Month: June 2007

(i)Plodding along

Struggled out for a run last night, bloody freezing it was, and had my first ‘confrontation’ with a small, slightly angry looking dog. Looked a bit like a pit bull to me so I gave it a wide berth, hoping that my day-glo yellow top would scare it off. Thankfully it only stood and glared at me, for if it had given chase then it would easily have caught me and had a nice juicy leg to chew on, during which I’d be trying to decide whether to try and kick it with my free leg, or just enjoy the rest…

Speaking of rest, the ‘rest’ of the gadget blogs out there need to give this whole iPhone thing one, it’s getting beyond a joke! I’ve been using Daring Fireball to ‘track’ the goings-on and there has been a right old mix of interesting posts, and downright shoddy reporting. But I won’t mention it any further here because…

Ohh indulge me for a moment please.

The iPhone DOES look very very smart and I can see me owning one in the future. I am currently HATING my Samsung, and wish I’d never moved away from the smartphone (Windows Mobile) models. Seeing how well the iPhone handles email and the internet – two things I THOUGHT I didn’t need on my phone as I was trying to simplify my life – makes me sad and angry that I’m stuck with my current phone for another 10 months!! ARGH!!

However, I most certainly will not be getting the current version of the iPhone, for one reason and one reason only. You can’t remove/swap the SIM card. You see I’ve always had contracts for my mobile phones but my usage pattern fluctuates quite a bit and I’m toying with going PAYG in the future… or certainly looking to get a more flexible contract. As such I am also considering buying a handset outright and then I can swap my SIM/contract as and when I like.

That’s the plan anyway.

Dammit, I wasn’t going to talk about the bloody iPhone… oh well.

~

Well done the Edinburgh Evening News for posting only “good” news yesterday. Apparently “readers would find only uplifting and positive stories.”

I think other local city papers should follow their example, as the Edinburgh Evening News thought that local MP Alistair Darling being named as the Chancellor of the Exchequer was good news (good news for HIM I guess), and, and this really is the icing on the cake, they also made sure to report the good news of the drop in the number of new syphilis cases in the city.

Bravo Edinburgh! Syphilis free by 2010!!

~

And finally… tonight we are off out to Yen Rotunda for some teppenyaki. My previous review is still listed on their website, so maybe it’s about time I claimed my free drink. Spookily enough (this one is for my mother) it’s exactly two years since I was last there. Here’s hoping it’s as good as I remember.

Selling your services

Might seem a bit of an odd topic for a tech author who is employed, as opposed to contracted to, a company, but someone made this comment in passing and it kind of struck a nerve as it applies regardless of your current position. We all have something to sell.

It took me sometime to develop enough business-savvy to realise that, despite knowing that doing X instead of Y makes more sense for my users, and my team, business decisions and the drivers behind them don’t always work that way, and sometimes you have to take some pain before getting to where you want to be.

A lot of authors I’ve worked with in the past that share that mentality, are usually now managers, or senior writers or whatever the next step up our career ladder happens to be, so from my limited experience, I’d suggest that it makes sense to understand the business impacts and opportunities available, and how you can sell the services of a technical communications teams to the rest of your organisation.

There are some obvious things to try, and looking at how your marketing department are selling the product is a good place to start. But I’m curious to hear if you have tried anything in this area, and if so, what worked for you?

Brain dump

Here are a few thoughts that I should really expand into unique single posts but which currently lack the time or desire to do anything with.

Wimbledon is upon us. It’s a simple enough game, and that very simplicity does appeal to me and whilst watching Tim Henman finally beat Carlos Moya yesterday, I found myself wondering how it is possible that the dimensions of a tennis court, which as far as I know haven’t changed for … 60 years? More? … still seem to work.

The players, in general, are faster around the court, and hit the ball harder and faster as well. So how is it possible that the size of a tennis court seems ‘just right’ in the present day. It’s not too large, and not too small, yet the players and the technologies they have at their disposal SHOULD surely be making it seem that way?? I know there are limitations on the racquets and the balls used, but even then…

How is it possible that the size of a tennis court, decided many decades ago, is still right? It’s most perturbing.

~

Apparently we are all idiots. We must be. Why else would a blog post that suggests that a good way to be organised is to have “a place for everything” be deemed useful?

I have to wonder at just how badly the education systems are failing of we are now passing off common sense as ‘useful information’. Yes yes, I know, I know. Not everyone ‘has’ common sense, and sometimes reminders of simple things are good. But… come on. It doesn’t take much of a leap, does it? Or am I being an education snob (again)?

~

Being honest is very very hard. Often it may come across as being arrogant or uncaring, and I have to admit that I’ve been following the ‘hoo-haa’ surrounding Mike Arrington (of TechCrunch) with a weird mix of feelings. You can track back through what happened here, but it’s more the way that Mike approaches things which fascinates me.

As someone with a bit of a temper (ohh yes, I’m not always the mild-mannered janitor) reading how Mike reacts to things like this always produces a kind of car-crash effect. I LOATHE the way he handles things and, frankly, as a well educated adult he should learn to hold his tongue, and count to 10, before posting. BUT. That style has won him fans for being honest about things, and that part of his style I do secretly admire. If he thinks you’re an asshat, he’ll post “You are an asshat”. He won’t try and soften the blow, he won’t pussy foot around with scenarios or any form of disclaimer, he’ll say what he thinks right off the bat. If he’s wrong, he’ll admit that and patch things up.

Admirable? Partly.

~

Catching up on my TV viewing last night, in particular the Journey of Rock documentaries. Heavy Metal was first up last night and from that:

1. They stopped at Metallica, sometime around the mid to late nineties. Is that because there isn’t a dominant ‘metal’ group around at the moment, and if so, why is that? Vague side thoughts about the rise of the internet and the decrease reliance on the charts to find new music, so more bands get more ‘air time’ on more home stereos around the world?

2. Bruce Dickinson (of Iron Maiden fame) popped up to suggest that the reason their first hit single (Run to the Hills) was so popular was because it was the same as My Way by Frank Sinatra. OK, technically it’s because they both use rising sixths but it caught me off-guard a little to hear a Heavy Metal band talk about musical theory. No reason why they shouldn’t of course but.. still.

The second documentary charted “stadium rock” from Led Zeppelin to U2 and got me wondering… who will be the next big stadium rock band? If you remove the current ‘behemoths’ of U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters and Green Day (grouped because they also get commerical radio behind them), and also take Radiohead out of the mix… who is left?

If anyone suggest Bon Jovi I’ll punch them in the elbow.

~

Merlin Mann over at 43 folders is getting fedup of all the hype surrounding the new Apple iPhone. I have to agree that it’s getting a little ridiculous, although all you need to do is step outside the Mac focussed websites and it all goes quiet….

In saying that, having watched the 20 minute demo video that Apple released.. well… it surely looks like a very good product. That in itself is quite something, leaping headlong into a huge marketplace, which already has some seriously big players in it, AND producing something that will rivial rival (beat?) most of them? Quite an achievement.

And the best quote as to WHY there is such a buzz (found via Daring Fireball) is this one from Michael Mulvey: “The iPhone is the floating car we imagined we’d be driving in the future.”

Which in turn reminds me of this Threadless t-shirt.

And I’ll stop there or I’ll never finish this post (because THAT T-shirt reminds me of this one, which takes me to Matt’s site and on to a video clip of an airplane landing at St.Martins and… on and on annndd onnnnnn).

~

Almost forgot. I love all my readers, sincerely I do. But please, PLEASE, I can’t vote for ALL of you in the Big Blogger house!!

How does it know?!

In preparation for painting on Sunday, I filled the iPod with a random selection of ‘general listening’ music, or as Louise said “I hope you didn’t just fill it with your crap…”. As it turned out it was a pretty good selection, even if we only got through 108 of 784 tracks..

Fast forward to last night, I dash into the house, change into my running stuff, grab said iPod and dash back out the door (big dark clouds, and I wanted to try and remain slightly dry you see, yeah yeah I know, I’m a big wuss). I jump in the car and head off to the park and I’m halfway there before I realise that I’ve not changed the music on the iPod.

Oh well, nothing for it now, I think to myself and head off on my run.

First track, Take it Easy by The Eagles; “Well I’m a runnin’ down the road, tryin ta loosen my load..”. I laugh a little to myself.

20 minutes later, right after a large hill, Robert Palmer, Addicted to Love: “You’re runnin’ at a different speed,
Your heart beats in double time… Your throat is tight, you can’t breathe”. This time I grimace along, ironically.

And I actually think that, gosh, how ironic.. and that gets me thinking about.. bloody hell, the very next track.

I almost stop running in shock.

Weekender

And just like that, I’m back at work…

My family came over on Friday night and off we headed to a local hotel (Avonbridge) for a birthday dinner for Louise. Great food, shockingly bad service. We didn’t even bother staying for dessert, instead grabbing some Equi’s on the way home (Equi’s is a local ice cream parlour who make THE most delicious double cream ice cream… if you are ever in the area give it a try).

Saturday and with Louise off out visiting babies, I did some work, caught up on some of the Glastonbury acts, did a little painting (still finishing off the hall, with everything taking at least one more coat than we thought), did a little shopping and generally pottered around, drinking far too many cups of coffee. An excellent Saturday.

I picked up the new White Stripes album and, partly through word of mouth, impulse bought Justice’s album Cross. Both are ace for entirely different reasons. The latter is.. ohhh probably called Electro-dance-pop or somesuch and is hugely catchy, the former a return to form for Meg and Jack White (a recent article in one of the Sunday papers hinted at such). I’ve still to listen, in any depth, to Alison Krausse and Calvin Harris.

I also installed the Firebug extension for Firefox without which I wouldn’t have been able to finish www.bobzyeruncle.com for.. eh… Bob. But I did, and I’m glad that he likes it.

Sunday and my original plans of lazing about doing feck all were altered slightly and I spent most of my day, either precariously balanced on a slightly wobbly set of ladders, my head about 13ft from the stairs on which they were perched, or walking out along a plank of wood perched between the top stair and a rung on said wobbly set of ladders, whilst painting a stairwell ceiling and walls. I’m not a big fan of heights (or more accurately, not a big fan of possibly falling from said height) so it was more than a little stressful. Being tall has downsides.

And the real kicker is that it wasn’t even our house! We were helping out my sister-in-law who has just had the inside of her entire house remodelled. Her living room is bigger, she’s had a downstairs loo installed (sorry “cloakroom”), the bathroom upstairs is now twice the size, new stairs, and every wall in the living room and stairwell was replastered. Needless to say there was a LOT of painting needing done and it’s times like these when family really count. We arrived about 10.30am, and by 6.30pm we’d completed the whole place, two coats on most walls, three on the ceilings.

We left completely and utterly knackered but with a healthy glow of satisfaction beaming from our faces… or perhaps that was just the fine spray of ‘amber dusk’ from the roller.

How was your weekend?

one man sells?

My ‘other’ site holds brief details on my little side job stuff, which is mainly focussed on web design. I’ve just finished a website (with another on the way) and it’s nice to get that little glow of achievement. I deliberately choose small projects, and it’s fun to take what I learn there into my day job as a technical writer.

Taking the lessons I’ve learned over the past couple of years whilst “running” one man designs, which is in essence a small business, into my dau job has been interesting. Treating a small team of technical writers as a distinct business makes sense on many levels. One I hadn’t really considered in great depth was marketing the services of the team, selling what we do to the rest of the company.

I guess I’d considered it an educational function and, once educated, everyone would (somehow) know to get the technical writers involved with their project, or introduce the latest functionality to them. Of course this is never the case. Now, don’t get me wrong, I knew this but just hadn’t really considered it in great detail before… what with being busy, you know, writing stuff. 😉

So how do you approach this kind of thing? Do you hold meetings, talk to the other team leads/managers directly? How do you “sell” what you do?

In my menubar I have…

OSX Menubar

Last Mac specific post for a while, promise.

So, from left to right then:

  • InstantShot! – with which the screenshot was taken.
  • YouTune controls – play, next and the down arrow gives access to all the functionality.
  • iScrobbler – Last.fm app.
  • Google Notifier – which checks my GMail account and my calendar (with a Growl script used to provide notifications).
  • Aurora – an excellent little alarm app.
  • Slim Battery Monitor – which … well you can guess, right?
  • QuickSilver
  • Built-in Airport icon, currently connected to my home network and not one of the two open networks I can see from my house (not to mention the four secured ones!)
  • Built-in Volume icon
  • MagiCal – which is displaying the date and time.
  • Built-in Spotlight icon

Links for all can be found here.

Since posting that screenshot though, I’ve realised I don’t actually need all of those up there and have removed InstantShot! (which was only running to take the screenshot), Aurora, QuickSilver and the Volume icon. Much cleaner.

Happy Birthday

It’ll be quiet here today as today marks the occasion when my beloved wife moves into her ‘mid-thirties’. Ohh I’m gonna pay for that one…

Happy Birthday darling. I love you more than I have words to say, and considering the amount of words I throw about on a daily basis I guess that’s a lot…

To everyone else who is celebrating their birthday today, many happy returns.

To everyone else for whom today is just another day, why not treat yourself a little, or tell someone that you love them. Although it’s probably best if it’s someone you know, and not just some random stranger wandering past you on the street…

On my Mac I have…

My first OSX screenshot

As promised.

In no particular order, and having installed several application “just to try” I have whittled down my must-have OSX apps to the following. I’m pretty sure these, although it’s early days yet, will remain on my Mac for quite a while, particularly as I’m happy with things and the only stuff I’m still mucking about with is stuff like the desktop background and so on.

Update: The wallpaper in the above screenshot can be found here.
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5km and Nike+

I’ve created a new category for these posts, it’s about time I think…

Anyway, completed the jogScotland Glasgow Green 5K tonight, in a 29 mins and 18 secs!! Woooohoooo. My private aim was under 30 minutes but given that I was still a little leg heavy after Sunday’s 10K I was doubtful I’d manage it, but I did!!

Last kilometre almost killed me mind you but hey, I’m still alive and feel vibrant. What a buzz.

The downside is that, given that this is a popular race (around 2500 entries I think they said) I am pretty sure the distance is accurate. Alas my Nike+ thinks I only ran 4.6km. I know it’s never going to be as accurate as a GPS system but it was only out by 100m on Sunday, yet tonight it’s lost .. ummm.. fractions were never my strong point.. let’s just say that it’s lost a ‘fair percentage’ of the distance I ran.

Of course I’ve yet to actually calibrate the thing properly, but to do that I need to find, ideally, a 400m running track and apparently Hamilton boasts only one and that is fenced off and locked up most of the time, and even then I doubt it’s going to be in very good condition from I could tell from peering through the gate.

Still, an new PB for me. This running thing could catch on you know…