Sunday, November 22, 2009

In the zone ...

It's been a long time since I was "in the zone" on a personal project. The zone I am referring to is the developer zone not Twilight or Phantom. This is the zone where you start coding and then are amazed that many hours have passed when you next look up.

The project I've been working on for the past few years has had it's ups and downs. The past 12 months have mostly been downs. Something changed recently that reinvigorated my relationship with the project, that change was finally getting a great design.

Three years ago I implemented the first version based off some old design documents the team had commissioned but never implemented. That was tough, without the original designer around to fill in the blanks as needed, but I got through it and the project was still fresh and exciting. The next phase was a redesign triggered by underlying changes in the information model and the closest thing I had to a design was a suggestion that it should be "like the BBC site".

That work dragged. Every step of the way I was having to think about design, implement assets and tweak stuff on the fly with no overall look and feel guidance. After about the 50th time I suggested it the team finally got a professional designer in, though after the horrible made up design had gone live to little joy.

In 6 pages of PDF Paul produced something that both looked elegant and fitted the IA beautifully. So for the past couple of weeks I have spent my spare time "in the zone" implementing the html and css statically and loving every minute of it. By the end of the month I will be done with this phase and will then implement the design on top of the existing backend code. I can't wait.

Without the drag of a bad (or no) design weighting me down the implementation in code will be quick and also allow me to tidy up some of the code issues I have been meaning to get around to for ages.

Most startups realise the benefit to their users of a great design, but the benefits to team morale are not often mentioned. Right now I can safely say they are just about the most important thing that could have happened to this project. Oh, the redesign also give me a chance to move over to jquery finally and that's another pot of fun all to itself.

Monday, March 23, 2009

New week, new fun

Finally this weekend I feel like I have caught up with life. Started a new phase on work projects, deadlines far off. Hit a happy point with a couple of personal projects and I'm ready to move forward with some others.

Now if I can just win at rolling tomorrow night ...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Monday, February 16, 2009

If you wonder why developing a new rocket is complex and expensive ...

People often wonder why developing the next generation of human rated rockets is so complex and expensive. I think the latest edition of The Big Picture from the Boston Globe answers this well. The sheer scale of some of the infrastructure, no matter the development of the multiple rocket stages, is amazing.

Whether you agree with human spaceflight or not, you have to be impressed by the engineering on show in these images.

I also have to recommend The Big Picture site generally, their collections of images from the various wire services and freelancers often show the many sides/faces of a story. Check out their coverage of both the Obama campaign and the Inauguration as examples.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Geeking weekend preparing for Snow Leopard ...

While this weekend has involved great geeking with my Macs it was preceded by far more geek thought and concern. I blame it on/credit it to a couple of podcasts that I've been listening to for quite some time now; Adam Christianson's MacCast and The Mac Observer's Mac Geek Gab. I never used to worry about loosing data or machines getting fried from nearby lightening strikes, but a couple of months ago it began to creep into my nightmares.

You see, I"m a hoarder of data. I have the results of high school chemistry experiments, still have all the different versions of my final year degree project. Every CV I've had to write is still there, along with the letter of application for a years placement at CERN (I have the rejection letter in a file on a shelf somewhere too). However I always had a backup strategy of holding multiple copies of this archive on multiple PCs.

Then I moved to the Mac, and for a while I still had the drives and some of the PCs holding my archive, but eventually it just came down to bare drives that hadn't been used for years. I grabed myself a USB Drive adapter and copied the whole archive onto my iMac. At that point I had one single copy on one single drive. Then all I would hear in my head were the horror stories written in to the podcasts I mentioned. The constant advice of having multiple copies of everything.

When I upgraded to Leopard I bought a Maxtor 500GB external drive for Time Machine, which I thought should be enough to cope with my internal 300GB drive. After 3 months it start erroring on account of the fact that it was full. Time Machine dutifully started deleting old copies of things and I began to worry again. Finally I caved and bought a 1TB WD MyBook drive for Time Machine and then bought a copy of SuperDuper! to use the Maxtor for a bootable clone of my main drive.
Finally my mind could rest about only having a single copy of my data, I could handle 2 potential drive failures. At last restful sleep ... but of course not. My mind moved onto the next possible crisis, fried computer and all 3 drives(!) from a power spike, triggered by both the podcasts and the, getting more often, small power failures in our area. After a good search and taking advice from KC I've settled on the APC Back-up ES 700VA.

But that is for next month, this months tech concern is about the imminent release of Mac OSX 10.6 Snow Leopard. For those that don't know, and are interested, there is quite a large set of unknowns about this next release of OSX. Apple has stated that it will be primarily an update to the internals of OSX, with few new visible features. This is a platform for future releases, but as such is almost certain to be an Intel only release.

Traditionally Apple removes the previous version of OSX from sale when the new one is available. If this happens with Snow Leopard then what are those people who have yet to update their PowerPC machine to Leopard to do? This was my concern, we still have the little iBook G4 which Carly uses a lot.

Of course, and I'm sure that this is no coincidence, Apple has recently released the new versions of iWork and iLife and made them available in a set with Leopard, the Mac Boxed Set, at an incredibly reasonable price. All together this works out really well, I'm a version behind on iLife and 2 on iWork. So I got the set, iLife and iWork for my iMac and another Leopard license for the iBook.

Before installing Leopard on the iBook though a little surgery was required, it only had the built in 256MB of RAM. A quick order from the wonderful people at Crucial, and a 1GB chip was in my hands (1.25 GB being the max on that machine). Using the instructions from iFixIt the installation was a breeze, and I finally figured out a use for OSX's CTRL+Mouse Wheel screen zoom (instructions on the 24" iMac across the room as the printer is out of ink).

While Leopard was installing I installed iLife and iWork on the iMac, now all is good. A great geek weekend, now I just have to wait till next month and the APC UPS and maybe I can relax ...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Another day, another coffee ... or 3 ... or ...

GeoTagged, [N51.49327, E0.14871]

I think best with coffee. All of my good ideas can be traced back to a coffee moment.

Today I've been in an email conversation with Craig who is bored at work. Ended up describing an idea I had for stupid comedy show. An idea from 10 years ago.

It raised it's head from my the back of my mind because I was listening to the Propellerheads album Decksandrumsandrockandroll which 10 years ago I had on heavy rotation. On my MiniDisc player!

Way back then that idea had come to me during my morning coffees at Ostbahnhoff in Munich. I stopped there on my way into work each morning. Haven't thought about that place in a long while.

It's been nice today, through the medium of music, coffee and conversation, to be transported to 10 years ago. Happy times and happy memories.

There was so much foul language ...

... from me on the lanes, directed at myself of course. Looks like Rogue is back on form, although he still needs another win to take him back to the top in the 4 week moving average.

Read them and weep/sigh/cheer depending on who you are.

Weekly 3 Game Average

4 Week Moving Average

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Bowling scores at last ...

Here they are. After too much time away we finally arrive at 2 new bowling graphs.

Weekly 3 Game Average

4 Week Moving Average

With getting on for 2 years of data in them the graphs are becoming a little confused, I hope to do something about that pretty soon.

In the meantime be amazed at how Rouge and Onepin have been fighting for the weekly win and how I've bounced all over the shop but generally just gone downhill :( ... till next week of course ;)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

2009 ...

I started 2009 with a plan. I was going to clear the decks of outstanding tasks and move on to new and exciting things.

Now, 3 weeks in that's all out the window. Some how I've ended up gathering lots of new tasks I didn't really count on. You might think that I should have expected this, but really most of these were not things that you would ever plan for.

At a time of credit crunch I have managed to be placed on 3 projects at once at work. These along side 3 internal projects. My main full time client work is also extending each time we talk to our client.

On top of that there are 3 personal projects each requiring some time.

All of this is sitting in my task list far ahead of the other, less familiar and therefore more interesting, things I want to get to.

It's time to sort all of this out and re-plan my year. So here and now I say to myself that by the end of the week I will have got my head straight and plotted a course to sanity.

I will have gotten ahead of the plan at work and effectively delegate that which can be.

I will have moved into the next phase of personal project 1.

Finally I will, by next week have sorted out our bowling score graphs! Only then could guilt be remove and sanity return.