Member of the Month - March 2014

The winter is coming to an end (at least in my part of the world :wink: ), and it’s time to introduce our March Member of the Month!

He hasn’t been around these forums for a very long time yet, but the quality of his contributions has caught the eye of the forum staff. This months award goes to… \\.\

I’ve asked him a few questions, which he’s been kind enough to answer.

  1. Congratulations on your election as Member of the Month. Do you feel differently now?

I have to say that this is a first, it is slightly unnerving that I win something, my luck tends to be more akin to the guy who steps on a a rake.

  1. We always ask this question, but this time it seems even more appropriate than usual: what does your username mean? And how do you pronounce it?? (Someone even raised the question if your username was an attempted SQL Injection attack at the forum… )

My username is based around Microsofts \\.\PhysicalDevice which, because the whole thing is a bit of a mouthful, I shortened it to \\.\ which is cryptic and in the world of search engines trying to search for \\.\ returns Your search - \\.\ - did not match any documents.

  1. Are the backslashes in your name influenced by studying the “Microsoft Certified Professionals Course” and would they have been forward slashes if you had studied Unix?

I did do some network administration on a course recognised by Microsoft, that was many years ago and in that course we looked at networks, setting up networks, installing primary and secondary domain controllers as well as active directory services, installing software, configuring computers (manually, as in not using scripting) to set up user access and privileges.

I have dabbled in *nix, well to be more exact I used Ubuntu for 3 years whilst Windows XP decided that everything on the computer it was installed on was malfunctioning or not working. I put Ubuntu on the machine and everything worked just fine and dandy, so this was obviously forced obsolescence by PC world, which is where the machine came from originally, not that I bought the machine, I inherited it from the father-in-law when he had upgraded to a dual core machine.

I eventually installed an OEM XP on the machine and no complaints from it, my son uses the machine now, it’s a good 8 years old now.

  1. What first brought you to the forums and why did you stay?

I was in search of alternative viewpoints, interested in security aspects of PHP and it still amazes me that people still use _POST and _GET inputs directly and do not employ a whitelist and sanitizing regime.

  1. You have been participating in quite a lot of our forums (PHP, Javascript, CSS, Websecurity, even Perl&Python). And reading your profile page, I understand you’re self-taught. Could you tell us a bit about your webdev history? How did you teach yourself these things, how long have you been programming, what language(s) (if any) do you prefer?

It was about 1980~ish, computers were things that corporations and businesses could afford, I remember seeing the mainframe at my mums place of work, it was a Honeywell system, massive, took up three rooms of a building and supported 6 remote offices via dedicated lines, this was long before things like the internet existed… I was in Awe of it, it sparked my interest in computers.

School had a dinky, or more accurately a computer, it was the size of a large suitcase, it was a Z80 (not to be confused with a ZX80 or ZX81), an in my school year we didn’t study computer science, the computer science teacher encouraged me to come in and take a seat at the computer, I remember it well, my first program was in BASIC

10 FOR A=1 TO 10
20 FOR B=1 TO A
30 PRINT “*”;
70 END

Many people these days would likely say Pffft, so what… for someone who had no formal training or ever used a computer before, it was a Woooo Hoooo moment, I had made a computer do something fun.

I took Computer Science as an option when we were choosing our options at the end of the school term.

That year we all had to share one computer, booking time to use the PC during class and after class, one night I was still at school at 9 pm, my mother was angry at me for not letting her know that I would be at school.

In 1981 the BBC Micro arrived on the scene, it had more processing power than the black box we were using, the school bought ten machines. Because the cost of disk drives and floppy drives was too much and to use tape recorders to save programs on would be too lengthy and impractical, the school bought some EPROMS and I along with 9 others were enlisted to write in to the machines the machine code that was needed to build the school’s first network to network the Z80 which by then had a floppy drive, this was to allow people to save their programs to floppy disks.

I didn’t appreciate it at the time but looking back, we had something at that school that was unique in respect to others, we had two different system architectures networked and this was long before the internet existed.

When I left school, I took computer science, I got bored with it because I was only learning again what I had already learned and because of a college admin putting me in the wrong option because they thought I had made a mistake, I couldn’t transfer on to the other course they had where I could have looked at other languages like fortran, pascal and cobol. So I eventually stopped going.

A number of years was spent in various dead end jobs, each one had some form of computer that I used, one employer accused me of hacking when they found a program I had been writing looked like an attempt to access the company database, it was sloppy network security that I was able to access the database in the first place, I attempted to download the database to speed up the process of looking at the data structure and use QuickBasic to update the database to add the required information for the spare parts department that was lacking. They moved me sideways and installed a muppet to do the computer work, I was banned without being told and I had exposed just how vulnerable that database was to hacking.

I left that company and spent a couple of years unemployed, I moved up to Worcester and took an evening course in C programming, I was babysitting for my sister who needed to go to work and to help me my, at my request, my brother-in-law put together a computer out of old parts and MSDos 6.22 and Delphi C, Tec College used Borland C, not much difference but I was able to do course work and baffle the tutors with my programming, especially when we had to deal with pointers… Suddenly I was writing programs that from what I saw was beyond the understanding of the tutors.

On the web dev side of things, I knew plenty of people who started a move from programming and moved in to the internet side of computer work, I had no such access at that time and it passed me by. I eventually was in a position to have quality broadband access when I moved to a city larger than Worcester and had a major cable network.

That was in 1998, I played for a while with creation of networks, was a prolific downloader on peer to peer, ran full web services like email, ftp server, web server from home and I part of a user group that was a file share group. Eventually the MPAA and RIAA in a joint exercise busted the US side of the operation, as I was in the UK, the US authorities had no jurisdiction other than to complain to my ISP They made lots of hollow threats and I flicked them the bird.

In 2005 I took another college course in HTML and JavaScript, it ran on a Saturday morning, I was mainly interested in CSS and JavaScript from an implementation point, I hadn’t at that point considered user forums, only forums I knew of at that time were on Yahoo and they were notoriously unfriendly. I kept on hearing IRC as a buzz word, I ignored it as I was getting my advice out of books and in a classroom and not from some unreliable source of information or group that was trying to hack my PC.

Internet security was more interesting to me in the early part of my online activity, I spent allot of time looking at it from finding that my computer which was behaving strangely and I found that someone had initiated a delete request, so I pulled the power plug, saved my PC but lost about 30% of my data. It was a minor setback and I sacked Norton Firewall.

I progressed with my internet journey and built my first website for my partner (as you do) and she was very unappreciative of my efforts or advice on design that I had learned from college classes.

My first commission was a local painter and artist, it was a budget build and as a favour I built the site, all five pages of it for £80, I based this in the fact that they were static pages except for one page that was requiring JavaScript programming to make the gallery work. I also got his URL in the top 4 searches of all major search engines that were in operation at the time, this I think put one of his friends, a local writer, put her nose out of joint because her site was appearing somewhere like on page 20 of search results.

So she queered my patch, incorporated his site as a set of pages in her site, the artist then complained to me about his site not appearing in the top 10 results and I found out why, explained that his friend had destroyed his site and page ranking and said it was my opinion she wanted to monopolize on his ranking to get her site up in the top 10 and she had gone about it the wrong way, so much for her being a web designer and if he wanted the site put up again it will be full price and not what I originally did as a favor.

I then devoted some time to forums, helping out and largely gave up web dev as a bad idea as no one I had done work for was ever satisfied with what they got despite all work being robust and compliant at that moment in time. So I found problem solving and code busting in forums much more rewarding.

That took a sideways step after a brief period as an independent MP, I built the website for that and web forums that the group used, we disbanded in 2009 as our job of kicking the political parties up the rear had been done.
I returned to web forums and web coding after break due to work and then ill health that now keeps me in a position where work options are limited, returning to web development would be nice but I don’t want another episode of having to pull machetes out my back from people poaching and queering my patch.

I have interests in programming, problem solving and helping where I can and also learning.

  1. A few years ago there was jQuery. Nowadays, libraries and frameworks are popping up all over the place. Do you have an opinion on them?

In a nutshell… hate them. While they may provide help in rapid development for people who know little about programming or HTML, my argument is that they take away jobs, they are bad for an industry that is despite its appearance, fragile. You are also reliant on others work and I am at heart a JavaScript purist, why load several hundred lines of code when you only need a dozen? Doesn’t make sense to me and is a waste of resources, the internet would much faster if it wasn’t having to transport trillions of kb of data unnecessarily freeing up bandwidth.

  1. Your profile states you like “'puters, 'grammin ‘n shootin’ stuff” . What stuff do you “shoot”?

LOL, I used to do target practice, biggest thing I ever shot was a 5mm dot on a target. My other signature I favour is one that quotes “I laughed that hard, I burst my colostomy bag”, shouldn’t take my signature seriously in regards to shooting stuff although I wanted to join the armed forces when I was younger as an armourer or sniper, despite being a good shot, I wasn’t able to join, I scored 97% on my aptitude test, I figure the CO at the interview saw me as a threat or free thinker and onlu was interested in drones.

  1. You may have read that the Sitepoint forums will be migrating to a new platform soon. If you could take advantage of that move, what things would you like to see done differently from today?

To be honest, I haven’t read about it, however, any moves to a different platform should consider the end user and be seamless and not then present problems to the end user like having to make a new account. As for improvements, I quite like some elements of Stackoverflow in regard to code recognition and pushing people towards formatting code blocks, a problem with newbies who post blocks of code without consideration, some people are just lazy, presentation is important, it is not “everything” but it is important to present well in order to get somewhere quicker as in answers.

  1. As you know, self-promotion isn’t allowed on the forums, but we make an exception for the Member of the Month. So seize the opportunity and show off anything you’d like to share.

I do voluntary work for Emmanuel House ( ) which saw a cut of £330,000 to its budget when this current government ceased funding to charities that help the unemployed and homeless. So now this short fall is expected to be found by alternative means and there’s a real threat that this centre could face further down scaling or closure.

The charity shop provides enough income to employ one member of staff, that member of staff does valuable work and can be helping more than 100 people at any given moment, other funding is sourced from businesses that donate clothing from stock they no longer need that can be sold in the shop, cash donations and fundraising from the general public by donation.
The service users hard being hard hit, they are made up of various cultures, each person is suffering hardship and is in need of help and guidance to help them navigate Camerons harsh reforms which has been proven that they don’t need to make the £500,000,000 saving when the DWP announced that £16,000,000,000 went unclaimed in welfare last year.

  1. And finally, what have I not asked that you wish I had asked, and what’s the answer?

Q. What other interests do you have besides computers?

A. I have lots of interests and I would love to be in a position to experiment, I enjoy inventions and scratching out ideas and looking at how things can be re-purposed.

I wonder why some people expend countless hours debunking when further research could be accomplished and then discredited if needed. The laws of physics, for example was written some 300 years ago and has never been challenged until now, before then ideas existed, were challenged and debunked, so what is wrong with challenging the second law of thermo dynamics? Things built now are precise and on a level of efficiency that never existed before, what if you could get out more than you put in? Do not step up transformers do just that?!?!

In my humble opinion, to simply accept a thing as being true and factual is a crime, thinking outside the box and looking beyond what we are told is a fact as to challenge existing train of thought is important and something that should be taught at school over what children are taught today.

So my spare time is split between volunteering, web forums for welfare and for programming, throwing around ideas and concepts for invention.

Thank you for taking the time to share a bit about yourself, and congratulations on being chosen as Member of the Month for March 2014.

Congratulations \\.\ :slight_smile:

That was an interesting read.

In 1981 the BBC Micro arrived on the scene

I still have a zx81 in the loft somewhere along with a BBC micro :slight_smile: I remember trying out my first basic program on it:

let eggs = 12;

Congratulations on the award, @111 ;
Did we actually clarify how that is pronounced?
What about slasher (owing to all of the slashes, of course)?

Snap (although in my case it’s a zx48k and a BBC micro).
My first serious program on the BBC micro was a set of traffic lights (exciting times).
My second serious program on the BBC micro, spoofed the school’s login page and stole students login credentials. It worked just great, but as soon as we saw the passwords pouring in, the guy I wrote it with got cold feet and deleted everything.

A hacker was born :slight_smile:

I wrote an invoicing and stock control program all in basic and we actually used it at work for a number of years. It’s amazing what you could do in 32k in those days :slight_smile:

Very interesting interview guys! And congratulations \\.\

keep it up.

Congratulations, \\.\! An interesting interview. :slight_smile:

in the world of search engines trying to search for \\.\ returns Your search - \\.\ - did not match any documents.

Hehe, very shrewd. :slight_smile:

Tut tut. Sitepoint does not have a PEARL area.

Otherwise, interesting interview.

Oops. I’ve corrected that error.
You’re one sharp eyed cat.

Thanks for responses people, it is appreciated.

Love the BBC login page spoof, LOL. 32k was huge in terms of computing, the ZX81 that I has only had the 1K of on board ram and machine programming a game took hours. Was all good fun though.