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Archive for April, 2006

That bloke off the telly

So there we were earlier in the week trundling through one of the churches of the Swedish flat pack furniture gods when a familiar face came into view. Now I have to admit I’m not a big fan of Hollyoaks but you’d be hard pushed not to recognise Nick Pickard who plays Tony Hutchison. Being the complete dipstick that I am, I stared at him thinking I know him! Kate took the right approach and just pretended he wasn’t there as he walked past.

I felt such a pratt, but it was cool in a geeky way to spot him. Anyway he sped past us later on with a trolley whistling to Kelly Clarkson belting out from the overhead speakers. The poor bugger had people shouting “Oi Tony” as he made his way to the checkout. I suppose he’s used to it!

Thanks, I just spat coffee everywhere

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Thinking about getting a PSP

Okay dokay, I’m seriously considering getting a PSP. The Giga Pack looks favourite and games I’m very keen on are WipeOut Pure and Ridge Racer. I’d like to use it for more than just games though and there seems there’s a ton of things you can now do with them. I’m not particularly interesting in watching films since UMD seems to have died

So anyone thats got one (i.e. Vondur and Jay), what do think of it? I’d like to be able to read eBooks / PDFs and browse photos and other guff. Is that possible? What’s internet access like? I have a WIFI connection, can I just hook it up to that and use the interweb straight away? Any useful links or comments would be great.

The left hand has no idea what the right hand is doing

I’ve had BT Broadband for nearly 4 years now, and upgraded automagically to a 2MB connection back in September-ish. In the last month I’ve received two emails from BT welcoming me to the service…

BTBroadBand

I’ve had the service for 9 months, isn’t that a bit late? I replied to the first one to ask if they were taking the piss? Obviously I didn’t get a reply. To me it smacks of incompetence and just mass spamming of their customer base.

In a related story we’ve had problems at work getting a BT Business Broadband line set up. The idea was that an engineer would wire it up and then someone else in a remote location would wake up and flick a switch afterwards to activate the broadband. I believe its called a simultaneous activation. Unfortunately their super duper automated system decided to try and activate it last week when we had no line installed and it automatically suspended our broadband order.

Said engineer duly came out and did his job today, but we’ve now had to hassle some random BT department (who sent out a letter with the wrong phone number on!) to pull their fingers out of their arses and recommence the broadband part of the it. Again because its automated it could take up to 5 working days! What bloody use is that? Its a good job we’re not in urgent need of it, but it is annoying none the less.

Unfortunately it appears to be a regular occurrence. I know a chap who was after switching his ISDN lines over to Business Broadband on a simultaneous activation back in December and they shafted it up. Exactly the same as us. The hardware had arrived, as had an engineer, but the broadband activation had been suspended due to it trying the line before it was available! Sigh…

Friction now has a blog!

What have I unleashed on the world? Grade A entertainment I hope :). If anyone I know should have a blog its Friction, so now he has! Pop over and see the carnage.

Australian Grand Prix

Chaotic I think would be the best way to describe todays race! Alonso cruised to at easy win (he said as much) after dispatching a poor performing Button on lap four. His problem, like others, was down to not getting enough heat into his tyres.

As an aside there was an interesting quote from Sterling Moss in Friday’s Daily Mail.

“There’s racing drivers and there’s racers,” said Moss. “It’s the racers that become world champions. I don’t see Jenson as a racer”.

I know the argument that whilst Button has 100+ starts without a win, so did Nigel Mansell, but I’ll errr… just ignore that. Point is I can never see Button winning a championship, he doesn’t seem to have that desire when out on the track. As an English man I shouldn’t say that, but I just can’t see him doing it. Moss goes on to say that even when he wasn’t in an F1 car, he was out racing in other events because he loved racing. As an example former British Touring Car driver Yvan Muller drives in all sorts of events and is an excellent driver. Perhaps Button should do the same?

Anyway, I have to admit he was very unfortunate to have his engine grenade itself on the last corner of the last lap and it was clever thinking to retire him so he doesn’t lose 10 places at the next race. It was impressive to watch from Fisichella’s car as Button’s engine blew up. He must have shat himself! (I know I would have).

Alonso drove a superb race and did well to pull out strong leads after each safety car period, of which there were four! For a change they were caused by crashes of one kind or another instead of engine failures, which didn’t seem to be that big a problem. Well, except for Buttons!

Fisichella showed his inconsistency again and was publicly berated by his engineer to get a shift on since he was 4 seconds off the pace and given that his car was identical to Alonso’s, he shouldn’t have been.

Kimi didn’t have the greatest of races getting held up by the Midlands on a couple of restarts, which as Martin Brundle would put it were mobile chicanes today! Finishing second isn’t a bad result though. Montoya didn’t have much luck with his electrics cutting out after narrowly missing the wall and then hitting a small rise in the run off area. I have to say I like how he took it all in his stride, joking and smiling away.

Michael Schumacher crashed heavily on the start of the pit straight, but that was hardly surprising given he was pushing incredibly hard. Wrong tyre compound was the reason. I was amazed to see Ralf Schumacher on the podium in 3rd, especially after his drive through penalty. I suspect that if more of the top teams had finished he’d have been in 6th or above.

It was certainly the most gripping of race of the season so far. Imola is next up in three weeks time and all the big teams have planned upgrades, so it should just get better and better!

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Procrastination Central

I was prattling on about Multitasking and Serial working earlier on in the week. Linked to that is procrastination. Its something I can be very good at. So I’ve been trying to stop myself from procrastinating… and by doing that I’ve been procrastinating further…

As luck would have it I stumbled across this post on 43 Folders called the Procrastination hack: “(10+2)*5”. Its very simple, you force yourself to do 10 minutes work on a small task then take a 2 minute break, repeated 5 times to make up an hour. The idea is you must work for 10 minutes and then you must take your 2 minute break. Its very singled minded and surprisingly it works.

It all falls apart without a timer and in the post comments were lots of suggested apps, mostly Mac based, which is of no use to me. However one did crop up in the comments, called WorkRave. Its actually meant for people with RSI or people who want to reduce the risk of RSI. During the rest breaks as it calls them you can do various exercises, pretty cool, but not strictly related.

WorkRave is cross platform for Linux and Windows and uses GTK+ interface library so looks a bit nonstandard compared to other Windows apps, but nothing out of the ordinary. I turned off the Micro-break and Daily limit timers and just set the Rest break timer to the following (10+2)*5 settings:

WorkRaveSettings

I have to say it works great! Every 10 minutes it popups with a warning box saying its time to go for a break and it gets really annoyed if you don’t. At first you have a smiling light bulb, but if you continue to work he then looks unhappy and an orange flashing border appears, followed by a red border to really get your attention.

WorkRaveWarning1 

WorkRaveWarning2

WorkRaveWarning3

Whilst the rest break dialog is up you can’t use your computer and if you try to the countdown stops and it flashes at you. You can off just skip it if you really want to carry on. Since the focus of WorkRave is to help with RSI, you do get various exercises to do, such as this one:

WorkRaveExercise

I tried a few, but they weren’t for me.

Getting back to the procrastination hack, it does work and I’ve found that when I really get into something I tend to just skip breaks and crack on with it. Definitely worth trying if you’re a procrastinator!

April Fools

Erm… nope sorry. I’ve got nothing. Actually at work we did put an April fools into an old version our software. It starts up with a login screen which has the product name at the top and being the comedians that we are, on the morning of April 1st, it appeared backwards.

Unfortunately the first year it was meant to appear, it had a bug in it so didn’t show! There were no side affects, it just didn’t work. I can’t remember the reason why but I think it just to do not detecting the date properly. The following year it did work and on the whole most users thought it was pretty funny. A couple were panicked and thought they’d broken something… but when told were fine. Perhaps they thought their data would be backwards too!

I know it seems tame what we did, but with a business app there’s a fine line you have to tread. You can’t do anything too daft because there are people who don’t have a sense of humour (usually those in management) and questions will be asked. At which point its not worth the hassle doing it in the first place. So going the subtle route is best.

When we rebranded it disappeared since we had different logo’s etc and implementing an April fools at the time wouldn’t have been the best use of my time. We did ponder back in January whether to quickly do something since we had an update due. But since April 1st is a Saturday and most likely no one will see it, we decided not to. Maybe next year! Oh wait, thats a Sunday, ok, the year after, yes 2008!

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