April 29, 2003

Sacking via SMS!?!?!!!

Smart Mobs reports on a guy being sacked by SMS! Mad! I mean, I'm all for new ways of communicating, but some things are just best done face to face. Given the vertiable cornucopia of communication mechanisms available today, people should stop and think "which is the best mechanism to use" before choosing the one which is easiest for them. Something I'm trying to do these days....

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April 27, 2003

New Personal Best... Just!

Well, the rowing continues, and I've just done a new PB for 6k.

24m20.0s, a huge 0.3s faster than my previous PB :-) so I'm now ranked 127th of 166.

And it pulls me back on target for the 300km challenge - just, the predicted end date is 15th May exactly. Only 42km to go...

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April 26, 2003

Silly house prices

I know, articles about how much houses are now are everywhere these days, this is more of a comment about the price of my house.

I don't usually bother about house prices too much, I mean, at present I'm only likely to be looking to buy a bigger house in the future (not that that'll be anytime soon) and they'll have gone up by even more than my house has, so there's little value in having my house's value go up, but two of my neighbours houses are up for sale at the minute (and no, I haven't had any loud parties recently :-p) so I was just curious about what they're up for.

One of the semis across the road (3-bed, no garage, not sure whether it's much different in size to mine) is going for 175,000, and next-door (mid-terrace rather then my end-terrace, no garage, but 4 bedrooms actually) is going for 178,000. So I reckon mine should be worth about the same, which is well over a 50% rise in under three years. I'm so glad I'm not trying to find a 150k+ mortgage to buy one...

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Blue sky, bright sun... and snow?

It's a lovely day outside - blue sky, sunshine, and snow falling in my back garden. Or maybe it's cherry blossom from next-door's cherry tree... but it looks like snow from where I'm sat - slightly surreal, but quite cool.

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How to become an alpha male

Kind of as a postscript to the previous post, I thought I'd post a link to the articles that introduced me to Halley's Comment, the How to become a an alpha male lessons. A very interesting and enjoyable series, although of course I was already an alpha male and was just checking to see if it was correct..... ;-)

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I made my bed this morning

Just read Halley Suitt's article about Making Your Bed - I have wasted sooo many days like that over the years.

Today, however, has been virtually the opposite! Despite going out clubbing last night (and so not getting to bed at all early), I was up at 8am for some reason, I mean, I had a lot I wanted to do, but it's not that I dragged myself out of bed then, I was just ready and happy to get up then.

So I was in town just after 9, posted Andrew's jacket back to him (after he left it in Milla on Monday), bought a few bits and pieces, and got some panniers for my bike (woohoo, no more sweaty back from my rucksack!), and was back home by 11 (having fitted the panniers in the shop so I could transport them home)!

I'm only usually surfacing that sort of time on a Saturday. So it's twenty to four, and I've got that "I've been really productive" high :-)

Here's to many more days like today, and many fewer when I struggle to make my bed.

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April 25, 2003

How slow am I?

Well I finally got the pictures from my dragracing debut posted.

It was a good laugh, and getting Milla on the strip was a bit different. Unfortunately, they ran out of helmets when Robbo registered, so we had to share one between us - which meant we couldn't go head to head. However, given my performance, that's probably a good thing :-)

Most of the excitement, and nerves are in the build up, and start, and the first run it all seemed to be over before I'd realised - I was concentrating on getting staged properly (there are two sets of lights which show you when you're properly lined up with the timing beams) - I over-ran a little and had to reverse, and then once I'd got that sorted out the lights seemed to go straight to green without doing the amber in between... I didn't get enough revs at the start, so bogged down, and it was all over by then really...

Second time out, I was a bit more organized. The marshalls confused things a bit - I was lined up against a tuned Renault 5 GT Turbo, but then they got us all to pull aside so they could get some of the hot rods through, which looked like they'd run first, but then they decided to let us go first after all! I got called through, but no-one followed, so for a bit I was concerned that I was stuck on the strip when I wasn't supposed to be... then the MR2 Turbo that was behind me came through and I raced that instead. I had more time to prepare for the start this time, but still didn't use enough revs - I was better off the start, but not as good as I could've been, and then didn't change up into second quickly enough and hit the limiter... D'oh!

I have found a way to get much better starts now though. I just need a Fiat Uno full of grinning passengers with their thumbs up to be sat next to me! On the way back down South, this Fiat Uno pulled up alongside, with the passengers looking over at the car, grinning manically, and holding both thumbs up, just at the point where we got to a roundabout... So it was rude not to... ;-) And I got my best start of the day! Although it did smoke the clutch a little bit, shame I hadn't done that earlier on...

The results are now up on the York Dragway website...
Robbo's results
My results

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Managing wireless interruptions

This article on wireless email from silicon.com (I think registration might be required, but it is free) discusses some of the pros and cons of being always connected. It mentions the advantage of silent mode allowing you to get that important message from a customer, or wife, etc. whilst in a meeting and then discreetly respond/excuse yourself/whatever, but also points out that you get increasingly interrupted with trivia and so reduces your productivity or concentration in the meeting.

This is an area of mobile devices that I've long though could be improved, and maybe sometime I'll look into whether I can develop something for smartphones that does this - for now I'll just rant about it on my weblog instead :-)

What I think mobile devices need are a more advanced set of profiles, and an easy way to switch between them. My Sony Z5 is excellent at switching profiles - when the flip is closed, pushing back on the thumbwheel lets me spin through the four profiles, so it's easy to switch to silent mode when I go into a meeting/theatre/cinema/whatever, and just as easy to switch back afterwards. It seems to be a bit harder to do on this Nokia 7650 I've got to play with - if the keypad is locked I've got to unlock that first, then press the on/off key, then move to the joystick and scroll down to the profile I want - just that bit too cumbersome for me to do quickly as I switch modes, and it needs to be a trivial operation.

The reason I think switching profiles is important is that the phone isn't the focus of my attention when I'm switching profiles - I don't want to use the phone for the task I'm doing, I'm just giving it some more context to what I'm up to.

You could argue, and I think everyone I've ever seen mention things like this does, that the phone could know when you're in a meeting from your calendar information. Am I the only person in the world who doesn't live their life by an online calendar?!?!! Sure, some of my meetings, etc. get into my calendar, but most don't, so I need something that makes it easy for me, the user, to switch profiles too - if the phone also switches profiles based on my calendar info then that's an added bonus, but it needs to be that way round, and not the other.

Anyway, now that we've got a way for me to easily update the phone (/mobile device) with my current context, we can get onto the interesting bit :-) It should be possible for me to define my own profiles, which allow me to choose which message/calls/interruptions are allowed to actually interrupt me in any specific profile (all numbers, just those in my contacts, just contacts X, Y and Z, etc.). As a further enhancement, it should be possible for there to be a dialogue between the caller and my phone - so, for example, your wife calls, and the phone answers the call because you're in your "in a meeting" profile - it then gives her the option (either with a "press 1 for blah, 2 for wibble" voice menu, or by popping up a dialog box on her phone) of overriding the profile to still interrupt you, so she can decide how important the message is.

The difficult bit in all of this is making the UI easy enough to use to define the profiles. And I must admit that I haven't worked out any answers to that, other than thinking it would possibly be better to allow them to be configured off the handset - but that's just part of a separate UI rant of mine about using PCs as a peripheral device to improve interaction with my phone (which isn't to say that it shouldn't be possible on the handset, it must, but if it's easier to do initial setup on something with a big screen, a proper keyboard and a mouse, then that option should be explored).

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April 24, 2003

I fear I might be watching this

Going through my server log looking to see if anyone is interested in me (how sad am I... at least I'm nicely relaxed on the sofa in the lounge, the joys of WiFi and a laptop :-) I came across a referrer from a website that had picked up on my link to www.dynamicobjects.com...

So that means that there's another page which will give me the people who've linked to me!

At present it says "Ouch! No results found". Expect much whooping when I notice my first linker :-D

Posted by Adrian at 11:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 23, 2003

Google rank

I must be getting sucked into this blogging lark... after Russell Beattie told of the GoogleDance last month (basically the reindexing of Google) and wanted to see if he was the number one Russell, out of curiousity I did a search on "adrian mcewen". I've done it before, and not really featured anywhere, but at the minute I'm number 3 of "about 5090" :-D There's a long way to go before I'm the number 1 Adrian though... I don't feature on any of the first 50 pages.

McFilter is number 2 of 224, which is quite cool - I didn't know if it'd have been indexed yet.

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RSS feeds

On the off-chance that anyone reading this finds my weblog suitably enthralling that they want to keep up to date with it... ;-)

There's an RSS feed of this site, but that's only useful if you know what to do with it *grin*

The problem I always had with weblogs was that I can never be bothered going back to a website every few days (or every day) to see if anything new has been posted. It just seems to be a stupid way of working - I'd much rather be notified when something changes, so I couldn't see what all the fuss was about with weblogs...

Then, Jon Udell posted about nntp//rss, which takes a number of RSS feeds (basically just an XML version of a weblog) and makes them look like newsgroups, so you can use your favourite newsreader to read weblogs. Now that fitted in with how I work, my email client is always open, and new postings appear as new messages in the newsgroups, so I don't have to check for new messages by hand. Finally I "got" weblogs. nntp//rss is definitely recommended.

Plus nntp//rss comes with a decent list of default blogs, so you get a jumpstart into the more interesting parts of the "blogsphere". At some point I'll get round to adding a blogroll (list of the blogs I read) to my blog, but that'll need some reading up on Movable Type.

Another way of reading RSS feeds is to use Spaces, which I've been meaning to try out sometime but haven't gotten round to yet (if anyone else does try it, let me know what you think)...

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Photos from York...

Not my photos from yesterday, but for those who can't wait, here are Mark's photos of the day, which are actually a much better selection than I've got...

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Photos from the weekend's trip to Wales

Well, almost caught up with my "online life" after the long weekend. I've just finished uploading the photos from the camping trip to Snowdonia onto my website. Watch this space for when the ones from the York "Run What Ya Brung" get posted...

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April 22, 2003

Art and technology

Vodafone commissions artwork to display on a mobile phone. Cool! I love the idea of linking technology with art. For ages I've wanted to commission artwork on PC cases - show that they don't all have to be beige boxes. Like BMW did with the art cars.

Technology doesn't have to look dull and uninspiring!

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Hmmm... do I still want links to "the Evil Empire"? ;-)

This list of MS bloggers says "Know any more Microsoft (past or present) employees who have blogs? Send the links to www.mswatch.com and we'll add them to our list."... well I could nominate myself and Andy...

Posted by Adrian at 10:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A _very_ Good Friday

An excellent start to the Easter weekend. Glorious weather, and plenty of time for my road trip over to Snowdonia.

Traffic wasn't too bad, plenty of albums queued up on the Empeg player and my first sightings of the new TVR, a Lancia Stratos, and two other Integrales improved the long motorway trek to Shrewsbury where we dropped onto A- and B-roads for the rest of the journey...

Milla and I had excellent fun improving our overtaking skills through the Bank Holiday traffic, and even more fun when blatting along the B4410 and B4085. Welsh B-roads and 3rd gear.... Mmmmmm... :-D

Then six hours after we set off, we reached the campsite, in the shadow of Snowdon, and next to a reservoir. Very picturesque and nice, but two toilets and three showers weren't really enough for the two fields-worth of tents...

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April 15, 2003

26.2 miles is a long way!

Especially if you're travelling under your own steam. It took me 2hrs 11m to cycle that far on Sunday - only a couple of minutes under the new women's world record to run the distance...

Still, I was doing it because I've been helping my friend Jess to train for the London marathon recently, and she was running down in London on Sunday too, in a very respectable 3hrs 45m.

She even got her picture in the paper, and has raised £1000 for local charity Romsey Mill.

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April 14, 2003

Better UIs Apple could produce...

I can't remember who pointed me at this... I opened it over the weekend but only just got round to reading it. It's an essay arguing what Apple should be doing with UIs.

I'm still unconvinced with ideas about voice UIs, mainly 'cos I can't imagine an office where people talk to their PCs, but integrating the phone into the computer to enhance that would be good.

I like the idea of showing more attributes in files, making them thicker as they hold more, and making them age, and replacing the mouse with a tablet or something to allow gestural input - I guess we might get this as a by-product of the MS Tablet PCs...

This guy has some very similar thinking to stuff I've been pondering over for a while now.

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Is that your final answer?

Well, the decision was made on Friday. Maybe I need to look into moblogging too, seeing as posting stopped over the weekend when I wasn't sat in front of my PC all day :-)

Anyway, back to the dilemma, "security", or life in Cambridge won out. I started the new work this morning. It's been quite an interesting day.

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April 11, 2003

Security or dreams?

Why is life never simple? ;-)

I have a dilemma. One that any other time this week I think I'd have killed for. Having spent the week on a downer as finding some work was looking difficult (for those who don't know, I'm currently in early stages of my start-up, and looking for some contracting to ease the cashflow during development), I should today be hearing from a friend about some work he wants me to do, and then I get a phonecall from another company about the work I interviewed for with them a few weeks back.

Which would be cool. BUT they don't want me as a contractor, they want me as a provisional permie. I guess they know how useful I'd be to them, so would like me permanently, and I'd be cheaper.

I guess things stack up like this...

Work for my friend:
+ It's a contract, so I'd still be operating as my own company
- It's only for a couple of months (my current estimate is ~2 months work, although their thinking is that it'd be less)
- It's in London, meaning a 1hr+ commute each way, on crowded trains, plus no football/ultimate frisbee in the evenings :-(

Work for the other company:
+ It's in Cambridge, so I'd be around for football, etc
+ I could cycle to work
+ Initial 3 month contract, with option to extend to permanent
- Option to extend to permanent
- Permanent rates
- Wouldn't be working as my own company

Technically (i.e. knowledge/skills I'd gain) both things are very similar. I guess the real stickler is the pay. It's not quite the "security vs. dreams" I alluded to in the headline, as I can always leave the permie job when I've finished developing my own stuff, but it would be nicer to do the work under the umbrella of my own company.

Well, I guess it'll have been decided by the end of the day, seeing as that's when I have to get back to them...

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April 10, 2003

You are in an open space...

...around you you can see . Or something.

More ways to waste time... now I can find webpages that are geographically relevant

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And then there were three

Just got an email from Mark to let me know that Sarah is looking a lot thinner now ;-) Baby Jacob was born on Tuesday morning, 8lb 5oz and they both came home yesterday.

Woohoo! Congratulations Mark and Sarah.

Posted by Adrian at 11:28 AM | Comments (0)

April 09, 2003

I'll try to keep it in mind...

"One of the reasons we close our eyes to our potential is that we know, or fear, that achieving it will be hard work, that we will most certainly have to emerge from our comfort zone. And so, we resist the pull of possibility. In writing this, I can hear the words of my yoga teacher: 'Where's the resistance, feel the resistance, be with it, send your breath there.'" says Chris Carling in her latest newsletter.

I'll try to keep that in mind at the minute, seeing as it feels like I've set up camp outside my comfort zone...

Posted by Adrian at 04:45 PM | Comments (0)

Interacting with small devices

Dan Gillmor's post Making More of Handhelds reports some interesting things from a big HCI conference about UIs on small devices

The fish-eye view over calendar info looks interesting, although I think it'd require a touchscreen to work properly (still not sure about touchscreens - I tend to agree with the MS Smartphone team that a lot of phone interaction is done one-handed. I guess if I only needed to use the touchscreen for the right tasks, where I didn't want to do it one-handed then that would be alright, but then it has to be natural as to which tasks used which mechanism...)

I don't like the peephole window, horizontal scrolling is just too intrusive, but looking at using the orientation of the device, and movement of the device is something I've discussed with others before - nice if someone can get it to work but it has to cope with different orientations of the user too, I'm going to want it to work still if I'm lying down using it as much as it does when I'm stood up...

Posted by Adrian at 04:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack