The world’s messy – get used to it

One of the great things about Twitter is that it brings articles to my attention that I wouldn’t otherwise have read. This blog post originated in one of those articles. It’s here – in it, the writer notes that managers and creatives tend to work on different chunks of time for getting things done – for managers hour diary slots are usually adequate, but for creatives an hour barely gives you time to get going. So far so good – I’ve written a Joe’s Jottings piece in which I mention that my own to-do list doesn’t deal in units of time much under half a day.

The writer then goes on to comment on how his organisation – a venture capital outfit – runs it’s diary slots on the ‘maker’ basis rather than the ‘manager’ basis. And turns the whole thing in to a selling point for their services. OK – at one level this is a good example of catering your working practices to your client base, but it started me thinking again about the increasing tendency I’ve witnessed in the last year or so amongst start up companies and those catering for them towards over-complicating what are really quite straight forward and, in some cases, old fashioned, good personal and business management skills and techniques.

I’m just getting a little tired of seeing things that are just this side of bleedin’ obvious being touted as if they were the bastard intellectual offspring of an orgy between Wittgenstein, Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci and Drucker.

I wear a number of hats in my day to day life; I’m a husband, cat-wrangler, consultant, software developer, charity Trustee, line manager, householder, social entrepreneur…you get the picture. Each of these activities requires me to operate in different ways – sometimes I’m working to someone else’s priorities, sometimes to my own. Oddly enough these things all get recorded in the same diary, with prioritisation and time-slots allocated to the job in hand. If there’s a day on which I want to do development work, I block it out in my diary – the things that will shift me from that are family or major line management issues. If I have a board meeting, I block out the morning or afternoon. It’s called time-management, prioritisation and flexibility. It’s an essential component of what is needed to get stuff done in a world that is messy.

It’s important for startups to get used to the idea that sooner or later they’re going to have to get used to dealing with the world the way it is, not the way they’d like it to be. Pandering from VC companies doesn’t help this; people in startups learning the basics of time and diary management and prioritisation will.

I now debug washing machines….

Ask most people in IT what the most irritating piece of kit in most PC installations is, and they’ll usually say ‘printers’ or ‘scanners’ – basically anything mechanical.  I think the item in the house that generates the same degree of fear in me is the washing machine.  To paraphrase ‘The Two Ronnies’ from my childhood – ‘It’s big, it’s white, it’s shiny and I be afraid of it’.

In our case ‘it’ is an Indesit WD12 automatic washing machine.  Under normal circumstances it clicks, whirrs, buzzes, splushes, chugs, and gurgles for an hour or so, makes a final shuddering burble then falls quiet.  Last week it changed it’s habits by simply ‘clicking’ through the programme set without actually doing anything.

At this point I did the rather unmanly thing of reading the manual.  Apart from the bleedin’ obvious (is it turned on, connected to the water mains and drain and ensure you’re not trying to wash a bag of cement) the manual suggested very little.  I then did what we advise 70% of support desk callers to do; turn it off, leave for a while, and then turn it on again.  And after that didn’t work, I did what you probably shouldn’t do unless you want to scare yourself daft…typed the symptoms in to Google.

According to the various online sources of information about the problem I described, the washer was in various stages of terminal decline.  Phrases like ‘replacement control board’ were bandied around.  Quite what I expected to find that would be helpful I wasn’t sure – perhaps a little line or two somewhere that said ‘Turn the switch left 3 places, then right 4 places, and that will do it’.  Well, by now I was getting pretty miserable about the whole affair, and had visions of calling out the repair man. So, I decided to do what any self-respecting software engineer would do – turned it off and forgot about it for 2 or 3 days.

I then decided to take one last look before calling out an engineer (who, I had no doubt, would show up, spend 2 minutes poking the inside of the machine before telling me it’s fixed and leaving me £50 the lighter) and thought that I would adopt a similar approach to that that I take when doing debugging of software ‘on site’.

First of all…assemble the source code and documentation

Well, in this case that was the manual and the washing machine itself.  So far so good.

Get your tools together

Rather than Eclipse and a debugger, the tools for this exercise consisted of 4 screwdrivers of varying sizes, a large quantity of towels and paper cloths (just in case there was a big pool of water just waiting to get out!)

Go take a look at the source code with confidence

Also known as ‘showing the system (washer) who’s boss.  Took the back of the washer off and had a good look around for the hardware equivalents of messy code, mis-configured database connections, excess amounts of commented out ‘dead’ code cluttering the place up and hiding possible faults.  Or, in the case of a washing machine…checked that all accessible connections were tight, that the belt was secure on the drum, that the drum could be turned by hand, that the inlet and outlet pipes were clear, etc.

I then took a look at the little drawer where the washing powder is introduced, and after taking it out noticed that it, and the channel under it leading to the washer, were crudded up with washing powder.  Let’s say this is the equivalent of one of those bits of dodgy code you find that doesn’t ‘look right’ but you can’t see why it would cause the problem you’re having…

Tidy up the obvious errors

I washed the drawer and got rid of the lumps of washing powder from the channel.  Actually, I was chipping deposits off with a screwdriver.   I always thought that washing powder was supposed to be water-soluble…maybe not.

Re-compile and re-run

And so the moment of truth – you’ve done some tweaking, tidied up the obvious and we’re ready to give it a whirl.  I put the drawer back in, screwed on the back-panel I’d removed (and in a special gesture to the gods of hardware, ensured I didn’t bother putting all the screws back in), connected the machine to water, drain and mains and turned on and stepped well back….and amazingly enough it works!

As Neo might have said in ‘The Matrix’ – ‘I know washing machine maintenance’.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-06-27

  • Gradually shaking off the after effects of that more disturbing dream from last night… #
  • Just received worse phishing spam ever. Claimed to be from BoS, referenced RBS web site, signed off as from Lloyds and Halifx. #fail #
  • Off to church on a beautiful morning! #
  • A night of very odd and the occasional very disturbing dreams…. #
  • You need a good few gallons of spit to sing like Jacques Brel…. #
  • #doctorwho – oh dear, such a cop-out – good build up of story and dreadful resolution. Too many plot holes (cracks not included)…. #
  • Sigh….as usual #drwho full of plot holes one could drive a bus through… #pandorica #
  • Better get on with some more programming! 🙂 #
  • Show your support for #armedforcesday on 26 June, add a #twibbon to your avatar now! http://twb.ly/d2eY4p – @ArmedForces_Day #
  • Having a fiiiine morning – coding going well and listening to some French #electronica .. #
  • Excellent! I love the Apple Heavies and teh contents of Steve's box! via @mashable:iPhone 4 … Into a Blender [VIDEO] – http://bit.ly/ajBhB1 #
  • RT @Toltecjohn: 'You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body' C.S. Lewis > http://bit.ly/KUPxS #
  • From Guardian – basaltboy : "This is not a design flaw but a new feature. You can turn your iphone 4 into an ipod touch by picking it up. #
  • The last time I had to worry about my phone aerial was in the 1980s…but then I don't use #iphone#
  • Gee Steve, thanks!!! RT @guardiantech: Steve Jobs solves iPhone 4 reception problems: 'don't hold it that way' http://bit.ly/bT6L9B #
  • I'm surprised how quiet the Apple fans have been today about the iPhone 4 aerial…er…design feature. #iphone #
  • So much for cool engineering – #iphone4 #fail http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8759590.stm #
  • Dim question from a non-iPhone user….if current phone works OK, and all iPhone users tell me how great iPhones are, why upgrade? #
  • Just how expensive is electoral reform going to be for this country? Seems that the Lib Dems have gone along with a lot to get it… #
  • A lot to do today – going to try and wrestle the day in to submission! #
  • And congrats to #usa #worldcup #
  • Congratulations to #eng – good performance with passion! #worldcup #
  • Sigh….and yet again #Ubuntu doesn't work right out the box and I can't be arsed to fix missing packages. FIX IT! #fail #
  • Oh well, looks like we still have increased Employer's NI – at least he's being consistently dim across the board…. #
  • The lines are drawn, the challenge set. What will YOU be doing to help your community against the efforts of central government? #
  • On my way to Harrogate – lovely morning! #
  • Phew – survived round 1 with dentist. After 30 years of semi-neglect I only need 3 fillings…and one POSSIBLE extraction….eeeek! #
  • Happy Solstice to all – and it's a beautiful day for it! #fb #
  • Just seen my first second hand #ipad at #cex #sheffield #
  • Sheffield City Council seeks consultation on Licensing Policy – http://is.gd/cXng9 #sheffield #
  • RT @SomeURL: RT @shacknetwork: Anyone got a barcode reader for possible #shacknet group project for #gistlab that they could donate? #
  • Today is busy – featuring my first trip to dentists in ….years. Pathologically scared of them – fingers crossed! #

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Configuring MOWES on a USB Stick

There’s an old saying that you can neither be too thin  or have too much money.  I’d like to add to that list – you can’t have too many web servers available on your PC.   For the non-geeks amongst you, a web server is a program that runs on a computer to ‘serve up’ web pages.  because I write web software for part of my living, I run my own web server on my PC.  Actually, that’s not quite true…because there are two main web servers used today – Microsoft’s IIS and Apache – I have two.  And today I decided that it would be really useful to have a web server and associated software on a USB stick that I could plug in to computers to demonstrate my web applications out on client sites.

I decided to use the MOWES installation – after all, it’s designed to run on USB sticks – and as well as the standard Apache, PHP and mySQL I decided to also install Mediawiki and WordPress.  As well as being used for demonstrations, I decided that I’d also like to have a portable Wiki to use for note taking / book research when I’m on my travels, and run a demonstration instance of WordPress.

Installation

The simplest installation involves putting a package together on the MOWES website, downloading it to your PC and installing it.  To get started with this, go to the MOWES Mixer page, click the ‘New Package’ radio button and select what you want to install.  For my purposes I chose the full versions of Apache, mySQL 5 , PHP5,  ImageMagick, Mediawiki, WordPress, and phpMyAdmin.  This selection process is done by ticking the displayed checkboxes – if you DON’T get a list of checkboxes for the ‘New Package’ option, try the site again later – I have had this occasionally and it will eventually give you the ‘ticklist’ screen.

Tick the desired components and download the generated package.

Plug in your USB stick, and unzip and install the MOWES package as per their instructions.  First thing to note here is that you may need to keep an eye on any requests from the computer for allowing components access to the firewall.  The default settings will be Port 80 for the Apache web server and 3306 for mySQL.  If these aren’t open / available – especially the mySQL one – then the automatic install of the packages by the MOWES program will fail miserably.

Once you have the files installed on your memory stick, then you can configure them.

Configuration

If you never intend to run the installation on any PC that has a local Web Server or instance of mySQL, then you don’t need to do anything else in terms of configuration.  You might like to take a look at ‘Tidying Up’ section below.

If you ARE going to use the USB Stick on PCs that may have other web servers or mySQL instances running, then it’s time to come up with a couple of ports to use for your USB stick that other folks won’t normally use on their machines.  The precise values don’t matter too much – after all, the rest of the world won’t be trying to connect to your memory stick – but be sensible, and avoid ports used by other applications.

I eventually chose 87 for the Apache Web Server, and 4407 for mySQL – 87 fitted with my own laptop where I already have a web server at Port 80 and another one at Port 85, and I run mySQL at the standard port of 3306.  NOTE that if you run the installation using an account with restricted privileges, you may not be able to open the new ports you use.

In order to configure the MOWES installation you’ll need a text editor of some sort – Windows Notepad will do at a push.  You’ll be editing a couple of files on the USB stick, as follows:

apache2\conf\httpd.conf

Open this file up and look for a line starting with Listen.  Change the number following it to the number you’ve chosen for your Apache Port – e.g. 87.

Now look for ‘ServerName’ – change the line to include the Port number – e.g. localhost:87

php5\php.ini

Open this file and find the line starting mysql.default_port.  Change the port referenced in this to the Port you have chosen for your mySQL installation.  E.g. mysql.default_port=4407

mysql\my.ini

Open the file and look for two lines like port=3306.  Change the port number to the one you have chosen – e.g. 4407 – port=4407.  There will be two lines like this in the file, one in the [client] section and one in the [server] section.

www\phpmyadmin\config.inc

This is the configuration file for the phpMyAdmin program that provides a graphical user interface on to the mySQL database.  Look for a line that starts with : $cfg[‘Servers’][$i][‘port’] and replace the port number in the line with (in this example) 4407.

And that, as they say, is that for the configuration files.  You can now start up the MOWES server system by running the mowes.exe program.  If all is working, after a few seconds your web browser will be started and will load the ‘home page’ of the MOWES installation.  With the configuration carried out in this article, the browser will show the url http://localhost:87/start/ and the page displayed will show links to WordPress, Mediawiki and phpmyadmin.

WordPress Configuration

The final stage of configuration is to make a change to WordPress that allows WordPress to run on a non-standard Apache port.  This needs to be done via phpmyadmin, as it involves directly changing database entries.  Open phpmyadmin, and then open the wordpress database from the left hand menu.

Now browse the wp_options table.  Find the record where option_name is ‘siteurl’ and change the option_value field to (for using a port number of 86) http://localhost:86/wordpress.  Now find teh record with option_name of ‘home’ and again change the option_value to http://localhost:86/wordpress.

Tidying Up

You may like to put an autorun.inf file on the root of your memory stick, so that when it is plugged in to a machine it will automatically start the MOWES system (if the machine is so configured).  The file can be created with a text editor and should contain the following:

[autorun]
open=mowes_portable\mowes.exe
label=Your Name for the Installation

And that’s that!

Enjoy!

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-06-20

  • Can I ask our senior politicians to leave the past behind them and get on with teh future? Just a thought? #
  • Off to church! #
  • Social media is simply 'there' for people to use however they want – STOP PREACHING! http://j.mp/9IJ776 #
  • #cmr kept up the pressure right to the end and looked really pissed off to lose. Are you watching, Mr Rooney? #end #worldcup #
  • #pandorica – always thought that the worst thing in the Universe was Baldrick's Trousers….so….is #drwho actually pants? 🙂 #
  • Obama is becoming a little bit il-liberal these days…Internet kill switch? http://is.gd/cVwQn #fb #
  • BP response to oil spill…from cats. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zt617zYAbng&feature=youtube_gdata #
  • Oooh….Ice Station Zebra – one of my favourite films! #
  • As Comic Book Man might say….Worst. England. Game. Ever. #worldcup #eng (OK…maybe not QUITE ever….) #
  • #englandfilms Field of Dreams #
  • #Eng players are privileged young men – if they find things tough, maybe they could swap with less privileged young men in Afghanistan? #
  • Capello accused by a pundit of wielding too much of a rod of iron. Oh dear…I thought we had men there, not whiney little children….#eng #
  • RT @Chance4321: RT @VizTopTips: ENGLAND, avoid ITV-HD from missing your goals with an ad break by not scoring any. /via @capricorn_one #
  • RT @JimSymonds: James Corden next? Just when you think youve hit the bottom… #
  • "if anyone can cheer you after that performance, it's James Corden" – ITV commentator. Shall I kill myself now, then? #worldcup #eng #
  • So…as well as being stodgy and looking unfit, Rooney throws a strop at the fans. PLAY BETTER, YOU TIT! #worldcup #eng #fb #
  • LOST in South Africa – the mojo of the entire England team. Taken from us too soon. #worldcup #eng #
  • The pain I'm experiencing from a nasty dental abscess is nothing to that I'm experiencing watching England… #worldcup #eng #
  • England excuse 159 – the other team were in camoflage and we kept running in to 'em. #worldcup #eng #
  • We've had 'pally' managers; 'professional' managers; neither style works with players that don't give a shit. #eng #worldcup #
  • Capello prepares to send himself on to show how to run… #worldcup #
  • John Terry – save that sort of sloppiness for your off-pitch shenanigans… #worldcup #eng #
  • Itv commentary team – stop making excuses for the lazy, sluggish and uncaring England team. #worldcup #eng #
  • At the moment England would be hard pressed to beat the 'Retired Priests' team from 'Father Ted' #worldcup #
  • Already commentators starting to criticise Capello….or maybe players can't be arsed? #worldcup #eng #
  • OK….can we expect an 'Angry Hitler comments on England performance" video soon, please? #worldcup #
  • Rooney "I don't understand it, boss. We've been taking shots like that against Rob green all day and EVERY ONE went in!" #worldcup #
  • Whilst it's essential that BP cough up and pay for the damage, how much of the attitude of the investigation is due to elections? #
  • I have ALWAYS said that back, sack and crack is dangerous for any sane man to contemplate – PROOF!! http://is.gd/cT7AU #fb #
  • Am I alone in finding it lovely when players cry when their National Anthems are played? Brings a lump to my throat. #worldcup #
  • #sheffield – what's this I hear about Gove and Cable visiting Sheffield Peace Gardens next Thursday? Any news, peeps? #
  • Hitler, his surround sound TV and the #vuvuzuelashttp://is.gd/cT7a9 #
  • Are we about to see 'Lethal Weapon' scene in which Mel Gibson, gets a mouthful of petrol, says 'Yuck, Exxon', get re-dubbed to 'Yuck, BP'? #
  • The bloke from Texas seems more an apologist for Big Oil than a Government representative…. #
  • For those who hate the current government; what are you doing to help YOUR community through these times? #
  • To those who claim Thatcher didn't cut public spending – bullshit. You're either young, of poor memory or from an alternate 1980s. #
  • One for the Apple fanbois…http://tinyurl.com/3872eb7 #
  • Beautiful day – on train to Harrogate! #
  • Excellent! Via @guardiantech: Residents are increasingly setting up their own 'hyperlocal' websites – http://bit.ly/boBSf9 #
  • #lessmachofilms Throne of Wood #
  • #lessmachofilms Knitting Club #
  • #lessmachofilms Conan the Vegetarian #
  • Hmmmm….Twitter seems to be keen to repeat this morning! #
  • One of the great vuvuzela soloists, Police Constable Fred Johnson, was squished when he was mistaken for a bluebottle. #vuvuzelafacts #
  • A vuvuzela can be used to spit a chewed up ball of paper 100 meters… #vuvuzelafacts #
  • The vuvuzela was used by the Israelites to bring down the walls of Jericho…#vuvuzelafacts #
  • Under company law, are handguns allowed in board meetings? #
  • I believe it's called satire…. sigh….. RT @MyEbisu: Music industry lobbyist calls for death penalty for piracy http://ow.ly/17JeyE #
  • The BBC is not a sacred cow – I use BBC provided services MUCH less these days. Make the BBC more responsive. #savetheBBC #
  • Whilst being broadly supportive of the BBC, I'd like to have more say in how my license is spent. http://is.gd/cOBaM #
  • UK Debt almost tripled between Oct.2000 and Feb 2010 – way to go Gordon. http://is.gd/cOB7f #
  • Feeling pretty much back to normal today – got stuff to do, people to see, things to catch up on! #
  • Thank God I deal with the other 2/3rds…. RT @writer_sheri: One-Third of Twitter Users Talk Brands http://bit.ly/bbjdDW (eMarketer) #
  • RT @KatTansey: Just wondering if we spent as much time figuring out how to reduce our own consumption of oil as we do ranting….. #

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-06-13

  • I'm lurgied – sniffly cold and the sore throat from Hell – last night's dreams were good, though! #
  • RT @JimSymonds: Bad news for gardeners. Having Green fingers about to become a term of abuse. #comeonengland #
  • RT @AlexGoodall: US Gov. reaction to BP needs to be compared to its reaction to Union Carbide (Bhopal) where 100,000s died/seriously ill #
  • Thank goodness – seem to be getting a little focus in to my day! #
  • UNICEF calls upon Governments and Private Sector to act against Child Labour… http://www.unicef.org/media/media_53955.html #
  • Taleban hang a 7 year old – savage barbarism still survives… http://is.gd/cMzBu Will be interesting to see who condemns the Taleban…. #
  • I like this…something for all of you with emotional pain today… 🙂 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1g3ENYxg9k&feature=player_embedded #
  • Frankie Boyle yet again shows his sensitivity…sigh….http://is.gd/cMqEa #
  • I hope these African Killer Bees don't get out of their hives and attack the fans and players… #worldcup #
  • RT @guidofawkes: Prezza to face Iraq Inquiry, presumably to establish if he ate the WMD. #
  • I trust that all US shareholders of BP will contribute their dividend payments to the Gulf cleanup?…. #bp #
  • I love British Gas's payments dept – undecipherable accents and bad attitude! #
  • RT @ivortymchak: To all the American hypocrites bitching about BP, I say this; Bhopal. #
  • Good evening last night courtesy of @gemdirectories birthday bash. Today lots to get done – but looking forward to it! in reply to gemdirectories #
  • Hmmm….'people's University'…http://is.gd/cKmVk – had it for 40+ years and it's called the OU! #
  • RT @britmic: #google hit every branch falling out that ugly tree RT @momentsoffilm: Damn, Google is UGLY today! #
  • Are the #google images today to encourage you to set up an account so you can make it somewhat more tolerable? #
  • Aaaaahhhh….good to see 'class warfare / envy' coming to the top as Labour activists bring up their own suggestions for cuts…. 🙂 #
  • Oh good grief…I understand why Google stuck with plain screens for so long – they have no sense of taste….. #
  • One thing I genuinely look forward to in the next few months is seeing an influx of grass-roots activists to community projects… #
  • Parsing XML from a client – how do you explain to them that 'valid XML' should not include invalid characters….sigh….. #
  • #bb11 housemate tombola…all above board, says Davina…sort of like previous phone-votes? 🙂 #
  • Ack! It's Jordan! Heeeeelp! #bb11 – Love, I know the career was taking a dive but surely you're not…oh, hang on…my mistake…. #
  • Hmmmm…."I'm not an attention seeker…" – why audition for #bb11 then, petal? #
  • Re. #bb11 Dave – one feels that Nero may have been on to something….. #
  • Watching #bb11 housemates…will to live slipping…slipping… #
  • Depressing that none of the leadership candidates appear to be in favour of true electoral change… #nslabourleadership #
  • Why do Big Brother contestants squeal like the cast of 'Deliverance' when they get in to the house? #bigbrother #
  • I would agree – interesting but over-stated. RT @guardiantech: Iran's 'Twitter revolution' was exaggerated, says editor http://bit.ly/aLOa6J #
  • Absolutely – right up until recent year or so, even. @benfolley Burnham says New Labour excluded good party members #nslabourleadership #
  • Would certainly encourage me…. RT @louiebaur: Could a $50 'Paperback' Kindle Beat the iPad? http://bit.ly/bWv6IZ #
  • How depressing that in the 21st Century we have to be talking about 'Woman Friendly' mosques (or Synagogues, or churches) http://is.gd/cJ4O0 #
  • Tokenism – it's the political establishment saying you're not good enough to get there without help. http://bit.ly/crVW7U #
  • Of course GM food is safe…yeah…right…http://ofgoatsandmen.blogspot.com/2010/06/genetically-modified-fooods-gmo-causes.html #
  • RT @RobMcNealy: New BlackWater 4 Sale (Ad): "Experienced whore looking for new pimp. Will kill anything for anyone." http://bit.ly/cPc5pl #
  • Mcdonnell leadership pull-out – great shame for left but stupid comment is NOT appropriate for a major party leader. #
  • Meeting this AM, change of plans this PM, will get work done instead! #
  • Elton John plays for Rush Limbaugh Wedding – http://is.gd/cHPZI – amazing what folks do for a million dollars. #
  • Excellent season finale for Fringe – looking froward to it's return! #fb #
  • Wow! That's a lot of 140 characters! RT @mashable: Twitter Hits 2 Billion Tweets Per Month – http://bit.ly/9SZd1n #
  • An utterley sad story on so many levels…. RT @kennyellaway: WHAT?!? http://bit.ly/9KoUlE #
  • Yay!!! We're noticed by a whingebot! Fame at last! 🙂 My life is complete! 🙂 @whingers @RadShef @blowupchurch in reply to whingers #
  • I doubt National Express will follow suit….. 🙂 RT @arstechnica: Amtrak to take free onboard WiFi nationwide – http://arst.ch/l5c #
  • When Lloyds say ditch oil, buy renewables, we'd better listen… http://is.gd/cHsqA #
  • A new way to bury the bad news!! RT @mashable: BP Buys Top Google Result for "Oil Spill" – http://bit.ly/bDmCQp #
  • Having a vaguely productive day – Google Maps API is succumbing! #
  • Re. Duke of Edinburgh…when I heard the words 'damaged wrist' I have to admit to bursting in to fits of giggles…. #
  • Rio tells when he knew his World Cup Dream was over…"It was when the boss put Heskey on the pitch…" #
  • So….Steve Jobs demos a phone that can't get a Wifi signal and connect to the Net. #fail #iphone4 #
  • Right – drink tea and get off to meeting! #
  • Michael Gove's fall…almost Mr Bean-like! He did take it well! #
  • Typical – I have a meeting this afternoon and it's raining…. #
  • Busy morning codiing, hoping rain stops properly before lunch! #
  • On way to #startupmill sheffield at #gistlab #
  • McDonnell…foot…gun…blam! RT @iaindale: Blogpost: McDonnell: I Regret Not Assassinating Thatcher http://tinyurl.com/242g8aq #
  • You mean like you can do with Windows?… 😉 RT @TechRepublic: Send instant messages between Macs on a LAN http://tek.io/9SSIWf #
  • Bye bye St Phillips Club, Netherthorpe. Watch the land get snapped up for more yuppie flats! #
  • Doing the background work for new business – web site regn. software installs, Twitter and Facebook setup. #
  • …we used to map the gene by mutating the flies, look at what the mutation was, then look at chroms. under microscope…wasted youth. 🙂 #
  • Started preparatory work for a major career change in 2010 – exciting times! #

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Tweeting in meetings….

I came across this rather interesting article from the personal blog of a Pastor in the US recently in which he suggests that Tweeting in Church might be a good idea.  Now, I have to admit that I was something of a late adopter with Twitter (and Facebook…and for that matter with SMS texting….yeah, OK, I’m a bit of a Luddite in some respects!) but I have to say that this suggestion surprised me.  I’m afraid that when I’m in Church I’m focusing on my own engagement with God, via my participation in the collective experience of the congregation in the church.  Which sounds more like an academic treatise than a celebration of faith, but that’s me!

the idea was that by tweeting ‘commentary’ on the sermon and other aspects of the service it could be regarded as a means of evangelising to the outside world and so bringing the Word to others – perhaps, but I think it’s one tweet too far for me.  Which then led me on to business meeting tweets, conference tweets, etc.

Perhaps it’s a generational thing but despite having a Blackberry, a Netbook and enough technology at home to sink a small boat, I still go to meetings armed with a pen and paper for note taking.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s reliable, no batteries to run out, makes no weird noises, doesn’t force me to think ‘How do I do that?’, will take text, drawings and doodles and isn’t ostentatious.  Pen and paper is what I like to call ‘humble technology’ – it does what it says on the tin, no muss, no fuss.  I’ve been in meetings recently where iPads have been deployed, tweets have been made (as I found out after leaving the meeting and looking at twitter) with no apparent damage to the business of the meeting…but…looking at my own notes taken in the meetings concerned, I’m wondering whether the meetings were actually needed / useful as my notes are pretty skimpy, and I take good notes.

We then have the recent debacle in the UK where some aspects of an industrial relations negotiation between British Airways and Trades Union representatives was tweeted to the outside world, resulting in a ‘pitch invasion’ of the building where the negotiations were taking place.  I’m sorry…negotiations are supposed to be delicate affairs between the parties involved and any mediators.  If someone feels they can’t negotiate without doing the equivalent of bellowing from the window, perhaps they need to be in different jobs.

As you can probably tell by now, I’m not a fan.  My own rules of Twitter are pretty straight forward:

  • If I’m in a meeting, focus on the meeting. 
  • If I’m at Church, focus on that.
  • If I’m at an event and want to tweet, I’ll wait until a ‘natural break’ and do it then.

I recently read a good tip about the etiquette of Texting and Tweeting.  Basically, imagine pulling out a crossword puzzle and doing it.  If you wouldn’t do that in the situation, then you really should think hard about whether you should tweet / text (emergencies excepted, naturally!!)  I was at a social event the other evening and I found that tweeting is sort of like smoking used to be (never smoked so maybe on tenuous ground here…) – it gives you something to do with your hands whilst you’re nervous!

In most meetings, unless you’re there as an observer or reporter tasked with providing a running commentary, I can’t imagine a need to Tweet that can’t wait an hour or so.  So just focus on making the meeting effective.

Google’s ‘mistake’ maps all UK WiFi networks…

Some weeks ago, a story broke about Google recording data about WiFi networks when they were wandering around taking family snapshots with their now infamous fleet of ‘Streetview’ cars.  At the time, Google claimed that the information gathered was ‘accidental’ – that rang a few bells with quite a few techies.  It’s alike me wandering the streets of Sheffield taking photographs and at the same time ‘accidentally’ running war dialling software so that I can log any WiFi activity in the area.  There’s no ‘accidental’ link between digital imaging and WiFi networks, so what the heck were Google up to?

I intended to blog at the time, but life decided to intervene and so I didn’t do the post…which is a shame because of what’s reported here.  Google have mapped every WiFi network that was detectable on the routes taken by their StreetView cars.  In other words, if your house or office was photographed by Google, they also grabbed bits of data about your WiFi network, if you have one – MAC address, SSID, Channel in use.  OK, it may seem that this is pretty much ‘small fry’ in terms of data and privacy, but let’s just take a wider look.

  • First of all, Google have breached Data Protection Legislation in virtually every country in which they’ve done this; you’re not supposed to gather information up willy-nilly in this manner.
  • Secondly, Google have shows the same sort of respect (or lack of same) for privacy that Facebook have been accused of.  In fact, I’d argue that Google’s crimes against privacy are probably worse than Facebook.  With Facebook I had a choice to use their site to share my data.  Google just whizz along, photograph my property and grab my data whether I like it or not.
  • Gathering and storing this data isn’t a by-product of any photographic process; the equipment and process to record and store this data must have been installed deliberatley in the Google Streetview vehicles.  Now, no-one does this sort of thing for laughs – so we have to assume that Google carried out an action that cost money, was against Data protection legislation and that they might have suspected would upset people for a particular reason.
  • And they actually patented the techniques / technology used.  The last one’s a bit of a give away….

What could that reason be?

That, my friends, is the 64 dollar question.  Google have ended up with the most comprehensive map of WiFi coverage in the UK that’s ever been compiled.  Now, much of that capacity isn’t publicly accessible – i.e. it belongs to folks like me and thee – but it did start me thinking about what a gung-ho, conquer the universe by next Thursday company like Google might do.

What about….

  1. Gathering data on the different types of router / network in use in domestic and business environments to sell to marketing companies working for hardware manufacturers?
  2. Spotting ‘dark areas’ in towns where there is no public WiFi – where Google could fill a need, perhaps?
  3. Gathering information as to WiFi networks in towns that Google might approach to sell advertising to?
  4. Testing their technology – a dry run to see what they could get, the attitude of the relavant authorities, etc.?
  5. Testing the possibilities for WiFi network usage by vehicles?
  6. Checking WiFi security settings on the behalf of ‘other oragnisations’ to see how much effort someone would need to carry out a comprehensive mobile monitoring exercise for WiFi?  A little like the TV Detector vans?

Anyone else got any bright ideas?

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-06-06

  • RT @Iconic88: When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace. Jimi Hendrix #
  • Hollyoaks jumps the shark, then does a double somersault over it! RT @RadShef: Er? http://bit.ly/b6yXNf #
  • Sarah Palin is a twat. http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/292916 #gulfoilspill #bp #
  • Pretty lively thunder here in Sheffield! #
  • RT @Twitter_Tips: Reminder: Do not click links in "Twitter password reset message" email: http://j.mp/atjXsn #
  • Egypt strips citizenship from Egyptians married to Israelis. Just shows that Israel doesn't have a monopoly on bigotry. http://is.gd/cDZub #
  • RT @AlexGoodall: Time taken to create Wikipedia, app. 100 mil hrs, spent by Americans each weekend watching ads. From http://bit.ly/dzlfo5 #
  • Ahhh…spammers who can't even send a functional spam email – class. #fail #
  • Actually, @iaindale, if I were Obama I'd be spitting feathers. He should have been in the area from day 1 – it's almost his Katrina. in reply to iaindale #
  • Cut the front hedge this morning – the gate is now negotiable again! #
  • RT @edn1970: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00sj2s3 – sheffield city of culture… #
  • So dumb and unfeeling it beggars belief. RT @Twitter_Tips: Can you fire someone via tweet? Legal but risky: http://j.mp/dhVbDM #
  • You just have to love 'self defence' Israeli style – close range head shots. http://is.gd/cDkBB #fb #flotilla #
  • RT @bilbobaggins2k: Gaza flotilla activists were shot in head at close range http://gu.com/p/2hfcy/ip Says it all really. #freedomflotilla #
  • Excellent idea from the Government – looking froward to seeing the books for Sheffield! http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/politics/10241522.stm #
  • Right – going to kill my network connection for a while to get stuff done! No more distractions! #
  • And yet again we experience the British pre-occupation of taking good food and burning it to a cinder whilst stinking out the area! 🙂 #
  • Good teleconference and follow up – feeling slightly more motivated! #fb #
  • D'OH! RT @guardiantech: Apple showcases HTML5 'standard' – but only if you use its browser http://bit.ly/9jpkwP #
  • Re. McDonalds recalling cadmium tainted glasses – maybe less harmful than burgers? 😉 #
  • Good point – @historyscientis – although the value of PR depends upon whether the PEOPLE swallow the story, not other media. in reply to historyscientis #
  • RT @MediaActivist: BBC News – McDonald's recalls Shrek glasses 'tainted with cadmium': http://bit.ly/dpFjUd via @addthis #fail #
  • Is it not tempting fate to install a 27 foot statue of Anubis (Ancient Egyption God of the Underworld) at Denver Airport? http://is.gd/cCjlF #
  • Lest we forget so quickly – this time last week 9 civillians were alive who were killed in the Gaza #flotilla attack. #
  • Fuckwitted Diplomat compares Israeli Flotilla attack to fight against Nazi Germany…yeah…right http://is.gd/cCisw #flotilla #
  • That's a WIN? Hate to see 'em lose! RT @guardiantech: Israeli PR machine won Gaza flotilla media battle | Antony Lerman http://bit.ly/baSW6g #
  • Warning to those like Coterie Galleries who whack my three separate twitter accounts at once with Follows. It's spamming. You're reported. #
  • Note to the UK Media about Cumbria. just stop it. You're starting to wallow in it, so bugger off. #fb #
  • I await the Fanboi excuses… 🙂 RT @MarkGibbens: I'm not sure Apple really understand web standards. http://twitpic.com/1tsagh #
  • Complainants need to get a grip, rather than getting hysterical. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment_and_arts/10235494.stm #
  • Damn right!! RT @marcjohnson: people need to be well informed and independent as well for wisdom of crowds to work, so rare in reality #
  • Staggered by the silence from all about why 'Purple in the Peace Gardens' was blocked from teh Peace Gardens by SCC. #
  • AGREED! RT @Chance4321: Companies, heres an idea. How about you pay invoices on time so we don't end up thinking you are a bunch of cnuts #
  • I'd love to see John Prescott walk around the studio and stick one on Hislop…. 🙂 #
  • RT @simonprideny: Putting "Sent from my iPad" as your Mail signature is much cheaper than buying an iPad. #
  • RT @yorkhannah: Please RT. Here's the GIST Lab's wish list, if you'd like to help please get it in touch via @gistwire: http://bit.ly/bM77Gc #
  • RT @springcalc: We went live towards the end of May – create a free account to trial it at http://www.springcalculator.com #
  • RT @springcalc: We've also just created a facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Spring-Calculator/122364831136349 #
  • The Cumbria shooting reporting is getting obscene – just jack it in, people. There is NO public benefit to be gained from this pornography. #
  • Hope that the Government don't do knee jerk law-making in response to Cumbria tragedy – you cannot design society around broken people. #fb #
  • Off to view potential new property today for HF! #
  • Note to media re. Cumbria shooting. We know all we need to know at this time. Just bugger off and let those poor folks start healing. #
  • RT @Hills_Forum: Hillsborough great gardens and photo competition! Enter via http://www.hillsboroughinbloom.btik.com (cont) http://tl.gd/1ksu24 #
  • Technology jumps the shark – a friggin' Facebooking Toothbrush???? http://www.itbusiness.ca/it/client/en/home/News.asp?id=57815 #
  • On way home after unexpected but good day at #gistparticipation #
  • RT @philo_quotes: No eulogy is due to him who simply does his duty and nothing more. ~ Saint Augustine #
  • Busy day ahead – coding, documenting and trips to estate agents! #
  • Folks interested in the #flotilla may be interested in http://paper.li/tag/flotilla #
  • "Allowing the pages of The Sun to pass before your eyes does not constitute reading [a newspaper]" – Inspector Morse…. #fb #
  • Coalition Govt. opening up more state data – puts the last Government to shame yet again. http://is.gd/cxY5n #
  • The 'No Shit Sherlock' award goes to the UK Israeli Ambassador… 'It is fair to say the operation was not very successful' #flotilla #
  • Had 4 emails now with a broken link for their newsletter from an organisation…perhaps I should offer help? 🙂 #
  • RT @britmic: "Between 1980 & 2005, only 6% of terrorist attacks on US soil were committed by Muslim extremists." http://bit.ly/bx1ttj (FBI) #
  • Good Lord – I'm pleasantly staggered! RT @Iconic88: World Bank announces total cancellation of #Haiti ??s debt – http://bit.ly/bEZ2S1 #
  • This isn't about research. It's about dazzling the masses with a bauble. I believe the respectable term is marketing! "Going Postal" #fb #
  • Quick reminder for Israel and her supporters. Boarding ships in International Waters is piracy. Just a quick reminder. Thanks. #flotilla #
  • What rot – utter somewhat biased analysis from Melanie Philips: http://bit.ly/aRWfwL #flotilla #
  • SA President Zuma to father 21st child. http://is.gd/cwTae Glad we don't live on an over-populated world, Jacob…. 🙁 #
  • Bullshit! This is a violation of International Law!! @RegulusdeLeo: Israel is under attack more than ever. <snip> #
  • Given Israel's lack of interest in International Law, can we see them being equally slack about their borders….? #flotilla #
  • Wooohooo….I'm being replied to by the Israeli Foreign Ministry…should I look out for helicopter loads of commandos? #fb #
  • I reckon cock-up, not conspiracy. RT @guardiantech: Did Twitter censor the #flotilla hashtag following Israel attack? http://bit.ly/amFTQ3 #
  • Oh, I like the look of this! http://techinstyle.tv/news/your-notepad-evolved/ #
  • Australian journalist with #flotilla not heard from since attack – his last reports indicated Israeli jamming of communications. #
  • Today's supposed to be the 'big quit' day from Facebook – I doubt that it will happen. #fb #
  • Gradually feeling more myself and less depressed than I have been over recent weeks – getting my mojo back! #
  • Massive Israeli over-reaction AND in International waters – seems rather like the USS Liberty all over again. #flotilla (to @2012israel) in reply to 2012israel #
  • From the IDF – justifying Israeli piracy. Claims that the military didn't want to hurt people ring VERY hollow. http://is.gd/cwFRu #
  • Seventy Years of get out clauses – Israel as a rogue state. http://www.joepritchard.me.uk/2010/05/70-years-of-get-out-clauses/ #flotilla #
  • Israel attacks ships in International Waters – surely an act of piracy? #fb #
  • I see, Israel – commandos attacked by activists ships boarded. Why are all the dead civilians? Why not use non-lethal force? #
  • Latest Joe's Jottings posts on #davidlaws and #dannyalexanderhttp://is.gd/cwbMk and http://is.gd/cwbOh #
  • BP Scum. RT @timoreilly: BP knew, and hid safety concerns about Deepwater Horizon oil rig http://nyti.ms/cKnzX7 "Drill, baby, drill!" #
  • It's said that no battle plan survives contact with the enemy – looks like Lib Dem fiscal probity can't survive contact with power… #
  • The big issue for the Coalition Government is to clean house and get rid of any more embarrassments before their reputation is shot. #
  • If ministers with a perceived lack of integrity put in Treasury, markets will react. Whips will be aware – but expect to get away with it. #
  • I'm mortified – perhaps we have 4 years to build a grass roots movement to put a raft of Independents up for election. @AlisonBoydell in reply to AlisonBoydell #
  • What is this crap STILL being spouted by about Laws being felled by a sense of shame? He was felled because he broke the rules. Simples. #
  • Labour, Tory or Liberal – they all have their snouts in the trough and have hubris enough to think they'll get away with it! #

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