Monthly Archive: May 2005

War rooms increase productivity

FlexibleofficeSome of the best years of my working life were spent in an office environment I designed to promote collaborative work.  It had many of the characteristics of a “war room”.  With quiet areas around the sides, tables in the middle and loads of break-out areas, white-boards, flip charts and a design review/presentation area.  I described this environment in a previous post.  I have generally been frustrated at the lack of discussion about workspace design in the IT press, so I was pleased to come across this article that resonated strongly with my experience:

Recently, many companies in the software industry have been experimenting with putting teams of workers into “war rooms” to enhance communication and promote intense collaboration, explains Stephanie Teasley, an assistant research scientist in the U-M School of Information’s Collaboratory for Research on Electronic Work.

Instead of toiling in separate cubicles, workers sit at wall-less workstations in one big, open room. The room is typically outfitted with central worktables, whiteboards and flip charts to facilitate group discussions. While companies expect benefits from such arrangements, workers sometimes balk at the idea, fearing they’ll sacrifice privacy and the quiet they need to concentrate on demanding tasks. The U-M …

Microsoft Virtual Earth and integration

Msn_veThis video shows some great integration between different information sources:

  • Satellite imagery
  • Low flying aircraft imagery
  • Vector mapping data
  • Local “yellow pages” type information

You can take this integrated data and share it as:

  • Directions
  • Blog posts to MSN Spaces

And they implied that a Win32/.net client is under development and you can image the sort of integration that that will have with GPS, Outlook etc.

Of course google maps has some similar features, what’s will be interesting about Virtual Earth is the integration and the thick client possibilities.

Great video showing the future of integrated collaboration

In this video we can see Microsoft Office Communicator in all it’s glory.  I particularly liked: the seamless escalation between collaboration modes, from IM to Phone, to Video, to Virtual Meeting the integration of presence and Outlook calendar the ability to easily search AD for a contact and instantly have...

I have a new video camera

CameraI friend of mine has let me have a new video camera,  its a Polycom ViaVideo II and the quality and refresh rate is greatly improved compared to my ancient USB IBM Ultracam.  One more step towards reduced travelling.

Software Engineering – IT Conversations

Listen here.  I really enjoyed this wide ranging interview with Philip Greenspun, Philip has had the same MIT email address since the age of 13, and he’s had a profound yet subtle impact on many software developers. His 1999 book, Philip and Alex’s Guide to Web Publishing, was an inspiration to many programmers writing server-side code on Unix/Linux platforms. It was one of the first to be published both as a free download and as a traditional book. (Filled with color photos, printed on high-quality coated stock, and weighing in at 3.5 pounds it was also the first computer coffee-table book.)

In this interview with IT Conversations’ host Doug Kaye, Philip describes the evolution of his attitudes towards software engineering as manifested in Philip and Alex’s Guide and his latest book, Software Engineering for Internet Applications, for a course at MIT where “the goal of the course is that the student finishes knowing how to build by him or herself.” (That must be one heck of a semester!)

There were two topics I particularly remember;  first Philip describes how he was convinced that his company needed venture capital investment, even though it was growing rapidly and highly profitable.  The …

Role change weekend

HouseworkAs I work from home I tend to make sure I do my share of the housework.  My normal daily jobs include:

  • tidying the bedrooms
  • making the beds
  • washing, drying and putting away the clothes

Well Debbie and I have been finding our respective daily tasks a bit of a grind, so on Friday we decided that we would swap jobs every weekend.  So this weekend I have been:

  • making all of the meals
  • setting the table
  • clearing the table, washing up, drying and putting away the pots

it’s been a great success, I have loved not having to do my jobs, and really enjoyed my new weekend jobs.  By Sunday I had change the routine and made it a lot more organised and peaceful and had written up (stephie laminated for me) a crib sheet that tells me all of the kids favorite meals, vegetables, fruit, drinks etc, as with 4 kids  I am always forgetting  Hopefully a weeks break from them will mean I enjoy these tasks every weekend, as they say “a change is as good as a rest”.

Bill Gates on Microsoft’s strategy around the phone

SmartphoneThis is a good interview, where Bill Gates describes Microsoft’s approach to the phone.  A few things struck me from the interview and other stuff I have read:

  • Microsoft don’t make any money on Windows Mobile, but they seem committed to the market for the long term
  • Microsoft know that it won’t be long before the phone is powerful enough to take advantage of its operating system.  At that point they believe they will then have a real advantage over the people who squeezed their operating systems into current generation phones.  Of course as soon as the phone is this powerful it will make a great platform for Linux as well.
  • Microsoft are waiting for the phone to be powerful enough to disrupt the portable game console market,  at this point I suspect they will be ready to compete
  • Microsoft will leverage their integrated innovation strategy
  • The connected car is a huge market, this post talks about the potential
  • The carriers, rather than the phone makers are a key route to market for Microsoft,  I guess that Microsoft with its robust strategy around content and rights management is well placed to woo the carriers
  • Microsoft is to be commended …

More on form factors

GadgetsI just realised that Grahams model ends up working very well for me:

2GB Desktop with 2*120GB disks  = 7 Seat 307 SW
1.5GB TC1100 Tablet PC = Ford Fiesta – this will have to go,  not at all the image to go with the Tablet 🙂
Treo 600 = Push bike
Nokia 6310i = Scooter

Device form factors

307SW_portholeHere is a great discussion about device form factors by Graham.  I particularly liked the summary:

  • Some people will use a big desktop with a big screen, because some people drive a Range Rover.
  • Some people will use a titanium plated ultra-light, because some people drive a BMW Z3.
  • Some people will utilise a standard laptop, because some people drive a Ford Mondeo.
  • Some people will use a large form factor laptop, because some people drive a Renault Grand Scenic
  • Some people will still use the device they have had for the last 10 years, because some people drive a vintage Mercedes sports car.

I am not sure what sort of car driver I am, using Graham’s Model, as I have a variety of different devices to suit the need, perhaps I am just one of those people who has a big garage, or in the UK a long drive (we fill our garages with junk)!  In fact I have a Peugeot 307SW  7 seater (4 kids) and a Ford Fiesta.

A story that vindicates my approach to time management

In this post I talked about my approach to time management.  Graham has this great story on his site that illustrates the same approach but much more eloquently!

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He asked the students if the jar was full.They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly, and the pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full; they agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “yes.”

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as …