The problem with problem solving

Problem solving is at the heart of what drives programmers and many other folk to make things better. The problem is, there may be quite a variety of ways to solve a problem, some of which end up storing up bigger trouble ahead. And VW seems to have fallen into that trap.  I would love to know the truth about what went on in the software development teams (or individuals) behind the fiasco, but we’ll probably never really know.

Here is a conversation I’ve made up but which I could quite easily imagine happening:

Manager: We have a problem; we need to reduce the nitrogen oxide emissions to meet US emissions testing standards. Can you fix that? Pronto?

Continue reading The problem with problem solving

A flood of migrants – desperate to get away, determined to survive

Happened across an interesting article which came my way, talking about some migrants:

He was quite taken with the story of S_____ travelling to _____ on boats like the ____ and the horrendous conditions they experienced during those voyages. “It shows how desperate they were to get out of S____. They were sold on the idea of hope here and some powered through. It’s a testament to the S____ personality. A lot of determined people come out of S____,” he said.


As you might guess, S___ blank was not originally Syrians, but Scottish (economic) migrants escaping the desperate situation of Scotland for the clean slate of Canada. We see many differences between the migration away from Scotland then and the migration away from Syria now, but it’s good for us to have a big enough perspective to empathise with the plight and desperation of people who up sticks and flee their homeland, and yet would rather like to keep quite a lot of their family identity and culture intact.

Fixing the fix for NTFS drives on Mac OS X (10.10 Yosemite)

A friend had a troublesome external Hard drive that wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t mount in Mac OS X, having some corruption issues and being an NTFS format drive.

Disk Utility helpfully said:

Verify and Repair volume “xxxxxxxx”Repairing file system.** /usr/local/bin/ntfsfix has been disabled because of volume corruption issues.

** If you still want to try fixing your volume, use /usr/local/bin/ntfsfix from the command line…

File system check exit code is 250.Updating boot support partitions for the volume as required.Error: Disk Utility can’t repair this disk. Back up as many of your files as possible, reformat the disk, and restore your backed-up files.

Plugging it into my Windows 7 Virtual Machine didn’t let me do anything to fix it.

So I tried running sudo /usr/local/bin/ntfsfix as suggested (I had used Disk Utility’s ‘info’ function to identify the drive as /dev/disk5s1), only to encounter this:

dyld: Library not loaded: /usr/local/lib/libntfs.9.dylib
Referenced from: /usr/local/bin/ntfsfix
Reason: image not found

I updated various ports I thought might help but to no avail. Finally I looked inside /usr/local/lib/ and discovered that I have a file called libntfs.9.0.0.dylib but not libntfs.9.dylib. I typed 

ln -s libntfs.9.0.0.dylib libntfs.9.dylib

to create a link to the file where the ntfsfix program expected it and thereafter the ntfsfix command works as it should. Something seems to have broken in OS X 10.10 Yosemite, but it just requires a quick link to work.

That said, I haven’t managed to resurrect the volume yet. Posting this because I got no helpful hits reporting the dyld (Dynamic Loader) error above.

On Glosses, GPS and Google Maps

The short version:

  • Place too much faith in a ‘gloss’ for a foreign word and you may well end up looking as foolish as the folk who follow their satnav robotically into oblivion.

An allegory from Google/Apple maps for all users of bilingual dictionaries:

As drivers become enslaved to their satnavs (in the well-mapped world) we increasingly hear ridiculous stories of people driving onto airport runways, into rivers and goodness knows what else. And it’s all the satnav’s fault. As always our digital servants have turned into digital masters and we blindly follow them. Continue reading On Glosses, GPS and Google Maps

A little plug for Wycliffe in Nigeria, from a British MP

A search on the internet often throws up surprising results and one was the mention of the work of Wycliffe Bible Translators in Nigeria, by Lib Dem MP Mark Williams, MP for Ceredigion.

In talking about why it’s important for Christians and governments to engage in international aid, page 59, he mentions “Wycliffe Bible Translators teaching literacy, helping to grow local cultures and educating people in their native language.”

I’m intrigued to know how he found out about it since it’s fairly quiet and long-term work.

Liberal Democrats Do God book cover
Liberal Democrats Do God


Newsletter 42: Not in Nigeria!

MM42 Cover Picture
Click to download the high quality version

Here’s some news for June/July 2015 from the Nigeria branch of the Rowbory family (High Quality Printable Version)

With a whirlwind of final meetings, David wrapped up his solo month in Nigeria and returned to the heart of the family at the start of May.  By then they had moved over from Northern Ireland to Glasgow and Rebekah had started at a local primary school. Continue reading Newsletter 42: Not in Nigeria!

Research in progress: Making dictionaries serve translation

Here’s an abstract that has been approved for presentation at a Bible Translation conference:

Making dictionaries serve translation

John Roberts has lamented the tendency of Bible translators to ignore lexicography until after a New Testament has been completed and printed. The consequence is that while the translation process necessarily reveals much of the lexical richness of a language, few dictionaries are ever finished and little of the effort of creating such a dictionary ends up benefitting the translation itself. It does tend to be a peculiar minority of people who attack the task of lexicography with relish, but I want to outline the many ways that a working dictionary can and should support better writing. Recent developments have eroded many of the difficulties which have hindered the development and use of dictionaries. There is no need to typeset a full dictionary before it is used; software-based dictionaries can be useful even when incomplete. Rather than throwing knowledge away, every translator or pioneer writer should see the dictionary as a place to store the riches of their language and conserve the fruit of their wrestling with the language. Mother-tongue translators need dictionaries too. Where a diverse range of community members contribute their knowledge of the language to make a good, growing, living dictionary it can provide consultants, reviewers and translators alike with a wider evidence base for their decisions than mere individual opinion. I survey recent developments that make dictionary development more achievable than ever before, and propose procedures for Bible translators to use and maintain a dictionary with examples from projects that have done this.

I thought I’d share some of my rough research and open up some questions and loose ends here in public while I’m preparing the paper.

Current Status of work: Literature & research review

I’m investigating times in the distant past right up to recently where dictionaries have made a contribution to Bible translation, whether positive or negative.

Some interesting stories so far

From translation consultants and translators.

The Curse of Assumed Similarity

Near-misses are the bane of the translator’s life and work.

In the same way that a falsehood is more dangerous when it contains a large element of truth, terms or thinking that seem nearly similar between cultures create a very dangerous translation environment.

One handy example of this is the term ‘curse’.

What is a curse? What is cursing? Some people (especially certain pastors) are tempted to consult a dictionary to answer this kind of question. As a sometime lexicographer I have a healthy skepticism about the good that can do for this situation, Continue reading The Curse of Assumed Similarity

Don’t look back… but… Kirk Zero by 2037?

It suddenly dawned on me that May was coming round, and for most of the past 8 years that meant there would be some kind of trouble and rumpus regarding the Church of Scotland annual General Assembly. It’s actually a great joy to be able to put all that behind us now. Indeed, Phillip Jensen very helpfully urged us to stop looking over our shoulders and not let the persecution of the past control us (my paraphrase). But I’m afraid I still couldn’t resist wondering what was happening and whether the ‘Kirk’ was actually declining and falling into obscurity as rapidly as we expected it to do so.

IMG_0840So I had a glance through the latest reports and statistics and tried to piece them together when I found that someone (David Robertson of course) had already done a much better job. Continue reading Don’t look back… but… Kirk Zero by 2037?

When FieldWorks & SayMore installations struggle with a DotNet issue…

Several SIL tools like FieldWorks Language Explorer (Flex) and SayMore depend on the dotnet framework. (That’s a bit like Microsoft’s answer to Java.) Unfortunately it sometimes falls over.

So I found a rather handy blog post that explains what to do when you try installing DotNet 4.0 and it sits still for ages then responds with the less-than-helpful error message “.NET framework has not been installed because: HRESULT 0xc8000222.

It seems that a folder gets corrupted but that you can’t remove the auto-update folder until the relevant process is stopped. So, you really want to remove the directory %windir%/SoftwareDistribution but first of all you have to do this at the command prompt (net stop WuAuServ) to stop I guess an auto-update process which uses that folder. Then remove or rename the folder %windir%/SoftwareDistribution before restarting the relevant process (net start WuAuServ). Then DotNet should install.

Finally, restart your computer after installing .NET and before installing FieldWorks or SayMore. It possibly could work without you doing so but I haven’t had much success with that.