Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A tale of two hotels - power to the guests

I should preface this by saying I actually enjoyed staying at the Langham in Auckland, the service was excellent and the hotel itself is very comfortable. I would consider staying there again.

Two hotels I have recently stayed at were the Langham in Auckland and the St Kilda Parkview in Melbourne.

In the Langham, there were no free power sockets! Not one! The small number available had hotel appliances such as lights plugged into them. To plug in my PC I had to grovel under the desk and unplug a light. There was nothing to charge my phone unless I unplugged my laptop.

Are they catering to the time travel trade where guests turn up from 1975?

In contrast, the Parkview (which actually feels older) has a power multi-board mounted above the desk. OK, it's ugly - but it gives me four power sockets right where I need them. I can plug in my phone, laptop, iPad (I wish) and still have one over. There is a spare socket right beside the wardrobe where the ironing board is (in the Langham it was almost impossible to plug in the iron).

I'm with Tim Taylor, there's no such thing as too much power, and if I were picky, I'd also like a spare socket by the bed so I could have my phone there instead of on the other side of the room, but that's minor.

The Langham is an extreme example of how bad things can be for the business traveller, but a lack of sockets is not that uncommon. We all complain about it but no-one does anything.

Well, that's going to change. From now on, I promise to fill in a feedback form every time I have to grovel under a desk or make a choice about which appliance to plug in.

If the people that design the rooms don't understand how they are used, we should educate them!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A fresh look at Visual Studio

I have just installed Visual Studio 2010 Release Candidate on my brand new laptop.

Brickbat first!

It failed to install. A brand new machine, a fresh copy of Windows 7, all 64 bit and the Release Candidate install fails!!! - Guess what guys? It's not ready yet, maybe some more testing.... turns out to be a known problem - unsurprising - I can't have been the first person to try to install it.


It looks great - I love the look and feel

It's snappy
Everything seems really responsive - I've most recently been using NetBeans which suffers from the usual Java problem of sluggishness when actually asked to do something.

It has a JOOB plugin available
So we can define our Joob data model either textually or graphically, with full intellisense and autocompletion.

So now I just need to brush up my VS skills and transition from Java to C# (how hard can that be?), and I'll be (more) dangerous.

You see more about what we're doing with JOOB and VS at the JOOB Facebook page or the website.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

GMail - I like this

We are doing a trial of Google apps at Jade, you might remember this came up from the positive experiences with BaseCamp I mentioned in an earlier post.

There is a lot to Google apps, especially considering how inexpensive it is for corporates. I am not surprised it is being adopted by large high profile customers. Looking across the suite, there is mail and calendar as well as a set of Office replacement apps, and a few other odds and ends.

But this is about Google Mail.

I have had a personal GMail account for years, but never really used it. It always seemed a bit toy-like and I didn't like the Labels vs Folders concept.

I was wrong.

Now we have had the training and the proverbial penny has dropped. This is magic stuff.

Google mail is (perhaps unsurprisingly) based on very fast and easy search.

One of my main frustrations with mail has disappeared instantly. I can find stuff now!

Even the most organised email user (not me) tends to lose mail for two reasons.

Firstly, deletion. In other mail systems you read a mail in your inbox, then you need to decide whether to keep it or delete it, If you delete it, then you will not be able to get it back if you want to later. If you keep it, then you generally move it to a folder (see below). There are some people who just let their inbox grow and grow, but this does not work well for lots of reasons. With Google you don't need to delete!!! In fact, I understand that the first version of GMail didn't even have a delete option!

Secondly, folders. In other mail systems a mail can only be in one folder, so you have to keep making choices about the most relevant folder to use. Then when you want to find it again you have to re-make the choice of which folder to look in and hope you come up with the same answer. To make things worse, Outlook, at least, does not let you search over more than one folder.

How Google mail works.

All your mail messages are in a huge bucket called (logically enough) 'All Mail'. You can search this at lightning fast speed and find any message you want.

Messages can have meta tags (labels) applied to them, which puts them in the set of messages that have that tag. So, for example, in Google the Inbox is not a folder, it is the set of messages that have the Inbox tag applied to them. So when you have finished with a message, you don't need to delete it, you just remove the Inbox tag. Messages can have multiple tags which lets them appear in multiple sets.

Under Outlook I had about 100 folders set up for my customers and used to laboriously file messages under the right customer. With Google I have one label, Customers, and just tag all my customer messages. I rely on search to find the messages for a specific customer.

By relying on search, you need far fewer labels than folders, I think I'll manage with about 10 Labels, versus probably about 200 folders in outlook. Isn't that simpler?

There are a few other nice things built in, like a good Instant Messaging system, including text, audio and video, but the mail is the killer app for me.

And it's all cloud based, so it's the same when I'm at home on the netbook, when I'm at work, and in April when I get my iPad it will all just work.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Shampoo and Conditioner

Ok, so when I am in the shower with water running down my face, and I'm confronted with two bottles of hair product from Sunsilk - what do I need to know right now?

Which is shampoo and which is conditioner right???

So what is in the smallest type? Exactly.

Who designs this stuff? The bold type, easy to read stuff is all the marketing hype, the actual factual information is totally concealed.

I want to waterboard their designers.

Comments welcome!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

iPod lessons

I know it's trite but the iPod combination of outstanding player, great business model and usable software (barely in the case of the original iTunes) has changed the face of its market. The iPod totally dominates.

We have Ford, Mercedes and Toyota putting iPod connectors in their cars. Not MP3 connectors, not CD players - but proprietary connectors that only work with one company's products.

Can you imagine every car in the world shipping with a Samsung connector???

By sticking to proprietary connections and protocols, Apple has managed to dominate that market.

So now when people start bleating about the lack of 'industry standard' connectors on the iPad (including things like Flash), should Apple worry - or should the rest of the industry be VERY AFRAID.

I think I will do a separate post on Adobe and their products, there are some companies that need plenty of space to cover. But the fact that Apple say most of their crashes on the Mac are due to buggy Adobe code doesn't surprise me in the least.

Only two more months till my iPad arrives....

Friday, January 29, 2010

Grownups drive cars

There are guidelines in life that assist assessment of correct behaviour.

For example, grownups drive cars, and children ride bicycles.

Application of this immediately shows that:

Car drivers should take care around cyclists and treat them with respect - you wouldn't want someone being mean to your child.

Cyclists should not abuse drivers or strike their car, adults should be treated with respect even when in the wrong.

If a cyclist does forget themselves then a gentle corrective smack is fine, violence is not acceptable.

Cars have right of way, just as stores serve adults first, cyclists should wait for cars to do their thing first.

Society reinforces these rules by forcing cyclists to wear little plastic hats which would make Genghis Khan look like a nerd, and cyclists themselves help by maxing out on lycra and other geekish apparel.

The only times adults should ride a bike are: after losing their license (society removes adult privileges) , around a camping ground or other park scene, or when severely under the influence. In none of these circumstances should a helmet or lycra be worn.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

My take on the iPad

I think the iPad is a game changing device that will sell up a storm and seriously threaten both the netbook and, more interestingly ChromeOS.

Most of the expert comment around the iPad has been tinged with disappointment and focussed on what is missing. The problem is that the expert commentators are experts! What they want, and think they need, is not what a normal person wants and needs. Remember the panning of the iPhone? Same people.

Every non-expert I have been with that has seen the Apple video has immediately wanted an iPad, and they are affordable - comparable with a netbook. I posted earlier about how great my new netbook is and the sorts of things I use it for. This is exactly what the iPad is targeting.

Sure, I am a computer person. I do want to do development, run up big spread sheets, create mind-blowing(numbing) power points. BUT when I do these things I use a real computer. I wouldn't try to do them on a netbook, I might view the odd thing but serious work - of course not. So the iPad will be easier to use, more fun, have lots of cool apps and be a tactile delight - what's not to love???

I confidently assert that this will be one of the hottest products of the year and will rival the iPhone for uptake, and market dominance. I also believe that it will stop the netbook sales explosion dead in its tracks, and make the release of ChromeOS a fizzer. The future of flash is now also a question mark. If sites won't run on iPhone or iPad, it seems likely that most web designers (or at least their customers) will move away to something that is supported - but this is more speculative.

I'm buying one when they become available and I'm betting there a hell of a lot more people like me than like the 'experts'.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tweetdeck Twitter Tool

Just started using Tweetdeck to run my Twitter account (JohnAscroft if you're interested).

What a great little product. I am constantly amazed how much good free stuff there is out there.

TweetDeck lets you set up columns of things you are interested in, so I have columns of - friends timeline, direct messages, mentions and a couple of live searches. Also, you can hook in LinkedIn and Facebook, so I have a column showing LinkedIn updates.

This is pretty cool, so I get an alert whenever anything I am interested in happens and it all just runs quietly in the background.

If you're still using the standard web interface to Twitter, I can recommend this as a definite step up.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Connecting with old friends

Last year I got back in touch with my oldest friend after a gap of about 20 years. I know that sounds funny, but a change of cities and different priorities kind of meant that we had just drifted apart. And then getting in touch becomes increasingly risky and awkward - so we didn't.

But something happened to me (I actually can't remember what), and I realised this was ridiculous so I tracked down an email address and sent one off - and there was no reply. So I thought that maybe he didn't want to pick up the threads again. Waited six months, then thought it was worth one more shot and sent off another email. Which worked! So now we are in regular contact and it has added a richness back in my life.

When you have known someone for forty years (that's a long time), then there is a connection and shared history that is priceless. If started now I couldn't know a new friend for that long unless I live to be very old (and probably won't remember half of it anyway). And even better, it's not just him, there are his brothers and sisters that were an important part of my life growing up. The joy I got from going out to dinner with him and his sister last week in Dunedin was out of all proportion to what you would expect.

So... if there is someone out there that you have lost touch with - make an effort. Someone has to make the first move and as you get older you realise it doesn't matter who and anyway who cares? What's the worst thing that could happen? But then look at the upside - if you re-establish contact and still get on well then you've gained an irreplaceable thing back.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Netbook replaces phone

Just bought an HP mini netbook, doesn't matter, could have been an Asus or anything.

Realised I was spending a lot of time each night looking up stuff on my phone (Blackberry), things like movie reviews, current news, my Twitter and so on. It was never worth going through to the laptop in the office and it's a bit on the big and power hungry side to rest on one's actual lap.

So now I have the netbook and it is so great!! Thoroughly recommend!

Runs ok under XP as shipped, but to really get a great experience I am using JoliCloud which is a cloud based Linux OS. It is very cool and very fast. Reboot times are tiny and I have only had to go back to XP once or twice for specific Microsofty things. It is everything the Google Chrome is promising, but you can get it now, and it's a nice safe install beside Windows so you're not risking anything. If you have a netbook you owe it to yourself to try this out.

Regardless of OS, the whole netbook thing is great. It just sits on the coffee table, waiting to serve. The screen and keyboard are less than a true laptop, but way way better than a phone!

Love the Cloud, sold by Basecamp

So I just signed up for Basecamp project management and it's all going, I've got three projects loaded, two companies staff with access and it all works!

As a business user why would I try to do anything in-house any more. If there's a cloud or Saas offering then lead me to it. We are currently looking at installing Exchange, but now I seriously wonder if we wouldn't be better with Google Apps? We will almost certainly go with to replace our decrepit Goldmine CRM (don't get me started on Goldmine - now there's a company that deserves to lose all its customers and go broke).