bookmark_borderQuick wins

At work I have a laptop running Windows 7 and every lunchtime, as I lunch away from my desk, I lock the machine.

Except what I should do is pause iTunes, set my IM status to Away, and then lock it but I forget to do all that most days and just bash Windows+L.

However, I’ve found two small, free, applications that will now allow me to do all that with one mouse gesture, specifically it will pause iTunes, set my IM status to Away/Idle, mute the laptop speakers and turn off the screen.

Hot Corners handles the mouse gesture (and allows you set to other actions), and MonitorES handles the media player, IM and screen actions.

Simple and effective.

I do like it when things just work.

And yes, I know the Hot Corners idea is a direct lift from OSX but they wouldn’t buy me a MacBook… 🙁

bookmark_borderGood Morning, Mr. Phelps

Your mission, Jim, should you choose to accept it.

I need an alarm clock. To remind me to go to bed.

No, seriously.

Midnight creeps up on me, sneaks past and drags 1am with it all too often. It must stop.

However, being a … geek/nerd/dork/saddo … I would like a nice solution to this problem. Namely a little software based (Windows) alarm clock that:

  1. Minimises to the system tray – yes I know there are applications that will do this but that means running ANOTHER application just to run an alarm clock!
  2. Displays a custom popup message – if it happens to support different messages per day then fine, but no biggie if it doesn’t.
  3. Does not require a sound file to be played – if I’m working late at night I don’t have speakers or headphones on.
  4. Supports daily alarms, discarding days that have passed – I don’t want multiple alarms popping up because I didn’t turn on the PC for a few days (like Outlook does).
  5. Is free (or

So far I’ve found and discarded:

  • 1Time which fits most of the criteria, except you can’t minimise it to the system tray, and it doesn’t popup a message just re-opens the timer window. Handy for countdowns though, as it displays the remaining time in the system tray.
  • Citrus which minimises to the system tray but doesn’t popup a message (sound only)
  • TClock – which I already use to display the date in the system tray, but which doesn’t popup a message.
  • Windows own Task Scheduler – purely because it’s clunky, and takes too long to get at to change.

I’ve Googled (for “windows ‘silent alarm’ software message popup” and variations thereof), searched LifeHacker, Ask MeFi, and NoNags, yet still cannot find a decent application.

I have found some clunky old Windows 95 era stuff but.. ewwww ughlee…

So, you have your mission, do you choose to accept it?

As always, should you or any of your IM force be caught or killed,, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This tape will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck…

bookmark_borderLunching with the diva

Of the pixel variety.

Always good to meet a fellow blogger, and as we’ve “known” each other for several years (before she was a diva in fact) it was extra special to spend a pleasant lunch in the company of pixeldiva herself. We chatted about all sorts, as us eclectic bloggers are known to do, and my lunch hour (and a half) came to a close all to quickly.

One topic we did discuss was you lot. Not ALL of you, obviously, but the core group of bloggers that I’ve been visiting for years, commenting, and emailing (with the occasional IM thrown in for good measure, you do have my MSN details, don’t you?) and, as I stated as we headed out into the Glasgow rain, I should really try a little harder to get “dahn sarf” to a blogmeet or two. I was toying with putting together a list of “bloggers wot I’d like to meet” but that may turn into a vanity exercise and I’d hate to assign an order to such things. Suffice to say that all of them are listed on the left (down a bit) and they probably know who they are.

Other topics covered: how to spot a room full of geeks, the flats they are building which will have a view over one of the most hideous roundabouts in Scotland, the joy of having parents read your blog (and no I’m NOT gonna expand on that one!!), weird flatmates, the amazement of being recognised by your peers, and … knickers (not mine, and I just realised that I forgot to ask what colour Ann was wearing, presuming she was wearing some of course…).

Top stuff, a pretty good lunch and all in the company of a lovely, smart, bubbly lady.

bookmark_borderLooking back

Being a good writer, a good communicator, is a skill. Being able to form sentences and paragraphs, structure a topic so it flows well and makes sense are not the only skills required to being a good writer. Neither are good grammar or spelling, although they are generally the first things people notice and so, whether you like it or not, they can reflect on what you are trying to say.

No, being a good writer is finding a voice, a resonance with your audience. It’s something few blogs manage well, with even the most popular blogs being popular largely for their content than they way it’s written. Of course you can’t separate the content from the writing, but each has an effect and a pull on each other, and we humans have a tendency to level out the stuff we don’t like and balance it against the stuff we do. If the content is great and is what we are looking for we’ll stumble past the badly formed prose, likewise if the content is eloquent we’ll suffer the subject even if it’s not completely to our tastes.

The reason I mention this is that, as I’m still working back through my archives – on which there is a second question, to delete or not to delete – I find that my writing style has changed quite dramatically, and is far more an indication of who I am than I previously realised. Similarly, having been looking at old versions of this site, the sites I visited back then all stand out as having the same mixture of both a distinct voice and superior content.

And so, as I continue to ponder the whys, wherefores, and whatnots of this site, I wonder what my voice is, what it is about the way I write that makes people visit, or is it more about the content than the voice? A quick skim through the past couple of months and it’s easy to see the posts that have attracted the most comments, but harder to see if that collates with the posts that attracted the most views (for I have no way to tell that, yet…).

I always find looking back both educational and entertaining and, in keeping with my current “site mood”, I’m also thinking back to when I joined my current company. Almost six years ago it was, and there are only four people left from those days (technically there are a few more as, since then, we’ve merged with a sister company) soon to be three. Today is her last day and it’ll be odd for her not to be there on nights out, or at the end of a silly flirting IM trail, no longer will I have a late night accomplice for post party heart-to-hearts and foot massages. Time stands still and all that.

On that melancholic note I’ll stop, grab a coffee and wander over to see what’s been happening in the Big Blogger house (my awful poem withstanding).

bookmark_borderNot this but that

I had thought of 23 different things to post here by 8.30am this morning. I’ve forgotten each one. Instead I’ll give you a transcript (a small snippet) of a discussion I’ve just had on IM (the names have been changed to protect the innocent – I’ve ALWAYS wanted to say that… hmmmm what ever happened to M.A.R.R.S.??):

Donalda Bint: Am learning to drive, learning the drums and am trying to treach myself turkish
Gordon: tell me, how do you play the drums AND steer at the same time?
turkish drum driving is a sought after skill
so why Turkish?
whim is a terrible thing
blown by the winds of whim
in the direction of turkey
whim. not only a great word but something everyone should give into from time to time
it is a fine word – especially with a scottish accent, because we pronounce it “whim” whereas here in england they pronounce it “wim”. And that is more German film maker than innermost arbitariness
ahhh but “wim” is apt though, given mr.wenders propensities to the more fanciful artefacts of life
(I wish I knew what I meant there)
true, but I bet he pronounces it “whim”
the “wh” gives in a whimsical and “will o’ the wisp” like feeling
very rare linguistic sound the “wh” apparently
doing any whimming yourself?
see when you say it like that it just sounds dirty
yeah, got told that by a linguistic tutor – because it is basically breathing more than sound
heh heh heh
yes, but wimming sounds worse
depends on your accent…. u wimmin are always up to something…
turkish drum driving for example

We go on to discuss vowel karma and the Scottish approach to it (any one will do), and using colours as a filing system for people (including “drab”, “bowfin’ peach” and “dreary orange”).

Life? Who needs one of those?

Working at home, which is just as well as I feel bleuch. Surprisingly not hungover bleuch, but ‘fighting off a cold’ bleuch. How many Vitamin C pills are you allowed to pop in a day?

Ohh and huge, embarassed, apologies to everyone who I was in contact with last night. Be it a comment left on your site, an email, an IM or… ehhh something else… I would like to point out that I was quite happily tipsy and didn’t mean any offence. Well I might have meant offence but as I can’t recall who I conversed with I can’t be sure that I didn’t mean to offend. Capisce?