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My test...

After my worries with the test, it came down to a multiple choice test on-screen. Twenty questions, twenty minutes.

I did it in five minutes and got four wrong. An effective score of 80% (I should get extra points for speed), but you can't really test something like that with a mere 20 questions!

  • What is the process of splitting a harddisc into logical parts?
    I answered "partager" because I remembered a program with a name like "Super Partager Pro". I figured "partitioner" was too obvious and possibly a faux-ami. I'm a twit. Chalk this one up to a mistranslation.
  • What command do you need to enter to see your host name and its IP address?
    I answered "gethost" but it was probably the "gethost/all" option, I guess I gave Un*x too much credit for telling you useful stuff, that gethost might return just the hostname (without IP address).
  • What command to you enter in Uni*x to see where you are in the directory structure?
    Never needed it. I know "ls" so I guessed "ld". Oh well.
  • And the fourth question...
    ...was something about what the smallest group area of a disc is. I answered "secteur" but I think the correct answer was "cluster" (in retrospect, isn't "secteur" the French word for the mains?). In any case, I feel this is a trick question - I have only ever seen "cluster" written in ancient DOS manuals, who uses that terminology these days? It should be tracks (sometimes cylinders when referring to harddiscs, as the data density differs so 'tracks' can be a bit arbitrary) and sectors; as is evidenced by floppies being measured in "tpi" and also by the CHS addressing used on harddiscs before they got too big to be addressed in that manner.
    Now show me something real that quotes its dimensions in clusters. The harddisc in the A5000 doesn't. It's a Maxtor 7540AQ. It says "Cylinders 1045 Heads 16 Sectors 63" (they're almost always 16 heads and 63 sectors these days).
Other questions were not so difficult for me - what's an input device (webcam), what's the IP address of localhost? (, what's the HTTP port? (80)

So now I know I need to brush up on Linux commands (yuck) and my translations.


Maïze revisited

Somebody wrote to me to express a degree of disgust at the farmer paid to grow a crop that will fail. While this may be a sorry state of affairs, please don't blame the farmer. Blame the suit that said "put the corn here", as the farmer isn't too happy about things either. But he gets his orders from a higher source, and this is like a game - play by the rules or get thrown out. If anything needs to change, it should be the power of the suits. Surely the best person to know how to make best use of his land is the bloke that farms it day in day out.
It must suck to be a farmer.

Want more? The rumourmill suggests that the EU are looking to cut down on the rest periods in crop rotation in order to provide a higher crop yield. Instead of growing for three years and resting for a year, they can just put down some chemicals to 'feed' and 'balance' the field. How long will this be sustainable in the longer term? Isn't this sort of farming practice that caused the dustbowl?

A little history lesson. There are grades of farmer in France, starting with the most lowly:

  • Paysan(ne)
    This means 'peasant'. It can have the negative connotations, or not. Depends on how you say it. This is a bloke who doesn't own his own land, may not own his own house, who farms other people's land.
  • Fermier
    A literal translation of 'farmer', is a person who keeps a bit of livestock, might farm a field most likely for feeding the livestock. No big shakes, is closest to a "smallholding".
    Those fermiers who maintain larger amounts of land don't own the land. They rest it, or farm it for the owner.
  • Agriculteur
    Bloke who owns land and either farms it or gets somebody else in to farm it. There are probably subtle grades depending on whether you work your own land or pay somebody else to do it.
  • Eleveur
    A raiser of animals. Pigs, cows, etc - usually on a pretty big scale.
  • Exploitant / Exploiteur
    A sort of hybrid of eleveur and agriculteur. The word 'exploit' does not have the same connotations as in English, for example an "operating system" is the "système d'exploitation".
This is all a bit muddled these days, as with field sizes and yields going up and the age difference between old farmers and those who are younger, a lot of farmers not only own land, but also rent vast tracts from others. Couple this with the enterprise (en-terr-pree-ss, not a starship) which hire themselves out to do 'big' work, like crop sowing, harvesting. It makes sense to have a company share a harvester instead of every farmer having a massive and expensive machine that'll be used three or four days in a year! They don't own the land they farm, but they are certainly higher up the ladder than a peasant.

Our neighbour raises a couple of thousand pigs to "porcelet" (I think? about four months old) plus farms around 80 hectares (two thirds of which he owns, a third of which is rented). He covers both arenas so he is an exploiteur. But even being a big important man like that, he still has to put up with some wally saying "put corn in here".


Today's word...

Today's words, yes there are two, are principle and principal. Both are said like prin-si-pul, and they tend to be confused.
A principle is a belief, a moral. You might say it is against my principles to eat food which had a face.
A principal is the capital, the head. The principal city, the Principal of a school. A principal reason for doing something. Victoria Principal... well, almost. ☺

While we are on the topic of commonly confused words, can people please remember that the word fazed exists, for example I wasn't fazed by the weather. The word is not phased.


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