to fit into a confined space. Reminds you of a watchmaker again!

Lets leave the aesthetics for a while and concentrate on the functional. Rushed programming or indisciplined programming leads to a product that is less robust (a polite way of saying more bugs). When a practitioner thinks he or she is rated on production quantity and not quality, the craftsmanship has gone.

Interestingly, this “less robust” software usually ends up costing the producer a lot more than software that is crafted with quality built in.

Look at Apple for a moment. They don’t lead technical innovation (perhaps sometimes) but they are the most successful computer hardware company in the world. They were not the first with an MP3 player, they were not the first with a smart phone and they were not the first with SSDs in high specced machines.

Why are they so successful? Quality. As I type this on my Macbook Pro I can “feel” the quality of the product. Care and thought has gone into every aspect of their design. They do not simply take a mouse and replicate it. They build a solid aluminium and glass mouse, built to last and also built to perform in a different but intuitive way.

Every Apple product has a “Quality” feel about it. Even when you tear it down you can still see the “hidden” parts have the same quality.

That’s what people want. People want quality products and they are prepared to pay a premium to get them. The same goes for Software Quality. Invest in craftsmen and you will get a quality product. You don’t have to be first to market, you just have to be “best” to market to succeed.

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Well it’s back in the news again – the modern day version of the OJ Simpson Trial.

I realise that defence attorneys have a job to do. When the facts seem to be cut-and-dried like they are in this case, their job seems to sow as much confusion as possible.

To my simple mind it’s very black and white. Oscar Pistorius is guilty. Now all the judge in this case needs to ascertain is “of what”. He killed Reeva Steenkamp. No question, no doubt.

If he was shooting in self-defence as his defence claims, he is guilty of extreme recklessness. This is why we preach (gun safety is almost a religion to some of us) “Be sure of your target AND what is beyond it”.

Pistorius did not even have a clue who was behind that door (again only if we believe his story). It could have been the neighbours pet cat! – We’ve been woken up in the middle of the night with a strange cat in the study eating our cat’s food!

So let’s get off the subject of when the security guards were phoned by who and look at the plain old simple facts.

1. OP shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp (fact – not disputed)
2. If we believe his story – firstly I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you – but secondly he is a dangerous maniac with little or no regard for the safety of others – I think they call that a sociopath in Psychological terms – and he MUST be removed from society.
3. If we don’t believe his story – he is a dangerous maniac who kills unarmed women because of an argument when they are cowering and crying in the bathroom behind a locked door. Thats a Psychopath (pretty much the same thing) and he MUST be removed from society.

Even if he denies the other events where he has fired pistols in public he should not be allowed to walk the streets based on the logic above. Let’s face it though – why would his ex-girlfriend and other friends deliberately lie about this – they have nothing to gain and a lot to lose. My opinion – it’s my opinion and last time I looked we still had freedom to express our opinions – is that this man is a narcissistic misogynistic sociopath who has brought the reputation of law abiding, safety conscious gun-owners into question. Hanging would be too good for him.

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Neighbourhood Watch Patrollers and Firearms

After the tragic shooting in Florida of Trayvon Martin it’s important to reiterate what the “Rules of Engagement” are for Neighbourhood Watch volunteers. Neighborhood-Watch

Many organisations, locally in Durban, South Africa and throughout the world, prefer it if you patrol unarmed. As a firearm owner you have a greater responsibility to avoid conflict, so it would seem to make sense – at least on the surface – to go unarmed. This is an all or nothing approach which realistically does nothing to accurately address the situation. 

If you carry a firearm on a daily basis, there is no reason why you shouldn’t carry it when doing neighbourhood watch patrols. If you have a self-defence firearm in South Africa and it lives in a safe, then get some training or keep it at a gun shop – it’s not doing you any good.

If you do carry it – you are now carrying a greater burden of responsibility. Mr. Zimmerman (in the Florida shooting) did not exercise this responsibility sufficiently and should never have pursued Trayvon Martin – who incidentally was no “child” as portrayed in the media, but was a large strapping young man. He should have held back and waited for the Police to do their job.

So as a timely reminder to my colleagues who discretely carry, whether it is here or in the USA, (I’m guessing nobody does in the UK or Australia) I’d like to lay out some rules you should follow.

1. You are not the Police – only a sworn LEO may use his firearm to affect arrests. I realise that your training may be worlds apart (I mean better) than your average Law Enforcement Officer, but you are not a policeman so it doesn’t matter.

2. You act as “Eyes and Ears” only – if you inject yourself into a situation and have to end up using your firearm, you will probably be prosecuted.

3. If a situation develops you must try to  de-escalate and leave to a safe distance. Only if you are prevented from leaving and you quite literally have your back against a wall are you permitted to use your firearm – only if your life is in danger and remember it is the court you must convince.

4. You may not draw your firearm unless you feel that it is the only option left. Drawing to “scare” someone is termed brandishing and is prosecutable.

5. Don’t use reloads. This opens up a can of worms where prosecutors will say you had malicious intent when you loaded nasty looking bullets. Try to use “standard” JHP factory rounds.

6. Get training – if you think you are well trained you probably need more training. As they say at Magpul Dynamics – Amateurs train until they get it right, Professionals train until they get it wrong. If you think “cup and saucer” is an acceptable grip or that you must cock your auto pistol by pulling back the slide between your thumb and finger, then you desperately need training.

7. If you have to use force to apprehend someone, remember that you are a normal citizen and that you must use the minimum force. So have an alternative (Pepper spray or baton) to use before deadly force.

Stick to these basics – add more if you like – and your firearm will hopefully never be used outside of training. Keeping yourself safe to go home to your family is your first responsibility.


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Future Look–Data, Mobile, Cloud


If someone came up to me today to ask what the “next” big things were for 2014, I’d have to go with my top 3. Data is Big Data, Analytics, Data as an Asset and of course Data Quality.

Cloud is becoming more pervasive without most people realising it. SAP can now run on a mobile device using SaaS. I can proudly say we broke ground on that when I worked at SAP Research with the Overture project. Yes we have iCloud and SkyDrive (Apple and Microsoft copyrighted) but we also have Google Apps in the cloud. Google Apps allows small businesses to do more than just co-ordinate calendars but offers a suite of useful cloud based applications. Pure cloud based apps will become the best way to run your business. Why? Since the apps are Best Practice (i.e. most common business process) they save you from re-inventing the wheel. They will also give you a large degree of interoperability with your business partners (Suppliers, customers, banks etc.) since you’ll be using similar standard software and similar business practices. Non-Cloud or on-premise should be reserved for your differentiation factors. For example – if you are a Logistics company and the way you keep ahead of the crowd is that you have a state-of-the-art routing system, it doesn’t make sense to use a cloud app.

Mobile is becoming even more interesting. Wearable tech is becoming big and will continue to grow into 2014. Google Glass could be worth $3.3 billion by 2017 says one blogger. The wearable tech revolution has been boosted with the Samsung Galaxy Gear, which was launched yesterday with tech commentators saying that it’s too little too soon. I don’t expect the iWatch to be launched on the 10th – but I do think we’ll see it in 2014.  The  Pebble is already out and it’s looking very good. The interesting thing was that this was crowd funded. It’s kick-started the smart watch industry but unless they up their game and quickly they will be left behind by the heavyweights. As you know if you read my blogs, I’m a bit of a mechanical watch nut, so I doesn’t blow my hair back, but you can expect early adoption rates being very high. Interestingly I predict a slightly flatter hype cycle than usual as a lot of negativity will come early on – much as it was with the iPad.

I haven’t been too interested in Microsoft buying Nokia phones. Mediocrity + Mediocrity doesn’t equal anything but more Mediocrity.

Once again it looks like 2014 is going to be an exciting Tech year. Stay tuned for Apple’s announcements on the 10th September though. We could get a flavour of Apple’s direction after Jobs.

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Hunting Ethics and Fair Chase

With a lot of focus on the gun control debate these days, hunters could be forgiven for not realising that hunting itself is – and probably always will be – under attack from anti-hunting groups. It is a constant surprise, therefore, to find hunters not behaving in an ethical way. The general public will very quickly turn into the anti-hunting general public and we will lose the privilege of hunting in South Africa. Botswana is to ban hunting from 2014, Kenya has been hunter free since 1977 (to the animals detriment, but that is for another discussion). Zambia has also recently banned sport hunting.

Is hunting in South Africa a privilege that could be lost? Well hunting brings in billions of Rand in foreign currency every year, but that does not guarantee it’s future. What could damage the future of hunting in this country quicker than any detractor is the damage to the reputation of hunting.

This is easy to do. There are many ways to damage the reputation of hunting and there seem to be many unethical hunters who are oblivious to the fact that they are slowly but certainly destroying it.

Not too long ago a series of posts were made to a popular forum where people were openly admitting that they have hunted from vehicles. Unless you have a serious physical disability, there should never be an excuse for this abhorrent practice. This is killing and has nothing to do with hunting.

Just in case you are one of these deluded individuals let me carefully explain what the rules of fair chase are:

Here are some of the basic rules of ethics that fair chase hunters live by:

  • When hunting, obey all laws and regulations.
  • When away from home, respect the land and customs of the locals.
  • Adapt and follow a specific personal code that will bring out favorable abilities and sensibilities as a hunter.
  • Never draw out the death of prey. Try to attain the best shot to make the kill as quick and precise as possible.
  • Keep the personal code in mind and let it dictate behavior. It is the responsibility of the hunter not to dishonor the hunter, the hunted or the envir­onm­ent [source: Hunt Fair Chase].

The ethical approach also states that a hunter may not take an animal if:

  • The hunter herded or spotted the animal from air and then quickly landed to pursue.
  • It was herded or chased by a motorized vehicle.
  • Electronic communication devices are being used.
  • It is confined by artificial barriers or transplanted for commercial shooting.
  • It is trapped or drugged.
  • It’s swimming, trapped in snow or helpless in any nature.
  • The hunter is using another hunter’s license.
  • Laws or regulations are being broken [source: Hunt Fair Chase].

A few others you can add to your personal code. If you are a consistent and accurate shot at 200m but not beyond, then you should limit yourself to 200m no matter what your rifle is capable of. I use the following rule. If you can get closer, get closer – even if it means there is a risk the animal may bolt. If you can get steadier, get steadier – by using sticks or natural features.

Have respect for the animal, both before and after death. Do not sit on it or pose is in an unnatural way. Many hunting cultures have an elaborate ritual for honoring the animal. As a person of Scottish descent -I say the Gralloch prayer. The German Jager will place grass in the mouth of the animal. The point is one of respect for an animal and the life it has given so that you can stock your freezer.

If we ignore these basic principles we will soon found ourselves without the noble sport of hunting.

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The next Java – Scala

Martin Odersky developed the early Scala (stands for Scalable Language) in 2003. It’s taken a while to gain critical mass – but now that it has, I find it very exciting. In a nutshell this is taking Java back to it’s roots, trying to rid Java of the complexities it has gathered along the way (Has it been 16 years already!).

So what’s so exciting about Scala (pronounced Scar-la not scay-la)?

First of all – and being an object fan I love this – EVERYTHING is an object. Yes even primitive data types are now objects. So you can type the following in Scala and it will work:


The integer is converted to an object in the bytecode! Cool.

Secondly – it generates Java Bytecode, which means it runs on any JVM.

Number Three – No Static methods, they are replaced by Singleton classes which are really easy to instantiate using the object statement.

Number Four – XML is a breeze with Scala, it makes it really really easy to read and drill down into XML streams

I’ll do a more in depth blog on it once I’ve had a chance to code up some examples. Check out http://www.scala-lang.org in the meanwhile to get to grips with it.


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Custodes Strong Encryption Technology

Something that has been brewing for a while is the Custodes (Yes thats another non-SAP project of mine) Encryption Technology. I’m of the opinion that it’s unbreakable. So I’m issuing a challenge to all the crypto-heads out there. I’ll even tell you that it is a rapidly changing OTP with shortcut libraries. If you can de-crypt it you can have 100% share in the company – you will own Custodes! Good luck – you’ll need it.  Sorry you only have until the 25th March 2013.


OK so here you go:


Have fun – but don’t get too obsessed with it. Like I said – it’s unbreakable and no – it’s not nonsense, it’s a valid message.

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Oscar Pistorius is Guilty, but of what?

That’s right. Oscar Pistorius is guilty of killing Reeva Steenkamp. There can be no dispute on this point. He fired at her and killed her. Whether it was an “accident” (There are no accidents when shooting someone, only negligence) or whether this was a jealous rage – well that’s for the courts to decide.

Frankly – and if he passed his firearm competency he would be aware of this – shooting when you have no idea what the target is or where it might be, is criminal. Literally criminal, not figuratively. In my not-so humble opinion people should be jailed for this.

The law states CLEARLY that you may only fire your weapon to protect your life or the life of someone you are protecting and there must be an attack IN PROGRESS where you fear that you may be killed. There is something called the “reasonable man” test. Would a reasonable man shoot through a closed and locked door in order to protect himself?

Obviously none of those conditions were satisfied in the shooting so I believe (my opinion only – I’m not a lawyer) the very lowest charge – by his own admission – should be culpable homicide. He needs to go to prison and hopefully this will send a message to equally cavalier gun owners that we don’t need them in our community. We need safe, mature and responsible gun owners not idiots like Pistorius. And I’m probably being kind here. Let’s hope he is just an idiot and not a calculating cold blooded murderer.

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Why animals must fear humans

2013 is here and since I’m wearing my sustainability hat today I thought I would share some important conservation thinking . The most important point that needs to be made is that ALL wild animals are dangerous. There are many documented incidents of “Bambi” attacking people for various reasons.

Beware deer attacks

So here’s the thing. You may think that the monkeys that play on your lawn (We have a lot of that here in KZN, South Africa) are desperately cute. You then think that you should help them by leaving fruit out for them and one day even feeding them by hand. What a thrill! It’s a very human trait to want to care for animals so don’t feel too bad about it. We also have a terribly bad habit of wanting to give animals “human” characteristics or anthropomorphising. It’s all well and good, but it could get your pets, your children and even you badly injured or killed.

Aggressive Vervet

This happens because of the old truism “Familiarity breeds contempt”. The animals lose their instinctive fear of humans. This almost always ends in a disaster and usually means that a wildlife control officer must destroy the entire troop.

Don’t try to “tame” wild animals, don’t feed them and do not ever try to befriend them. They are not your friends. They are not your pets (who have been domesticated over thousands of years) and they are not human, they don’t have human morals or restraints and if your 4 year old stands between them and food, they will not worry about killing your 4 year old.

So please folks if you really love wild animals then we must allow them to retain their natural fear of humans. For their own sake.

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What are Assault Weapons?

Well it looks like El Presidente in the USA would (if he is re-elected) like to re-instate the Clinton “Assault Weapons” ban. A lot of news people and people without a good knowledge of guns nod vigorously when the topic is brought up. After all no-one wants people wandering the streets with “machine guns” threatening the lives of the terminally unprotected!

Well know there are two points that beg to be made here. Firstly there is no coherent meaningful definition of an assault weapon. If, for example, you would like to say that it is the same weapon that the military uses – you’ll probably be a little surprised to find out that they are already strictly controlled and you would need special permission to own one. This has been the case since the 1930’s in the United States. Simply put – a military weapon is capable of full automatic fire. That is – I pull the trigger once and as long as I keep my finger on the trigger, the weapon keeps firing – sometimes at a very high rate of fire. You may not own a fully automatic (machine gun) in any State in the United States and in most countries throughout the world – unless you have special permission.

So this is where I get confused – what is Obama trying to ban? “Assault Weapons” by this reasonable definition are already controlled (in effect banned).

Is he perhaps trying to ban Military looking rifles? In this category we have semi-auto AR15s and AK47s. Functionally however, we also have the Ruger 10/22, any auto loading shotgun and automatic pistol which are the same as these rifles.

So is he trying to ban the look of a rifle? Is it scary looking? If I put a tripod onto my highly accurate 30-06 Howa Hogue hunting rifle, it will look a little like an M24!  God forbid I put a suppressor on the end of the barrel (perfectly legal in South Africa) to save my ears and to try to be environmentally responsible.

But here’s another take – maybe these AK47 rifles are just too powerful- after all I’ve been told they can “blow a deer apart” .  Um well..no. An AK47 (7.62×39) round is considered quite moderate  for hunting and while it will take a deer at 100 meters – I wouldn’t take it much beyond that.

I own a Marlin 336c chambered in 30-30. I can cycle through all 6 rounds in a few seconds and each one is more powerful than an AK47 round. If I start talking my 30-06 or a 300 Winchester Magnum they are incrementally more powerful than any current infantry assault weapon. These are ordinary hunting rifles.

The “terrifying” AK47







The good old “Cowboy” rifle in 30-30




So to sum up, this sounds a lot like political smoke blowing. Or a step towards more gun control which Obama has openly admitted to being his ultimate aim.

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