Month: February 2009

Where would you live?

I’m off out tonight to have a few drinks with an ex-colleague who is about to head to Merika, for life (well for a while at least). He’s sold up, got his paperwork in order and he, his lovely wife and their still new son will fly over to Texas and setup a home and life there.

It’s an intriguing thought, leaving the UK permanently and one I’ve toyed with a few times. Some times I think it would have to be an English speaking country with Australia and the USA being the main candidates, with Canada not far behind, but occasionally I harbour desires of heading somewhere completely alien to me, where I don’t know the language or culture and really jumping in at the deep end.

Birmingham, perhaps?

It would be a big step but in many ways it’s no different from changing jobs or buying a new house. Obviously the scale and implications are different but ultimately it’s a mindset thing. If I was of a mind to do it I would’ve already. So I’m presuming I’m not.

But then wanting and desiring something like that, something that is a ‘big step’ and quite scary when you sit down and think it all through, is one thing. Doing it, is another.

A few of the blogs I read are by people who have done just that (Fuddland, Little Red Boat, Autoblography, and Plasticbag for example) and I really do admire them hugely for it.

Ultimately I guess I’m either a coward or at some point I’ll run out of excuses to NOT do it.

So, if I rock up at your door in San Francisco, New York, Adelaide, Sydney, Toronto, Wellington or anywhere else outside the UK, do be kind. No doubt I’ll be a complete nervous wreck!

Sharepoint and the IPMM

I’m currently part of a cross company initiative (started at the grassroot level) that is aiming at improving our product based information, making the messaging more consistent and ensuring that our customers hear get the information they need, at the time they need it. This is from Marketing down through Sales and into the product documentation itself.

Everyone involved understands the benefits and can see the potential we have if we take this approach. Ultimately it should decrease the information silos across the company and make sure that duplicate content is kept to a minimum. It’s fair to say that, at present, our company is at Level One (with Level Two pretensions) on the Information Process Maturity Model:

“Information developers work independently, designing and developing their content in isolation from other developers in their organization.”

The common aim (and at this point I’ll point out that I’ve not mentioned the IPMM to anyone else yet, but have had it in my head as I helped start the initiative) is to get to Level Three which seems like a good place on which we can build further in the future. Level Three states:

“Information developers are encouraged to form teams to plan, design, and develop content regarding the same product or process. Opportunities for sharing content among deliverables increases because developers are more aware of the content being created by their colleagues. Developers frequently form self-organized teams to jointly produce a result.”

The good news is that, purely because some of us are already talking about the product information, there are other people starting to consider doing the same for other areas of information.

However there is something that will block us and that is the age old problem of document management, and yes the title of this post hints at what we are considering using to help us solve that problem.

The nature of the information we will be producing is very document-centric as a lot of it is written with mind to handing it to a (potential) customer. Currently there is likely to be a small group of people who will be authoring the content, and we had considered using our SVN repository to provide versioning and access control. We’d then publish the documents to a central location on the network.

Still not ideal but, given the current economic climate, it was a free solution for a grassroots level project and we all agreed it would be better to prove our approach was correct first before going cap in hand to ask for funds for a document management system (there are other reasons we shied away from that solution of course, administration and maintenance being one of them).

Then, by chance the other day, one of my colleagues mentioned that he’d just gotten in new MSDN discs and license and he spotted something called SharePoint and “hey, isn’t that something to do with documents? Can you guys use it at all?”.

After rolling my eyes a little (I thought I’d broken that ‘you are the document guys’ mode of thought already!), I realised that yes I could use it, and that it might well be ideal for our cross company initiative.

And so it is I come to find myself reading up on SharePoint installations, configurations and usage. My first port of call will be Tom Johnson but if anyone else has any good pointers please leave a comment.

I’m not entirely sure if it will meet our needs but, if nothing else, it’ll be good blog fodder. Consider yourself warned.

Purging

There is something very cathartic about have a good clearout.

I’m not having a good clearout at the moment, nor a bad clearout for that matter, but I have been slowly whittling down ‘stuff’ for the past few months and everytime I tackle another little batch I do feel very pleased with myself.

By nature I’m neat and tidy. I’m not quite so bad that everything must be in an exact place and I’m more than happy to just bung things in a drawer out of the way, but I do like my minimalism and with that is a need to keep clutter down to a … err … minimum.

I’ve no grand plan in place for any of this instead I’m taking the opportunities as they arise. This evening, whilst hunting for my Microsoft Office installation CDs, I found myself elbow deep in a big plastic box of computer paraphernalia and my inner “declutterer” kicked in.

I now have a bag of software CDs (all crap, the stuff you get installed on a Dell and which I immediately uninstall), a variety of USB cables, an ancient web cam and three power adapters for items which I no longer own. At least I don’t think I still own them, truth is I may never have owned them and just inherited the adapters from.. somewhere…

In the midst of all this I was checking the printer cable and realised that when I got the printer (a year ago?) I neglected to remove the previous power cable. So, for the last year, whilst I’ve been struggling with getting enough power sockets in this room, all along there was a plug that was plugged in to the socket but which had nothing on the other end. Doh.

The next question is what to do with this bag of random computer ‘stuff’. Whilst I could eBay off each individual item the hassle would outweigh the profit (I reckon if I got £10 for the lot I’d be lucky), charity shops don’t take electrical stuff usually so… bin? Really?

What a waste. Surely there is some way of recycling these things? (and no, not Freecycle, again not worth the hassle!).

Anyone got any ideas?

Wanting to change

Over the past few months I’ve been slowly trying to change some habits, trying to break the patterns that led me to be on the computer until the wee small hours doing nothing particularly productive.

And it seems to be working.

I’ve cut down on the number of websites I visit on a regular basis, be they work or play related, and I now find myself with almost a natural time limit of how long I want to spend on the computer. By removing distractions and some websites that I still visit for no other reason than “I always have” regardless of the fact that they offer me nothing other than sapping my time (I’m looking at you Neowin forums!), I can feel my natural “ok, bored now” reactions kicking in much sooner than they used to.

This is helping me free up my time to do other things, as well as making my time on the computer more productive (I’ve currently got two websites in design phase, breaking a rule for ‘one man designs’ only because one is for sister!).

Now all I need to do is stop filling my newly found free time with extended bouts on the PS3. One step at a time!

In all honesty, part of me is just happy that I am able to change these patterns as it means I’m not quite so deeply ingrained in my way of life as I’d thought. It can be easy to fall into patterns that were ok at the time but no longer have the same benefits (or the same reasoning behind them), so whilst this post doesn’t hold anything particularly revelatory, I am quietly pleased with myself.

This is not change for sake of it, this is change for the better and that’s always a good thing.

Muscle memory

As I slowly transition my home computing setup towards Mac OSX, the main thing that is slowing me down is my lack of knowledge around the keyboard shortcuts.

Having used Windows for so long now, many of the keyboard shortcuts I use are now deeply ingrained and I my fingers find the correct combination effortlessly. Whether I’m moving a window (Alt+Space, DOWN cursor key, then cursors keys to move), minimising all windows to get back to that file I’ve left on the Desktop (Windows button + D), then restoring them all again (Windows button + D again), or just the basics of CTRL+V, CTRL+Z and so on (Cut and Undo, if you were wondering) the bulk of my time on a Windows computer is spent without touching the mouse.

However, on OSX I’m still heavily dependant on the mouse and that is beginning to become an issue as it’s stalling my productivity. I’ve found plenty of guides to help me learn them but as my day is spent on a Windows machine, I’m finding the nightly transition to OSX still causes me some grief.

My brain isn’t helping at all, as it currently equates “laptop” with “OSX”. Which was fine up until last week where I got a laptop at work, and I know finding myself in a quandary as the Command key on my MacBook (used for cutting and pasting in OSX) is where the ALT key is on my Windows laptop. That’s been fun, with (seemingly) random menus appearing when I’m trying to cut and paste text!

I’m persevering though as it took me many years to get to the level of efficiency I have with a Windows machine, so I know it will take time and the fact that using the Mac is sooooo much nicer than Windows makes it all worthwhile.

Although I’ve still to try Windows 7, so maybe that will change too…

Twats. A rant.

RANT 1

Dear Person in the car in front of me.

I’m sure you are very very important and that you must get to work with as much haste as possible, god forbid you waste even the briefest of moments on your journey. However, see all that snow pilled up on your car? No, you probably can’t as you are too busy peering out of the porthole you’ve cleared for yourself on the windscreen.

Well all that snow, pilled up on the roof and sides of your car, is currently dislodging and showering the people driving behind you. Twat. I hope if you have to brake suddenly, and given you can’t really see the road properly I’d say there is a good chance of that happening, that all the snow on your roof doesn’t’ suddenly slide down and completely obscure your view.

Or, you know, perhaps I hope you veer off the road and remove yourself from the gene pool

/RANT 1

RANT 2

Work for a bank? Been budgetting based on your bonus? Isn’t that the opposite of the advice you tell us “idiots wot kno’ nuffink about money”? Twats.

The slow burn of bile started on Sunday morning when Darling stated that the bonuses being paid out to banking staff would be looked at to make sure they aren’t too high.

Not, “Bonuses? Are they mad? We’ve just given them taxpayers money! Screw their bonuses!!”.

Twat.

I’m really really sorry for all those people who work in the banking sector, the people in the branches who didn’t really have much say in any of this*, but the fact remains. The banks fucked up, they went along with schemes they neglected to understand or knew to be unworkable (I’m still not sure which is worse), so why the hell do ANY of them deserve a bonus?

However, undeterred I’m going to be approaching my boss this morning. Unfortunately, having not fucked anything up my chances are slim.

/RANT 2

Ohhhhh, that feels better.

* I’m aware that people working in a branch will have worked hard and be on a bonus related scheme. My problem isn’t with them.

I went for a walk today

The childlike wonder is written on his face, the gentle corners of a smile and wide-eyed fascination. He watches the magic float and dance before him, cosseted and warm, whilst long slender tendrils tease at the folds of his scarf.

His face upturned to the thin grey canvas feels vibrant, singing the easy lyrics of the breeze, wafting from chorus to chorus. A tender moment, a subtle and shallow movement is all he can see, as deep within him something stirs, a memory dislodged on the wind.

He knows what this is, he knows why and how this happens yet the wonder it conveys, the soft and transculent nature has him spellbound. The tiny crystals shimmer, pulling his focus this way and that, a sprinkling of wonder on an everyday postcard.

Lost to his memories he breathes in the sounds, hears every one and a million others from times gone past. He is now and then.

The taste of the air, the tang of cold fills his lungs as the glorious dull ache throbs at his fingertips. He glances around and watches them fall, each one doomed, a shattering moment of beauty all they can offer. He watches them fight the onrushing ground, shifting and pirouetting on the breeze, desperate to be noticed, to be seen.

And still the sparkling magic falls, glinting shards marking each tiny story as they knit together, cleaning everything they touch. The light builds and builds, crisp, brilliant, dazzling, as everything is washed white, virginal, pure and untainted.

He breathes out and watches his breath float away, and all around him the snow falls.

I do not fit

I like minimalism.

When I see homily clutter I like it.

I like rock music with big heavy guitars.

When I hear quiet melodies over plucked strings, I’m entranced.

I prefer curvy, buxom women.

When I see a petite girl something stirs in me.

I like order.

I’m happiest in the midst of chaos.

I am tidy and orderily.

When I see litter or mess, part of me is taken with it.

I am punctual.

When others are late I envy their abandon.

I like things to match.

When I see clashes of colour, I revel in the impact.

I see beauty where it is obvious.

When I discover hidden beauty my heart explodes.

I do not fit.

Or perhaps the box is just the wrong size?