Monthly Archive: March 2005

Sharing and giving

StawberriesOn Saturday I started to pull up all of the strawberry plants that had rooted from runners last year.  I ended up with several hundred plants in a big heap.  I decided that it would be a good idea to give them away, but my wife thought no one would be interested.  I took this as a bit of a challenge,  I am one of those people who likes to think the best of others (which is an extension of having a positive outlook) my wife in contrast always expects things to go wrong and tends to distrust those she doesn’t know.  Anyway I bagged the plants up – 15 plants to a bag – and to make the challenge more interesting decided to give the plants away but allow for donations.

My eldest daughter, Stephie, made a lovely sign and we put the 15 bags of plants in a big plastic container on the path outside the house.  The sign read – Free Strawberries – and was nicely illustrated.  Next to the container was a small wooden bowl which I put a little loose change in; to get things going.  After three days all 15 bags have gone, we …

How Skype has changed the way I do voice communication

OutlookskypeI have been pretty pleased with Skype so far.  Here is a snapshot of how I use voice communications now:

At my home office:

  • when I get home I put my mobile (Treo 600) in its cradle and this initiates an automatic auto-forward to my SkypeIn number, which also comes with free voicemail.Microphone
  • at my desk I am using my Logitech noise cancelling USB Microphone and my desktops speakers, people tell me the quality is very good – so there is no need to mess around with headphones
  • I have contacted about 30 people who I often call to try and get them using Skype,  about 20 of them have installed it.  For these people Skype to Skype calls have been very successful.
  • I still have quite a lot of people that I contact who are not using Skype, mainly because they are highly mobile so for these people I have been experimenting with SkypeOut.  The quality of SkypeOut does not seem as good as Skype to Skype, but it seems good enough in most cases.  I have suffered a few dropouts when calling mobiles (UK –> Australia) but this may have happened anyway.  The call charges were much less …

Will Longhorn be compelling enough?

Longhorn logoMichael having read my post supporting Microsoft’s decision to back port the Pillars of longhorn is worried that Longhorn may not be compelling enough:

When I read articles like WinFS on XP, a VERY big deal! from Steve Richards in his blog (Adventures in home working), I have mixed feelings.

On the one hand, I agree with Steve that it is very cool that these features will be available on more platforms. It is possible to put too much pressure on a release by putting so much into it exclusively anyway, and features that are only on one OS are by their very nature limited in their appeal.

On the other hand, I worry about whether that will make the OS release less compelling when it becomes clear that many of the pillars in the original Longhorn Wave are no longer just for Longhorn. Understandably slow to go into more detail too soon about what the new defining pillars are this time, there is some hang time that pundits will write about the “fact” that apparently there are no pillars. Despite the fact that only morons and Microsoft haters (two very different groups in most cases) would usually choose to believe …

Spring comes early

Spring comes earlyWhere I live we have a micro climate, we always get better than average weather, a lot less rain than just a few miles inland.  But this Winter has been amazing,  in fact it feels like we have missed winter altogether.  the last month it has only rained a couple of days and most days we have had at least some sunshine.  I took this picture of the flowers as we walked along the beach promenade on Sunday, the picture was taken with the built in camera in my Treo 640*480, but good enough for the odd blog posting.

Budapest – here I come, hopefully :-)

BudapestI just got the following invite from Microsoft, it looks like a great event, hopefully someone will pay for me to attend

Steve, register and join us in Budapest for the Microsoft Europe Partner Architect Forum!

Please join us May 23rd – May 25th 2005 for the Microsoft Europe Partner Architect Forum in Budapest. This conference is being held at the Hilton Budapest WestEnd Hotel, a stylish contemporary hotel on the Pest side of the city, near the city’s major attractions such as the Parliament, Opera House, Heroes’ Square and St Stephen’s Basilica.

The Forum is a gathering of 100+ Senior Solution and Infrastructure Architects from the leading global system integrators and technology partners in Europe. Refreshments will be served during registration the evening of Monday, May 23rd at the hotel from 18h30-21h.

The event is focused on providing a roadmap of Microsoft technology strategy with an emphasis on mapping architecture to product direction.

Experiments with Skype

SkypeAfter an initial abortive attempt at using Skype I started to use it again yesterday with impressive results. Certainly BT to BT calls seem excellent, BT to cable was where I had the problems last time I tried. In fact I was so impressed that I purchased a SkypeIn number and unlimited voicemail for £24 for 12 months, which is a lot cheaper and more flexible than installing a business line. I then setup my Treo so that when I am at home all of my calls are automatically forwarded to my SkypeIn number and hence to my main desktop. When I leave home all calls revert to my Treo.

Anyone wanting to test out the quality – if you know me – ring my mobile on Wednesday; chances are it will divert you to my SkypeIn number, even better get Skype yourself!

If it all works as expected then my wife will be pleased because I won’t be hogging the home telephone line, and it’s much easier working with my microphone and PC speakers than with a conventional phone/speakerphone. I need to test it later on my Tablet over wireless so that I keep my home mobility.

Whilst investigating …

WinFS on XP, a VERY big deal!

WinfsIt’s been widely reported (see this article for example) that Microsoft are back porting WinFS to XP.  This is a very intelligent strategy on Microsoft’s part.  A few months ago I wrote about strategies that Microsoft could adopt to compete with Linux, well I missed the most important strategy, which goes like this:

  • Back port the pillars of Longhorn to Windows XP
  • Wow 3rd party software developers with the new platform capabilities (PDC Tech-ED)
  • Convince their bosses that a new version of their applications – that takes advantage of these capabilities – will allow them to sell more copies, or convince people to upgrade
  • Establish Longhorn’s credibility as a stable and secure platform (because of the Longhorn Fundamentals)
  • Fix the problems that prevent applications running without admin priv and make installation with admin priv easier.
  • Demonstrate that Longhorn and XP can provide both Rich and Reach capabilities, via Terminal Services,  an upgraded Web browser and Smart Client support in the form of Java and Click Once .NET applications (in .NET Whidbey)
  • Convince the hardware vendors that Longhorn will help them sell more hardware
  • Provide time for the new third party applications to arrive that take advantage of Avalon, WinFS and …

The pyramid principle

PyramidI used to be one of those “everything on my laptop” sort of guys until I started working from home.  Now I use the device pyramid principle, which is another way of saying that I exploit the strengths of 3 devices to offset the weaknesses of those same three devices.  I works like this:


600C_127dialpad_medMy least powerful, but most accessible device is my Treo.  I can access anything on it with a couple of clicks, and its up and running in a second (actually its always on but it takes a second to activate the screen).  Because it’s my phone I never leave home without it.  The information I carry on it is the basic stuff:


  • Contacts
  • Diary
  • Email
  • Todo
  • eWallet

But because it’s always with me it’s important that I also have stuff for entertainment, (music, books) and work to fill in any otherwise dead time (RSS feeds, tech conferences, email).

Tc1000Next comes my Tablet,  it’s much bigger, takes a couple of minutes to get going, and even longer to find what I am looking for.  However being more powerful it has everything that the Treo has plus:

  • All my scanned documents
  • All my current work
  • Everything …


HouseworkSince I started working from home I have increased the amount of house work that I do, my share is:

  • Washing the clothes and putting them away
  • At least one set of washing up
  • Tidying the kids rooms
  • Bed time stories

I don’t mind doing it to much,  but I have recently found that I actually quite enjoy it because I listen to technical conferences or pod-casts on my Treo to keep me occupied (except when reading the bedtime stories :-)).  Today I was listening to the 2nd Tablet PC Podcast that JK has just started, more details on his blog.  and I found that I was actually looking around for more cleaning to do so that I could listen to the end.  Debbie (wife) was pretty pleased when she got home!

New workstation design!

DeskI have gradually refined my workstation design, and its changed quite a lot since the last time I posted.  So I thought I would provide an update.  This first image shows an overview of the whole environment, there are some key points to look out for:

  • First I two PC’s shown at the bottom, the one on the left is my desktop, running Windows 2003 Server, with 2GB of memory and VM Ware Workstation and all of my other applications.  This PC drives the three monitors via two ATI graphics boards.

Behind the PC’s in a curtain that my wife made for me that hides one hell of tangle of cables!

On top of the centre monitor is a USB web cam.  On the CRT monitor is my headphone jack and volume control and my Secure ID token (dual factor authentication) for my company VPN connection.

The two monitors centre and left are 19” TFT’s that run at 1280*1024.  The one on the right is a 19” Flat CRT.   I tend to use the one of the left for email, reference materials, instant message discussions etc.  The one in the middle for writing, presentations and reading, and the one …