So I spent this week in Manila. I was working with one of our (HP’s) team of developers for a week of architecture, design, and, well, hacking. Took me back to my youth.
So much has changed in software development. From Object Orientation, to SOA, to the Internet. The whole approach has changed. I can remember wading through reams of hard copy source code; hunting for a missing comma. Or calling the Operators and asking them to load the tapes for one of our development databases, then incurring their wrath when my program crashed and we had to rinse, wash, repeat.
But despite the more than million fold increase in computer power over the last quarter century; the planetary scale connection to knowledge that we can access at an instant (from a pocket device); and the sterilisation of offices from cigarette smoke; this week taught me that some things simply never change.
Day Programmers and Night Programmers
You get Day Programmers; developers who come to work, cut code they’re asked to cut, and go home. Programming is their job. They’re competent, get the job done, but will never change the world.
Then there’s Night Programmers. They live and breathe technology. Their bedrooms resemble a Guangdong factory floor, with seemingly random technical artefacts loosely connected (or not at all) centred around a huge monitor, or 2, where they spend their nights compulsively speaking to machines.
You want a Night Programmer.
Actually, you probably want to be a Night Programmer.
Pizza and Coke
Our team at the Global Delivery Centre is good. Actually they’re great. I’ve rarely worked with people that stayed 100% engaged for an entire week of early mornings, and late nights, yet still maintained a happy, energetic demeanour. But despite being awesome, it seems to be impossible to get away from the late nighter. Perhaps it’s the Night Programmer thing, perhaps you need to spin wheels through wasted effort to figure out how to get the engine humming, perhaps it’s simply the pressure of deadlines. But whatever the reason, all of the best projects I’ve worked on have found me in a roomful of people performing at their peak, together. Almost selflessly focused on achieving the team goal. Late at night!
This week was no different, and that was when 4 large pizzas and a couple of bottles of coke appeared. As if by magic.
That has simply not changed. I mean it’s practically a derogatory cliché. “Feed the devs pizza and coke and they’ll be happy.” It was the same back in the 80’s (yep, I am that old), and I rather suspect it’ll be the same when we think our software into the singularity.
There’s something pretty cool and inexplicable being part of a high performing team like that.
Yeah. Technology and the world has changed. But some things remain gloriously the same.
Here's to you! Here's to your recognising and capitalising on all of the opportunities that come your way this year. For me, like 2014, I have a bunch of goals to achieve. Some about incremental development, expanding horizons. Others big, hairy, and audacious, well out of my comfort zone.
But as I start the year, I find myself in the Qantas International 1st Class Lounge at Sydney airport, en route to Manila for work. My flight is scheduled to depart at a surprisingly considerate 12:50. Late enough to miss the morning “returning to work from the summer holidays” traffic, early enough to get in at a decent hour. All in all, just about the most convenient international flight time around.
Still, rather than timing things with my usual “swiss clockwork” precision, this morning I optimised for delay. And a good thing too.
For some unknown reason, Sydney council have decided to do roadworks on George Street, the main artery through the city. This caused all the busses to back up well beyond North Sydney. Causing gridlock at the worst possible time. For me optimising for delay means riding rather than driving. In the car, despite leaving 90 mins before I needed to, I'd have been stressing as the traffic was literally jammed. On the bike I was ducking and diving, but got through with only about a 15 min hold up.
At the airport, I usually store my bike jacket, wets and helmet in the secure storage lockers. Today the 2nd floor lockers couldn't connect to accept credit card payments. Being cashless meant finding another locker, or an ATM. Fortunately there are lockers on the ground floor, that accepted one of my cards.
Optimising for delay also means an early, online check-in, and taking only carry-on. So I got to bypass the queues in a heaving airport & check-in was a breeze. That didn't negate the back-up at security. Why do people insist on carrying liquids, not putting toilettries in ziplocks, and wondering whether to remove their laptops?
Still, despite delays at every possible juncture of my trip, I arrived at the lounge, calm, in time for a great brekkie, and to clear my email. Then wandered down to the gate 5 mins early, only to find out our aircraft was late arriving, so boarding is delayed too.
What to do?
Back to the lounge, and get my first blog out for the year…
…optimise for delay!
- Check-in early
- Carry-on luggage only
- Use most resilient to congestion transport (motorbike)
- Streamline at the airport – check-in, passport control, security, gate, aircraft
Sometime over the past 2 months, probably during my travel to India, my iPad Mini developed a hairline crack on the screen. It wasn't damaged enough to actually take it into the Apple store. That is, until I had a problem with my iPhone camera.
During the appointment I asked the Genius to have a look at my iPad. He mentioned that it clearly wasn't a warranty issue, and usually I'd be eligible to buy a replacement for about $250. But because I'd waited so long for my appointment, and we couldn't replicate the issue on my iPhone, he'd replace it for free. On top of that they only had a 64GB model in stock, so I got a free upgrade thrown in.
This morning I arrived over an hour early for my return Qantas flight from Brisbane to Sydney, and in the Business Lounge enquired about catching the earlier flight back home. Despite being a Platinum Frequent flyer, there being plenty of seats available on the 11:25 flight, AND offering to pay any fare difference or change fee, I was summarily told that my fare didn't allow changes. Fair enough, but this is where Customer Service and common sense kicks in.
Seriously, how can it make any sense for a business to not fill empty seats, and free up seats for other customers? Especially at no cost to themselves? How can it make sense to not provide service to a high value customer?
Two companies, both with “rules” designed to protect company revenue. Both used to guide or compel customer service agents in their interactions with customers. But one has the culture of empowering agents to use common sense, the other not.
I know where I'll be spending more.
I am the proud owner of one Plox TITAN!!
I know, right!
Absolutely no kill switch on awesome, and this will keep the switch definitely on when I’m in the back of beyond with no connection to reliable lectric.
What is a Plox TITAN I hear you ask?
Well I’m glad you did, because dear power sucking, social medialite, earth pillager, I am about to rock your device hungry world.
The Plox TITAN (sorry I just love saying that) is an 11,200mAh portable battery pack. Yep it’s a mobile charger for your i-, g-, and w- devices. Actually, anything that needs a 5V DC charge. Which includes my Liquid Image Torque HD Goggles, not to mention my GoPro, and yep, even the Sony NEX Camera.
At 11,200mAh it will charge an iPhone EIGHT times. And with a 1A & 2.4A output it will charge an iPad!! As well as another device simultaneously.
Like beer. In a bottle. Only electricity.
Perfect for the Himalayas
I promised to shout out the guys at Plox. Y’see since hearing about this awesomeness on the Two Blokes Talking Tech Podcast I spent the week visiting Dick Smith and JB HiFi stores in vain to get one.
Finally just two days before the trip I visited the Plox website, and enquired if I could even get the device before I left. Yes was the promise, and thanks to Josh at Plox, AusPost and the new awesome Parcel Locker service , it was in my locker this morning.
Totally buzzed by this product that must surely be a best seller amongst us nomad types who want to stay connected, I also enquired about an affiliate program.
“Alas, no” they said. But then proceed to give me a 20% discount code for whoever wants to buy one.
So head on over and get $20 off this piece of magic. PLUS Free shipping. Ooh Billy.
That means for a mere $80 you get a mobile power unit for tablets and smartphones, cameras and action cams. Cheaper than those units that only half charge your phone like, once.
Contact me for the code. Better yet, leave a comment below…
Better than that, head over to my Himalaya Ride Blog and leave a comment there. Especially when I’m riding.
Post, share, retweet, link, you know the drill.
All power to you!
So you can’t get away from the madding crowd. Time, money, commitments, and skill simply haven’t aligned to join me on a motorcycle heading to the top of the world.
I totally understand.
Which is why I’ve bought a pair of Liquid Image Motorbike Goggles with embedded Hi Def Video Camera…
…And I’ve set up a new blog for my (and hopefully other) motorcycle tours, called Thru My Eyes.
So you can live vicariously in the mountains with me. Go and check out the Himalaya Chronicles. Thru My Eyes.
No promises about the currency of content. That will depend on Electricity and Internet Connectivity. But I’ll try to post as often as I can. To be there with me as often as you can, best you subscribe.
On Sunday I took the second opportunity to head out for multiple kilometres on the bike to break in and test gear. This time I rode with Justin, and we headed out early – 7am – over the Blue Mountains. Breakfast at the Hartley Roadhouse, and then along the Jenolan Caves Road to Oberon, back to Lithgow, and back over Bell’s Line of Road to get home at just before 3pm.
350kms of riding with over 300 of them at temps below 6C and well over about 150 at temps below 2.5C. It was cold!!
From Hartley through the Jenolan Caves road and loop through Oberon, not only was it icy, but windy, and that horrible driving rain. This made the roads wet, the visibility low, and the anxiety level somewhat elevated with the risk of black ice on the roads.
In fact I couldn’t have asked for better preparation for the mountain trip. I got to test the gear in wet, cold, wind, and over long periods of time after a hard day’s riding. Almost exactly like I’ll experience in India…
…Except I’ll be on a 26HP Royal Enfield Bullet with 1950’s brakes and suspension, rather than a 2014 Ducati Multistrada with 150HP, electronic suspension, traction control, and (most importantly) heated grips
…Except the roads will be significantly worse, eroded, repaired, clogged with traffic, no guardrails – rather than the NSW RMS maintained ribbons of tar we ride on
…Except I’ll have been riding 5 – 10 hour days for 2 weeks, not just one day
…Except I’ll be at altitudes well over double Australia’s highest point, and 5 times the altitude I got to on the Blue Mountains, and most likely suffering Acute Mountain Sickness or Altitude Sickness
…Except it’s unlikely I’ll be in an area with cellphone signal, and there’s NO SPOT coverage in India – unlike here where Emergency Help is but a call away
So nothing like the Himalaya Trip at all then
…But as close as we can get on a NSW Winter’s Day in the mountains.
I took the opportunity of a family free week-end to get out on the bike and enjoy this spectacular weather we’re having. Also, to break in the new touring gear I’m getting for the upcoming Himalayan “Top of the World” Adventure.
I tootled up the Old Pacific Highway to TORC – The Old Road Cafe, where I enjoyed breakfast with another couple of blokes I met on the road, and joined my mate Evan for the longer ride. We then rode up to Pokolbin up the Peats Ridge Road, past Wollombi and Broke. The day was spectacular, the vineyard estate we stopped at for lunch superb, and the weather (temperature aside) sublime. All in all, 324kms of goodness.
My original plan this week-end was to overnight somewhere outback. But that plan changed with another endeavour I’m engaged in requiring me to be back home for the evening. Then I was going to head out to Pokolbin with Evan for lunch, and return along the Putty Road. But by the time we got lunch (45 mins to be served) it was gone 2:30 when we left. This was really too late to head west into the setting sun and get home before dark on the Putty road. And frankly, I didn’t want to ride alone. So Evan and I went to Toronto for coffee (and sticky date pudding) and around Lake Macquarie.
Riding is awesome, but it’s always better together…
How did the gear do?
Well the new Kriega R25 backpack was brilliant. I’ve never been able to get a backpack on and off with a bike jacket on before, but this one, with its “Quadlock” Harness system made it easy. The harness also distributes the load comfortably. To the point where you are no longer conscious of the backpack at all.
I also went with the 3L Hydration pack, which is going to be imperative in India. This was good, but I haven’t figured out how to drink with the helmet on yet, or if that’s even possible
The Olympia Motoquest Touring pants are fantastic. Comfortable, practical, and protective. Given the temperature wearing long johns is a must, but the pants did their job.
One of the things I’ve been trying to figure out is a way to have my Sony NEX 6 camera close to hand (without a tank bag) so I can stop, take a photo, and move on again without having to remove a backpack or open a pannier. To this end I spent some time in JB HiFi, Dick Smith, Kathmandu, and MacPac looking at various camera bags. Either they were too small (for compact cameras rather than “mirrorless” cameras) or too big and bulky (aimed at DSLR’s). But I found the solution this morning…
…I found a bicycle saddle or handlebar bag in the kitchen, that is the ideal size for the camera, has a double zip cover, and velcro straps at the bag. I strapped this to my backpack harness, and voila I have a quick release camera bag that takes seconds for me to take out the camera, snap some shots, and return it to be on my way again.
The other major test was to track where I’d ridden using MotionX-GPS on the iPad, with the ability to post this quickly to the blog. Usually I use my SPOT Messenger device, which posts automatically to Spotwalla. The Spotwalla trip is embedded on a page on my blog, so I literally don’t have to think about posting my track at all. As long as I remember to switch the SPOT on in the morning, and onto tracking mode, the rest of the work is done.
However, there is no SPOT coverage in India, which means I need to find another way to track my progress, and upload to the Net for family and friends. And when I’m riding 10+ hours per day I’m not exactly going to have hours or indeed energy to write, edit, upload, and publish content. So whatever I do publish will need to be quick (read, almost instant). Otherwise, I’m simply not going to do it. Also whatever device I use for the tracking needs to have battery life to last a full day. Finally I want to minimise devices. Less to charge, less to carry, less to break or be stolen. I’ve pretty much already decided to take the iPad instead of a laptop. I can do all my blogging and updates from the iPad. As well as any “on-the-road” video or photo editing. It’s small, light, and the battery lasts for-ev-er. A good 12 hours.
This last reason is rationale to use the iPad rather than my iPhone. Whilst I can use MotionX on the iPhone, with all of the same functionality (or most), the iPhone battery drains quickly when using the GPS.
My current thinking is to use MotionX on the iPad, then share the saved track. This posts a link to a Google map on the MotionX website, and I can embed that link in my blog as per above. I needed to prove a couple of things before heading overseas:
- The iPad will actually track accurately
- I can track with the iPad in my backpack
- It will track without access to cellular connectivity
- The battery will last long enough for a full day riding
- I can do all the posting from the iPad itself at the end of the day without needing another computer
So far, so good. I proved 1 through 4 today, and half of 5 (I shared the link from the iPad, just didn’t actually create this post – but I’ll test that tomorrow)
What do you think? Would you be interested in seeing the GPS track of where I ride, and where I am, when in India?