Vale Chris Gulker

Chris gulker

In the middle of 1996, I was driving Chris Gulker and Bahman Dara – fellow Apple employees – to their hotel after just visiting the new Fairfax Chullora printing plant.

Having spent hundreds of millions of dollars on very large presses, collators and distribution systems – Fairfax were having difficulty in keeping colour consistent in their advertisements. For instance, a green tinged advertisement for meat at Coles would not generate sales. The CMYK to newsprint is a tricky business.

It was not the colour problem that Chris Gulker mentioned. It was the rise of the Internet – and the impact the internet would have on the printing presses. At this time, Avril’s The Definitive Christian Slater web site was getting reasonable page visits. Using the for-work of Chris, and Dave Winer, I embraced Frontier for the Fairfax@Atlanta web site.

Chris’ comments, and followup discussion when I visited 1 Infinite Loop (as an Adobe employee in late 1998) definitely changed my outlook on the world. The internet was, and has, become king. Later Chris joined Adobe.

Late in October, Chris died after a long battle with brain cancer.

Even though my interactions with Chris were intermittent – they were impactful. This is the mark of a good life. Vale, Chris.

Long Love Affair with Lego

Most Perfect Lego

In Toy Stories, James Maybuilt a life-size house out of Lego. It was awesome. On the DVD of the TV series, he skulks around the basement storage of Lego HQ where there is a box set of every box set Lego has ever made. He pops open 1973 and shows this London Bus set, which he details as "the most perfect Lego set". Someone gave me this set in 1973.

I remember this set well as it accidently ended up at the pawn/second hand shop in Lobethal, South Australia. Being of a tender age, I had carefully packed my Lego with other items I thought were going on a trip. Nope: they were old items what we no longer needed. My treasured Lego bus was gone! Thankfully, some brave adult retrieved the bus. I remember the incident, and this kit well.

Saint Shenanigans


I was born a Protestant. I will more than likely die one, too. Intense excavation into family history has shown me that my genes are Protestant for at least 8 generations on both sides. Baptised and confirmed a Lutheran, I was taught a thing or two about the most successful (not the first) split from the Catholic Church by Martin Luther.

During public school mandated “religious education”, I was taught by the local Catholic Priest. He seemed nice enough; kindly taking us through the New Testament book Romans. It took many years for me to realise that this was an attempt at turning me from my heretic ways to the true canon. If I recall, he didn’t even use the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. Yes, Peter and Paul: the fathers of the catholic church.

After travelling to Europe in 1997 and 2004, I saw enough Saints’ relics: shrunken heads, fingers, toenails and shrouds to last me a lifetime. Large cathedrals raised in the name of the Virgin or some Saint across the cities of Europe show the folly of man, attempting to reach for terrestrial god status. The veneration of Saints and other popery not only rubs me the wrong way: I am sure my ancestors turn in their collective graves.

So as Mary MacKillop has moved through the man-made process of canonisation within the Catholic Church, my genes quiver.

We hear that the church wants old and young to travel to Rome to witness the canonisation ceremony. That will fill the coffers of the Romans.

I also heard many discussions on the “brand” of Mary MacKillop being valuable. Like a product. Even our ABC both on radio and TV seems to have caught the “Mary MacKillop” fever. So much for editorial independence.

And that is exactly what this canonisation is about. Money. Never get in the way of a large corporation and money.

Luckily the Catholics re-admitted her to the church. Otherwise they would have missed out on their cash.

This tradition and hunger for money is not new. Sainthood and pilgrimages have created many a city in the world as supplicant masses crawl on their knees to assuage their mortal sins. Paying money for Indulgences, as done in the Middle Ages, and more recently with special visits to random virgin sightings.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not anti-personal faith.

But please separate Mammon from Mary. She was, and I highlight was, just a notable Australian woman who did more for the downtrodden than any group of Cardinals, Abbotts or Bishops ever did. And I would argue, ever will.

atNickHodge Episode 11: @zuzu Punk Rock Changed My Life

An excellent ROCKING PUNK ROCK show with Susan MacGillivray (@zuzu on twitter)

A further piece of homework for you all is this 1991 documentary. Also this Bob Rock interview about Vancouver Punk Scene.

OK, I stuffed up the most important thing at the beginning – audio (embarrassing as @fang and I had discussed this earlier in the day); but thankfully deks caught that and I fixed it on the fly. @zuzu was such a great guest: she spent the last 6 days collating data after work ready for the show. And obviously she had plenty of stories to tell.

Another great thing was seeing @zuzu reconnect with her old Vancouver Punk scene friends over the internets.

@zuzu has an excellent post detailing why she chose the following songs in her MIX

To revisit the scene, here are a list of @zuzu’s PICK-and-MIX:

Band Song
Clash Clash City Rockers
Ramones Pinhead
XRay Spex The Day the World Turned Dayglo
Husker Du Whatever
DOA Hardcore 81
The Damned Neat Neat Neat
Young Canadians Hawaii

Siouxie and the Banshees

Hong Kong Garden
Dead Kennedys Hyperactive child
Joy Division Digital
Germs Manimal
Slow Against the Glass
Descendents I Like Food
Iggy Pop I Wanna Be Your Dog
Modernettes Barbra
The Cramps Tear It Up
Wire Ex Lion Tamer
Rezillos Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked in Tonight
Buzzcocks Boredom
Killing Joke Wardance
Minutemen This aint no picnic
Dead Kennedys Holiday in Cambodia
Black Flag Depression (with Ron)
X Jonny Hit and Run Pauline
Stiff Little Fingers Suspect Device

atNickHodge 23rd April, “The Lost Uncles”

All Hail the New Show Name: atNickHodge.

Comments in the chat stream from Thursday 18th’s #understil 7 (Conked Out and Stoked) ended with a suggestion from @LafinBoy to change the name of the show. Not because Stilgherrian Live! nor being his understudy is a bad thing: just it is just time to graduate. Up the ante. Grow up, maybe.

After 4.2 minutes of thinking, the only name that fell into my head is “atNickHodge” (@nickhodge). That will do for the moment. At least it is consistent with my strict personal branding guidelines. And I will probably change my mind and call it something else one day.

Thanks to all my previous guests, and the future super sekrit guests. And a big thanks to @dekrazee1 for her help and support. Oh, and @mrsnickhodge and @yin_0x7f for their guidance. Doing a weekly show seems to add structure into my life; and is becoming a new hobby.

Onto way more important topics.

Nick on Gold Beach, Normandy, France
Nick at Arromanches (D-Day Gold Beach) May 2004.

The next show is scheduled for 8.30pm, Thursday 23rd April 2009.


Topic this week: “The Lost Uncles”. It is Anzac Day this Saturday. In Remembrance, I am going to reveal the histories of four individual soldiers from World War 1 and 2; each of which I have a personal connection. This show is not to glorify war; nor create false heroes. It is an episode just to remember four men.

Three from WW1, one from WW2; Two I am related to, two have other connections; Two survived the war, Two did not. Three were enlisted men, one an officer. One was married and had a child prior to enlistment; two had no children and I am directly descended from one. One I met in person; all are in my being and thoughts.

This show is for Lock, Roberts, Mason and Hodge.

Lest We Forget.

Please pop this into your diaries. See you on Thursday night.



March 24th is international “Countess Ada Lovelace” day.

In light of this special world-wide event, I have a special in-studio guest: the smart industry icon (and a female) Kate Carruthers

Broadcasting at 8:30pm AEST, Tuesday 24th March 2009. There will be themed music on the stream from 7:30pm to get into the mood.

Keep this link handy: A big thanks to another smart IT industry @dekrazee1 who has agreed to be my meta-backchannel producer.

Note: the above image is on the rear of Countess’ Lovelace’s calling card. This was left behind at a dinner party at Charles Babbage’s. From the Sydney Powerhouse Museum. Consider this video pre-work.

understil Episode 3, “Back to the Future of Self-Immolation in the #gfc”

Thanks to all who watched this episode. Just like Stilgherrian Live in its alpha broadcasts, I am starting to get some central themes and sections for the show sorted out.

Largely ignoring the chat this time was easy thanks to the wonderful @dekrazee1; the meta-backchannel producer. Her role was to watch the chat, and forward on any questions, points or where technical glitches occurred through a special backchannel IM session.

My hobby is the study of history, so researching and talking history is fun. An intellectual challenge, keeping my non-geek synapses firing.

The flow of Episode 3

  • An hour of thematic music (ie: related to show’s topic) from the 1980s
  • Lead in video clip, again thematic and from the 1980s
  • Letters from the Previous Show
  • Luddites vs. Lollards
  • Main Topic of the Show, with a thematic video/advertisement in the middle
  • Close about 5 minutes before Stilgherrian Live’s plinky’s appear

There is a need for a call-to-action somewhere; and deeper questions during the show. Or it might be just cool to leave it as-is so people can randomly chat about random stuff.

For next time:

  • Get the recording correct!
  • Ensure video playback works, even when cued correctly
  • Up the video quality on the broadcast strean when my face is on the camera

Practical Coding

Recently, in a meeting, someone stated that I had never been a professional programmer. At the time I agreed, however after some thinking (aka: L’esprit_de_l’escalier) disagreed with that assesment. So, time to write some of the projects I have completed during many years in this industry.

To note: many of these systems lasted months through to years, and used tools at hand. The essence of Practical Programming. All of these are written by myself, based on toolkits, SDKs and IDEs. Many no longer exist.

School sports day scoring system 1985. Mid 1985, written in Microsoft Basic for the Mac; this system recorded the winners and score for the annual sports day. I recall spending about a week of after-school hours until 3am or so writing this. I remember this as the first production system I wrote, that if it failed, I would look really silly. It worked on the day, and generated the correct printed results.

Bespoke locked down museum display system: written in late 1986, written in Microsoft Basic 2.0 on the Macintosh using floppy disk/text data files as source. Was locked down environment permitting users to select a country they originated from, and detailed the history of migration from that country to South Australia. Was still operational in the South Australian Migration Museum 3 years later.

Bespoke, locked down competition system: written in early 1987, written in C on the Macintosh using a B-tree engine. Was locked down environment permitting competition entrants to type in their name and phone number. The data was stored to disk. Competition winner picked randomly.

Chauffeur: written during late 1987, using Hypercard and C-written external functions for serial port access: a visual front-end to CompuServe email and forums. Written for “Tricks of the HyperTalk Masters” (Waite Group, 1988). I cannot recall the total number of lines of code; it was essentially a clever state-based system that screen-scraped data from a serial connection. Data was presented visually in Hypercard’s UI. I miss HyperTalk (Hypercard’s language)

Various Proof of Concepts: in 1990-1992, Apple promoted HyperCard as a visual front end for complex data. Using Apple’s DAL (Data Access Language) to Tandem, DEC and other SQL data sources. These PoC’s assisted Apple in winning enterprise customers in Australia. I installed an alpha of Apple’s A/UX DAL connecting to an Ingres database. This base system was used to demonstrate data-querying from a data-warehouse along with Mike Seyfang. This is the birth of the Munge Brothers.

Unix-based, SNMP AppleTalk monitor: in 1992: based on a collection of complex bsh scripts, cron tasks and open source commandline IETF SNMP tools. Does Anyone remember ASN.1? At one stage I was sure I was the only one in South Australia who actually read and used ASN.1 as SNMP was a reasonably new protocol. Executing on a SunOS workstation, this system was used to monitor AppleTalk routers at a large customer, as a part of a migration of their infrastructure. Also monitored via TFTP booting/reboots for uptime management. Email of outages and reports for network management.

Sherlock: in late 1993: Unix-based, 3-tier, Front-end to an Oracle ERP. I was the primary person managing a single user to SunOS/Oracle/multi-user ERP. Using VICOM Pro, I created a front-end that communicated via Telnet protocols to SQL-Plus scripts on the server. Displayed invoices, orders, pricing and other details. Create “alerts” on stock orders/shipments, plus permitted barcode scanning of inventory. Cron tasks for the management of management reporting. SQL-Plus Profit & Loss and Balance Sheet generation (the inbuilt tools sucked, so I wrote my own). Used in production for at least 2 years. At the same time, Adam Steinhardt wrote Bedrock in FileMaker: quoting and contact management system that was the basis for NextByte. Created export tools for integration. I miss VICOM’s language and development tools. Hello Brian Morris and Darko Roje!

Network Monitoring Tools: in 1994, various customers were wanting to measure end-user network performance of terminal based systems. Wrote a front end in VICOM Pro to measure screen-refresh times. Application was distributed around the network and reported back to a central server response times. Was used to contract compliance in large tenders, and to track down application performance bottlenecks. Also created front ends for login systems for customers such as Comcare in Canberra using VICOM Pro.

Web Publishing System: in 1996, for Fairfax@Atlanta web site. Userland Frontier based, with FileMaker backend. Running on MacOS, getting data via FTP from Fairfax’s editorial system. Frontier created static pages from dynamic content. Data editing multiple user in FileMaker. Static pages FTP’d to web server. 300,000 pages views a day in 1996.

sidenote: During 1998, I trained as a WebObjects developer in Cupertino under the former NeXT trainers. This involved formally learning Java; and an introduction to the Enterprise Objects Framework. EOF is an early example of a relational-object mapper. Beauty before its time.

Adobe/Scripting Proof of Concepts: from 1999 to 2004, using a variety of tools from Visual Basic, to AppleScript and Adobe InDesign and XMP toolkits to generate content management and automation scenarios. Used in selling “concepts” and ultimately selling products. Scripting improvements in InDesign 1.5 and later from customer and my input direct to product team. Still love InDesign. PoC’s are tough as they have to work a handful of times but in a critical demonstration.

A part of this bundle of code Included a database to SVG rendering system deployed in 2001 to demonstrate SVG. Before it was HTML5/Web cool. Adobe and the W3C really dropped the SVG ball in an attempt to out-run Macromedia’s Flash on mobile devices. What a waste of good resources and talent.

Mungenetengine: 2000-2006: PHP, MySQL content management system; about 3000 lines of code. Written/Tested on Windows and deployed on Linux. Based on the Fairfax@Atlanta experience, but using open source tools and public deployment. Created various connection points (XML-RPC and SOAP) with visual interfaces in Python amongst others. Whilst the backend was for personal use and not published, the code executed at least 3 million times whilst live. Parts of this engine still exist to redirect queries from old search engine results into WordPress. Also created a small WordPress plugin that assisted in transition.

The unerlying framework was used as the basis of 3 internal systems created for Adobe. One of which was the basis of an MBA paper.

During the family’s trip to Europe in 2004, I used a WxPython – SOAP based application to upload text and images to the mungenetengine.

Random Neil Finn Lyric Server: 2002-now, based on PHP, MySQL and SOAP. A very early, non-stock quote SOAP service on the internet and therefore used in many places. Image manipulation, and twitter-bots feed of the underlying system

Adobe-Internal Sales Reporting/CRM: 2004-2005: during my days as a Sales Manager, I could not resist the temptation to cut some code. Two systems were generated: one in Microsoft Excel, SAP Business Warehouse and Macros to create a one-page KPI sheet. Used daily as management tool for 3 years. Added to this a CRM system that detailed partner revenue, contacts and email list/communication. This system was written in Python; specifically TurboGears framework connected to FileMaker, with some later additions coded in Coldfusion. This latter system used a web front end.

In summary, this account at least 13 systems that ran in production coded and tested by me. Now I have documented them, I am ready armed for the next meeting where experience is called out. You have been warned.

I think it’s time for more, right?

My Relative from 18th Century: George Hodge


This is page 2 of a contract between Charles and Robert Fall of Dunbar, Scotland and the fishermen of Crail, Fife, Scotland.

Charles and Robert Fall held many interests in Dunbar in the 18th Century. They also had family connections in Fife. In an agreement signed by them on the 9th November 1745, the fishermen of Crail agreed to deliver their catch of white fish to them for a period of 6 years. This shows the final part of the contract made between the Falls and the fishermen of Crail. Here, agreement is made for the carriage of fish, notably saithe, to the Fall’s cellars, to be paid by them. At the end are the signatures or ‘marks’ of the fishermen of Crail. The most easterly of Fife’s fishing ports, Crail Harbour dates back to the 16th century. At one time the village was an important herring station. The few fishermen left today fish inshore, mainly for shellfish.

On the left hand side, just below the fold, there is the follow text: “George GH Hodge mark.” In this instance, George Hodge could not sign his name, and therefore marked with a “GH”. I am related to this George Hodge.

George Hodge was born in 1717 to George Hodge (himself born in 1686) and mother Katherin Moncrief in Crail/Fife, Scotland. He was 32 when he marked this document. His younger brother was a James Hodge, where my paternal line descends.

crail harbour 1850s

Crail Harbour: The harbour was ‘new foundit’ in 1610, destroyed in 1707, and what is shown here dates from the rebuild of 1728.

The fish stocks in this area started to drop in the later part of the 18th Century, and therefore there was not enough room in the family business. As the younger brother, James Hodge left the family business and slowly drifted north to St Andrews in the latter half of the 18th Century. From 1764 in Crail, 1766 in Kingsbarns (3.5km north of Crail) and 1771 in Brown Hills (just south of St Andrews). This George Hodge is also the witness to the birth of James Hodge’s first and second children: Andrew and Mary. The third child of James Hodge is a John Hodge; again from where my paternal line descends. This John’s son, Melville, emigrated to South Australia in 1853.

In the 1841 census, Mary Hodge (daughter of James Hodge, born in Kingsbarns in 1766) is listed as living in Thorgate, Crail. Based on the position in the census, it is likey she was living with the Scotts of Crail at this time.

I suspect that James travelled north either as a farm labourer, or as a hand loom linen weaver; as was his son. Kingsbarns has a noted history of both. And golfing, but I doubt my family was of the correct glass for golfing.

Note: This information was found using the system. Scran is:

Scran – part of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland – aims to provide educational access to digital materials representing our material culture and history. This is provided through the wholly owned trading arm Scran Ltd. We are one of the largest educational online services in the UK supporting over 4,000 schools, libraries, colleges and universities.

This Holiday’s TV Obsession

On previous holidays I have immersed myself in old TV Shows: Red Dwarf, The Office (two name but a few)


This year, it is two old TV Shows from the 1960s: 12 O’Clock High and Combat!

As a young’un, my parents kindly let me watch these shows in the 1970s. These shows left me with an enduring interest in WW2 history.

12 O’Clock High depicts the 918th Bomb group in Europe during WW2 and stars Robert Lansing. The first episode follows a similar story thread of the 1949 Acadamy Ward winning movie of the same name starring Gregory Peck. Combat! shows US soldiers in the European theatre of operations, post Normandy.

A sobering sight in our 2004 trip to the US where these two monuments: (note, the panels shown is only a small selection)


Outside the American Air Museum, inside the Imperial War Museum, Duxford there are many panels etched with a mini picture depicting each of the 7,032 American aircraft lost during WW2.

In the lower levels of the museum, a series of American building is a list of over 30,000 Americans lost during WW2: (note, the panels shown is only a small part of the total panels)

US Airmen Lost in World War II, ETO

The reality is nothing like the TV show. Then again, what would I know.