Some of these might be a bit of a mystery to anyone who lives beyond the borders of Civil Engineering, but shall I say that they're technical software packages.
I have a copy of AutoCAD 14 on my little laptop. This is a very old version of the program, and was probably the release used by Noah in the preliminary designs of his ark. Newer versions of AutoCAD and the increasingly popular Civil 3D won't run on my little laptop, a device that has enormous difficulty with Photoshop Elephants (version 2 - how quaint!) because the disk drive is nearly full and the machine is approaching a decade old.
I checked online for Civil 3D and AutoCAD, and was very alarmed at the cost, and also the rather demanding specification of a machine that would run them. Further alarm, then, when I saw how much a suitable computer would cost.
At this point, I had an epiphany: AirMiles.
I've been slavishly presenting my AirMiles card at every possible transaction for many years. In fact, because I started with AirMiles Qatar, it must be over ten years, and those miles have piled up. Beloved Wife has been contributing to the same account, and by using credit cards for everything except petrol, I had managed to amass approaching a million of the things. AirMiles wrote to say that in 2013 there would be a session of "Use 'em or Lose 'em" so there was now some pressure to buy something expensive.
Such as a new computer. The eMax shop does direct exchange of AirMiles. I was expecting to have to apply for vouchers, await their eventual arrival by mail, and then go into the shop to be told that there were terms, conditions, restrictions, and all that other stuff in the small print.
I was really over the moon to learn that eMax exchanges AirMiles for toys at the face value of 14000 miles to AED100, which is the same rate as for gift vouchers.
So it was extremely gratifying to come away from eMax last evening with boxes containing a new and powerful laptop and a second monitor, all for an outlay of less than AED50. And I even have enough AirMiles left over for a bean-grinding espresso machine (but I don't actually want one of those because I'm a fan of the moka pot). Hilariously, no-one in the shop really seemed to believe that I wanted a home computer for work-type stuff; they all seemed to think I want it to play Gears of War or Skyrim. Hey, I don't even play Solitaire or Minesweeper. Honest.
The delight fell over once I got home, when I discovered that AutoCAD 14 won't run on a Windows 7 64-bit system. At least Photoshop does. And I fortuitously remembered that my Office 2010 had one remaining licence, so I'm up and running with a full version of Office too. Apparently AutoDesk doesn't support their software running under the all-singing, all-dancing Windows 8, so I think I'll stay away from Microsoft's latest operating system pro tempore.
Now, Civil 3D and AutoCAD 2012 remain an expensive proposition. I wonder if the nice people at AutoDesk would let me have them on the extremely cheap? It is only for training and non-commercial use. I have a demo version, but that's only good for a month.
The plan, then, is to devote time at home with a powerful computer and a big book of "AutoCAD and Civil 3D For Dummies" until I'm an expert. I may be some time.