Category: Wishy-washiness

How to blow 1.6 million EUR

The University of Smallville needs to build a new student centre. The centre will offer services to students such as programme enrollment and exam registration and will provide a new auditorium, library, swimming pool, gym, etc.

On the 14th of September 2006, the University Board decides to initiate a project called MegaCentre for the new student centre, to which it allocates half a million EUR. The University has, among others, a Department of Architecture, a Department of Engineering and a Department of Facility Management. One might expect that the University Board would assign the management of MegaCentre to one of these Departments. On the contrary, however, the University Board assigns the management of MegaCentre to the Student Affairs Centre. The Student Affairs Centre forms a working group composed of a project leader, a project co-leader, a technical leader and two co-workers. Again, one might expect that someone from the Department of Architecture, Engineering or Facility Management would cover one of these roles. On the contrary, however, all members of the working group, except for the technical leader, belong to the Student Affairs Centre. The project leader and co-leader do not have specialist educations in architecture or engineering. The technical leader of the working group has an education in engineering but does not belong to the University. The working group spends more than one year and half a million EUR planning MegaCentre.

On the 13th of September 2007, the working group presents the plans for MegaCentre to the University Board. According to these plans, the construction of the building will be assigned to the external construction company Nonchalant, which guarantees the use of state-of-the-art construction techniques. Moreover, once the building comes into service, the maintenance will be assigned to the Department of Facility Management. The University Board accepts the plans and allocates an additional 0.9 million EUR to the project. Nonchalant spends more than one year on construction of the building, on completion of which it presents a bill of 1.1 million EUR.

On the 4th of February 2009, the building is inaugurated with due ceremony, after which it enters into service. Unfortunately, faults in the building’s design immediately become evident, with problems such as poor insulation, a leaky roof, an unreliable alarm system and poor handicap access, to name but a few. Both employees and students soon become frustrated. Again, one might expect that the working group of MegaCentre would demand Nonchalant to honour its contractual agreement, repair all faults and pay any necessary fines for damage caused. On the contrary, however, the working group simply allows the Department of Facility Management to deal with the faults as they see fit. The Department of Facility Management hires construction workers and assigns them to the repairs and alterations. The construction workers do what they can, but after one year many design issues remain unresolved. The head of the Department of Facility Management, who has an education in engineering, decides to perform a thorough evaluation of the building. On doing so, he discovers that the building is constructed with obsolete rather than state-of-the-art techniques, and that these would not guarantee minimal safety in the event of a natural disaster. Finally, he concludes that it will be necessary to reconstruct the building from scratch using appropriate techniques.

On the 29th of April 2010, the head of the Department of Facility Management presents the evaluation to the University Board. At this point, the University Board finally acknowledges that severe action must be taken and sues Nonchalant for damages, excludes the Student Affairs Centre from the project, hands the management of MegaCentre to the Department of Facility Management and fires the employees responsible for public money wasted hitherto.

Do you find this story unbelievable? Well, now replace the name Smallville with Bergen, MegaCentre with EksternWeb and Nonchalant with Bouvet, and reread it here.

Asus Eee PC 1101HA, Intel GMA500 (Poulsbo) and the shattered dream of the out-of-the-box GNU/Linux support

Do not buy an Asus Eee PC 1101HA or any netbook/laptop having an Intel GMA500 (Poulsbo) video chipset if you plan to run GNU/Linux on it.

Unlike Intel’s other video chipsets, the GMA500 is not developed in-house, but it is based on Imagination Technologies’s PowerVR, which is barely supported under GNU/Linux. The GMA500 drivers are so messy that it is even challenging to get the native display resolution. You can read more about how Intel is ruining its relationship with the GNU/Linux community on Linux Journal and Ars Technica.

I spent about 3800 NOK (460 EUR) to buy an Asus Eee PC 1101HA last Saturday. Now I cannot return it to the reseller. In other words, I am screwed.

La tastiera italiana come causa di un pericoloso malcostume linguistico

Ho deciso di condividere un articolo che scrissi nel 2007 dal titolo “La tastiera italiana come causa di un pericoloso malcostume linguistico“. Nell’articolo mostro come la disposizione della tastiera italiana favorisca l’uso della combinazione lettera + apice in sostituzione della lettera accentata. Pur non avendo una preparazione universitaria in linguistica, decisi di scrivere questo articolo come reazione alla trattazione a mio avviso superficiale dell’argomento da parte dell’Accademia della Crusca. Ogni commento è benvenuto.

Buona lettura!

Earthquake in L’Aquila

I would like to answer all the messages I have received asking whether my family and friends were involved in the earthquake in L’Aquila. Thanks everyone for the interest!

My family lives in Tortoreto, which is a small town on the Adriatic coast, about 100 km far from the epicentre of the earthquake. My parents were only woken up by the vibrations and spent the rest of the night in their caravan, but the distance was enough to avoid any damage there.

Many of my friends who live in L’Aquila, however, are without a roof now: the lucky ones are sleeping at some relatives or in hotels, the unlucky ones are sleeping in tents. At least all of them seem to be in good health and relatively confident about the future.

What makes me sad is to see the city where I studied for six years transformed into a sort of city of ghosts. I am sincerely sorry for all the victims of the earthquake. But I know that people from L’Aquila are strong, and I am sure they will manage to recover from this disaster.

í ed ú: perché l’accento acuto?

La norma di riferimento per l’uso degli accenti nella lingua italiana è la nº 6015 dell’Ente Nazionale Italiano di Unificazione (UNI), che raccomanda queste convenzioni:

  • Il segnaccento, nei casi in cui è obbligatorio, è sempre grave sulle vocali: a, i, o, u;
  • Sulla e, il segnaccento obbligatorio è grave se la vocale è aperta, è acuto se la vocale è chiusa.

Se l’accendo acuto <´> indica la vocale chiusa e quello grave <`> la vocale aperta, si potrebbe pensare che i ed u siano vocali aperte. Al contrario, i ed u sono vocali di massima chiusura. Questo vuol dire che la norma di riferimento è semplicemente illogica, perché non rispecchia la fonetica. Di conseguenza preferisco adottare una norma alternativa che raccomanda l’accento acuto sopra le vocali i ed u.

Se volete approfondire l’argomento potete consultare un articolo di Paolo Matteucci. Se invece vi state chiedendo come si possano digitare í ed ú con la tastiera italiana, vi consiglio di tornare sul mio blog presto… 🙂