Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Back after Xmas

Back again now :-) I went back up to my parents' house for the Xmas break, as per usual :-) It was a bit hairy making the decision of when to travel due to all the snow. Think my sister and I judged it about right, the roads were clear for us. Apart from slow people that is ...

Perversely again, I appear to have lost a little weight up there despite eating everything in sight :-) Could be due to healthy eating but probably more to being disciplined with what and when I eat stuff. Will have to break that habit later in the week with another pizza but not tonight as I'd drown while collecting it.

What did we all get ? I have an iPod upgrade, it's a 5th Gen iPod Nano so as well as holding all of my iTunes library (3650 songs of which 3350 are on the iPod) it also has curiosities of an FM radio, video camera, pedometer and a couple more features I'll probably never use. My sister got a compact Nikon camera, will be very curious as to how she gets on with that :-) Nan got a bracket for her telly which is now on the wall and my parents will be switching to a rather special telly soon.

We downscaled Xmas this year, think we've kinda got tired of it. Plus we all have the habit of buying what we want instead of keeping things in reserve for Xmas & Birthday :-) Or the toys that we do want are a leetle too expensive for presents.

Great food as always, with me fixing the techie stuff along the way to get the great music too :-) (dodgy headphones connector needed a fix ...) The telly bracket was "fun" to put up. We resorted to Power Tools. It should be a lot more stable now than it was on its stand, I nearly pushed it over a few times putting cables in ...

Back on Sunday, which gave a bit of time before Crazie Xmas Part-a-y on Monday evening :-) All the gang were there, RCA, Craziequeen, Cyberkitten, Family Aginoth and BionicDwarf. We operate a Secret Santa nowadays (to keep the cost and complexity down), with me getting the dvds of Star Trek (new one), Moon and Demolition Man. I'll be watching those sometime over this week while I'm away from work :-)

And I have something new to watch them on ! Been spending a little too much money over the past week and a bit. New laptop to replace the old HP I wasn't too happy with. Today saw the arrival of a Sony Blu-Ray player and a Samsung 32" LCD telly. Early days for those, especially as I'm waiting for a couple of leads to come through the post. I won't get the full benefit of the new stuff until the better leads arrive. I even have a bit of a cobbled together scroungy lead arrangement for the Blu-ray player. Looks good so far :-)

Will wait until the good leads arrive until I watch the first HD thing I've recorded on my V+ cable TV box (Day Of The Triffids). In the meantime, I've been enjoying watching England well and truly get on top of South Africa in the cricket. Will be recording the coverage tomorrow in anticipation of a Big Win :-)

Watching Avatar tomorrow with the Crazies, really looking forward to that :-)

PS I have pictures of the Before, During and 1st stage After with the telly stuff, it'll come on here at some stage :-) I have a bit more room rearrangement to do first though. As the LCD telly is much thinner, it gives me some good scope for moving things around a bit. I'm hoping it will let me put my 2 comfy chairs in usable positions :-)

Additional - I just put an entry on the techie blog about today's connecting up exploits :-)

Monday, December 21, 2009

We have snow :-)

And perversely, it actually seems a degree or so warmer than it was last week.

I had the instincts telling me that it wouldn't be worth me coming in to work this week, so I took a couple more days off. I reckon I know what they were getting at now :-) Instinct can be a very powerful thing, although it doesn't often talk language that we're likely to understand. With the moving around at work, I'm kinda in limbo too not wanting to really kick something off there before Xmas. I like to tie up all the loose ends before I move on from a place so I don't get distracted too much and moving before Xmas would have meant too much rush to get away clean like that.

Saying that though, there's a few amazing people in my project who I'd drop everything to help out if asked. I think they know who they are :-)

It's not much snow today, although at an inch or so settling it's enough to snow in those people who usually jump at the chance of a freebie day out of work. Possibly enough to build a snowman, will have to see about that later :-) I have a couple of pictures from last night that I must get processed and put on here ...

Which takes me to yesterday's bit of excitement. Got up, put the cricket on the telly and started up the laptop. It was suspiciously quiet ... My old laptop has been struggling for a few months now due to a failing cooling fan. Bit like the hamster wheel coming off its axle and making a racket. Well, I think the hamster itself gave up the ghost yesterday, so it was off to the local places to find another one.

Prices seem to have gone up since last year, although that could be due to me comparing with how little my old HP laptop cost me. Only £370 for a 17" laptop ... Think I know why now, HP used to be known for bombproof quality, as demonstrated by their printers and my more ancient laptop. That's suffered in recent years though, while it wasn't falling apart the build quality on the HP G70 left a lot to be desired. Aside from the fan, there were issues with how the laptop was put together. I also have one of their all in one printers, which has a faulty page feeder.

No more HP for me for a while ...

So what did I get ? Acer's Aspire 7540 was the new machine of choice. Bit more expensive than I'd have liked to commit too (especially with thoughts of new telly) but it felt like one of the better options in the shop. 17" screen too :-) With PC's, actual spec doesn't matter much alongside ease of use. Bigger screen and keyboard (the two are tied together on laptops) are far more important than a cpu that takes 0.9secs instead of 1sec. That said, there's always a minimum spec but you won't go far wrong if there's 2GB in a machine. It's a heavier machine too, feels far more solid than the HP.

Not so sure about Windows 7 though. It feels a smoother OS than Vista, looks like it eats less memory too. The memory gadget says 50% of memory is being used at the moment and I have the usual round of apps loaded. That'd be Messenger, Outlook, a bunch of Firefox windows, iTunes and Evemon. On the old HP, that would take up 60%. Both machines have 3Gb of RAM. It looks a bit nicer and the taskbar has seen some improvements (better after I figured out how to deselect the grouping of windows option!). Aero is a pretty interface, although it seems geared towards letting you see your desktop picture more.

Multitouch and gestures ...

Hmm. How to say this ? It's a bit broken and gets in the way. That's probably related to me getting used to them and how they are activated though. I'll do better when I discover exactly what triggers them. At the moment though, I think the OS looking for trackpad gestures tends to make the machine ignore normal clicks.

Until we get a fully functional neural interface for our computers, any form of prediction is going to make wrong guesses and I think that's what is happening with the Windows 7 gesture features. I'm quite close to turning it off, as keyboard commands are usually far more effective for things like Zoom and Pan. I get the feeling that a few Task Analysis Ergonomics "experts" have given people the wrong ideas on what features are actually used and useful.

It'll probably come into its own for large touch screens but I'm definitely unconvinced as to its application on trackpads. As is usual for me and IT, it'll have as long as it takes for me to either get used to it or get sick of it before it gets disabled. Put it in a table and get it working with a big TFT touch screen and it'll be awesome for gaming.

Liking the laptop so far :-) Although it took a few reboots and cooldown periods to get the data (iTunes library is now 15GB!!!!) off the old laptop. I actually gave up copying the iTunes from the old laptop as it wouldn't stay alive long enough, 3 cheers for "desktop backup".

Right - iTunes is currently going through the Kill Bill soundtrack, this Wall of Text has gotten long enough and I'm resisting the urge to play Mass Effect through again (it's waiting for new telly). So it's time to sign off but not before wishing people :


Hope you get lots of cool stuff, good company and that any travel plans you have don't get too badly disrupted by the white stuff outside.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Brr - cold

Holiday season soon and it looks like it could be snow :-) .

I've been getting feelings of deja vu going back to the snow we had here at the start of 2009. I was almost heading off to sleep, reading a book while listening to the radio. The emerging story was covering what was happening on the main roads in Devon and Cornwall. It was late, the snow had just started coming down.

The reports started with news of vehicles that were struggling to get up a rather long hill. This had the effect of starting a cascade, where the stuck vehicles caused obstructions for the vehicles following. In the end, I think 50-60 got stuck, unable to move on the hill.

Here's what thisiscornwall (link) made of it ...

It was a weird feeling listening to it develop on the radio. Thoughts included a bit of an evil "nice n warm in here :-)" but it was mostly the strange feeling that I was listening to one of those disaster movies developing, except that it was real life and real people instead of just fiction. Bit like watching a movie like Armageddon and being able to go outside and look upwards to see the asteroid the heroes have gone to put a nuke in.

Strange feeling. I got a fair bit of book read while listening to that.

Kinda getting it again, with the reports of impending Snow. The weather people say it'll be coming from the North Sea, which means the Eastern half of the country will get it worst. Where I live should get away with it, although it will be cold. Might be interesting driving across to my mum's and dad's place for Xmas though, as they live in the East. TrafficEngland says it's snowing about 15 miles West of where they live too.

It won't affect me getting into work, I'll be in tomorrow but then away for a couple of weeks. Definitely need to get away to rest, recharge and regroup before switching job early in the new year. I can usually hide any signs of sufferring but I tend to slip a bit when really needing a break. Like now, when I'm more rude about certain people at work than I need to be :-) I mean, come on ! If something new doesn't work, you should really read the information about New Thing before complaining ...

Mutter mutter mutter. And a few new people who I can quite justifiably call MUPPETs! Wonderful word that, it's completely innocent and can be used to describe all sorts of idiocy. And it's not a swear word too so you can use it loudly and often without getting funny looks.

Yep - we have a new toy at work that affects the whole team and we're already noticing certain issues with how its been implemented. We've got good people looking at it from our end, they'll be getting their shotguns out to attack the problems.

And with that, I think I'll be heading over to my desktop PC to start up another Settlers IV game. It won last night, which is a precedent that cannot be allowed to stand.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Party season

Xmas brings parties :-)

Work lets us have one afternoon to head out to a place to let us celebrate one more year of managing to meet all those challenges that we get set. It also lets us see each other without the Work Hats on, people can be a little different when they get out of the office ... Bit more relaxed.

Today was the turn of the Glass Boat in south central Bristol. Definite improvement over previous years :-) The Glass Boat is a permanently moored barge converted into a restuarant. Usually you don't expect too much from an Xmas Munchie but we were very pleasantly surprised this time around. Decent portions and very tasty food. Although I think they got word from last year's place to not put too many sprouts in play. Play being the operative word ;-)

Excellent conversation too. I was lucky enough to be at the same end of the table as Ms Sunshine and Lady P, with a few of the fellas from work there too. Picked up a few things to think about, plus I got the impression that this blog entry will very quickly do the rounds at work tomorrow :-) I can get into a circle where I drag myself down. Kind words always help to pull me up again.

Talking to people always helps with issues, other people can see what's going on in your head that you'd otherwise be blind to.

Hmm - current iTunes track : Sad Eyes by Bat For Lashes from the Fur and Gold album. Another spooky iTunes selection :-) Would love to be singing along to it but my bugs from last week are making me cough whenever any thought of Karaoke starts to strike ... That also meant I didn't stick around after the Glass Boat bit today, still not up to full strength after the bugs. Possibly a good thing too, as one of the ladies was saying how much she was looking forward to the dodgems ... I wonder if everyone will make it back alive ?

PS Think I may have to be a little more cryptic with the codenames I use for people, as there's another person at work who sees straight through them :-) I can still keep a few people guessing though :-)
PS2 I reckon I now have a codename for the Beauty Before Age lady mentioned in last year's Xmas Party post : Dodgem Demon :-)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thursday Thirteen - music again !

Not done one of these for ages :-) What better subject than to share what I've been listening to lately ?

1. The XX - On right now in iTunes is possibly the second best new music discovery for this year. Here's the one that kicked it off, Crystallised which was one of the best freebie Single of the Week's on iTunes.

2. Had my eye on this album for a while, here's Tori Amos with A Silent Night With You.

3. Not got this album yet but I can't see it being long before I have it :-) Lily Allen bemoaning that it's Not Fair. Made me grin :-) (explicit lyrics warning on this one)

4. Classic from 20 years ago - Suzanne Vega's Days of Open Hand. This one has been in my "to-buy" list for years, it's only a couple of weeks ago that I bought it and reminded myself just how good this album was. I've also got her latest album, Beauty & Crime, which shows off a voice that sounds just as good now as it did 20 years ago. Here's the opener to Days of Open Hand, Tired of Sleeping.

5. It's not just the women, here's genius composer Jean Michel Jarre with the 4th track of Equinoxe.

6. And a little more instrumental, I don't think I need to tell anyone what classic sci-fi series this instantly recognisable title theme belongs to :-) I've been listening to the soundtrack from the latest series.

7. While she doesn't get as much attention as some of the more distinctive singers, Norah Jones has a talent for making people feel more chilled, relaxed and happier with her songs. Here's Sunrise, my pick from her Feels Like Home album.

8. Not listened to this album for a little too long. Here's Natasha Khan of Bat For Lashes with the wonderful Moon and Moon.

9. Another of the old classics - I don't listen to Kate Bush enough cos of the massive amount of other stuff in the library. Here's one I listened to yesterday : Them Heavy People off The Kick Inside. One thing I really want is dvd copies of the concert and greatest hits which were on VHS quite a few years ago.

10. More classic 80s pop and an album I listened to on Saturday (iTunes remembers what I listen to). Kings of the Wild Frontier from Adam and the Ants.

11. Listened to Demon Days by Gorillaz last week, here's Dare.

12. Oh wow. This one just started on iTunes DJ, You Make It Easy by Air. Wonderful song. Not quite as good as All I Need but very, very close.

13. Little Boots ! Yep, she of the post a couple below this one :-) Saving the best for last. I've linked Remedy lots lately so here's Earthquake as something different. Definitely my pick for the best newcomer to the music scene this year.

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PS I definitely agree with audioamateur's "I want this as my wedding song" for You Make It Easy. Now just to find a lady crazy enough to find me interesting.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Where to next ?

Work's going through one of those spells at the moment where it gets picked up by the short n curlies and shaken about a bit ...

Which means that the people who actually do the work are getting a fair bit of disruption. Basically, the powers-that-be want to move people from jobs that they don't think can be afforded any more into jobs that are Top Urgent Must Do Yesterday type work. You've got people who will stay as they are, people who will have to fight for the same post as it's duplicated with someone else's and the people who need to find another project to work in.

I'm in the group that has to find somewhere else. Feelings ? Initial - shock, disbelief. I handle a few functions for our group that will still need to be done, so my work is going to need to be redistributed amongst the other guys. (1st "what the hell?" thing here - note the work still has to be done, yet the post is marked "no longer required").

However, that initial shock and disbelief (shared by my boss and his boss) is passing into a more Philosophical mode. I've been in the project for almost 10 years now, which is a Very Long Time where I work. It's been a good run but it probably needed a kick like this to dislodge me. It's a fun project filled with great people but knowing I'll be out of there soon has come as some kind of relief. Plus I had a glimpse of what was around the corner and wasn't particularly impressed.

And what's been highly amusing is seeing a few senior people in multiple organisations start waving "What are you doing????" flags after hearing I'll be on the way out :-). I grabbed a task a couple of months ago, shook it up and turned it into a process that was coordinated, controlled and was working. Now that process will have to be taken on by other people. I've done that in a few other areas as well. I'll do what I did in graduate days, which is to tidy up as best I can when I move but there's always legacy differences.

It's the Knowledge factor that's most serious though. The post duplication and post cancelling means a lot of Knowledge will escape from a lot of projects and it's often there that the loss is most felt. I'll still have a few contacts left in where I am now, so I'll keep checking in to see how things are going. The sad thing will be that some of them will also want to escape but will be locked in because people in my position will get grabbed first.

Not gone yet though, it'll take another couple of months for the escape tunnel to get dug. One of my contrasts though is in how I deal with Change. I'm not great at initiating Change, in fact I have a lot of personal "inertia" that makes me resistant to doing things differently. Sure, I'll happily make things up as I go along and refine a process until it's Shiny but changing the way I do things, lot of resistance there. However the contrast is that when I need to Change, I like to get it out of the way as quickly as possible. (Lol - so I can settle into a new rut ? :-)

It'll be a very strange place over the next couple of months though, as the organisation settles into a new look.

What helps when heaped with uncertainty like this is how the various people react to it. It's kinda like a Gallows Humour, where the ones on the way have greeted the news with good humour. We're thinking of having a little Support Group, suggesting that it would be the Millwall club after their "No one likes us, no one likes us, no one likes us, we don't care" football chant drew a chuckle :-) There's definitely a bit of a "we're all in the same boat", which reflects how close knit the workerbee level in my team has been over the years.

So we're all wondering where we will be in a few months. Hopefully I'll land in somewhere that gives an interesting technical challenge.

Thought I'd save the last word for someone who has helped more than she realises over the last day or so. One of the things I'll be remembered for is an infectious inane grin that tends to get even people in really dark moods smiling. Today and yesterday it's been me in the dark mood, with it being lifted by another person with an infectious (but not inane!) grin :-) I'm quite jumpy, I'll look around to see who's walking up the corridor and then I try to look away quick as to not stare. It's tough to look away though when you see a face light up with a big grin, you can't help but respond in kind :-) And a smile is always good for the soul.

Actually - that last para could refer to a few people I know at work but I'm thinking of one particular little Angel there :-)

Time to get back to listening to music and maybe a bit of the Internet SpaceShip Game too ...

PS I'll also be remembered for the PowerSneeze. Wonder how long it'll take my next project to get used to that ! A remark from earlier was "Oh, that was a big series", with my response being "Nah - that was light sneezes, I didn't see stars that time"

Additional - blog admin comment : I've removed the Daily Puppy as I've noticed it had grown advertising. I'm getting nuffin for that ad so it's GONE !!!!