It takes a long time to ditch those applications with which you’re intimately familiar.

It starts, quite often, with your Office Suite.  No, I’m not talking about desk and chair, but rather Microsoft Office.  Excel is an excellent spreadsheet tool, there’s no doubt of that.  But quite often, people like to work differently to the prescribed “norm”, and Libre Office allows just that.  It’s not the only open source office suite, of course: there’s also KOffice, the Abiword/Gnumeric combiniation and so on.

Recently I’ve ditched other proprietary applications which I have worked with for years.  Why?  Well, for one I believe that switching applications is good, because it challenges you to think differently.  You have to learn new ways of doing old things, and this can help you think of new, better things to do.

Secondly, you get no love with proprietary applications.  Time and again, you pay your money and end up getting no support.  So, really, what is the point?  I’m not just talking about Microsoft, either; many proprietary software vendors are only able to make a profit by re-packaging open source software and selling access to it from within a proprietary system. Parallels, I’m thinking of you here.

The only way to beat companies is to not buy their products. It’s this simple.  Here are the ways I have ditched proprietary software:

  • Operating System: was Microsoft Windows XP, is now Fedora (16, currently)
  • Email:  was Microsoft Outlook, is now Mozilla Thunderbird
  • Office: was Microsoft Office, is now Libre Office
  • Web Browser: was always Firefox 😉
  • ..the list goes on…

Some time ago, mainly because my then-girlfriend bought me 3 Hacky Sacks (or ‘juggling balls‘, as they seem to be known these days), I took it upon myself to learn how to juggle.
An image of three juggling balls

The learning process is actually quite simple.  This is the method I have used:

  1. With two in one hand (e.g. left) and one in the other, throw up one (of the two) first and simply catch it with the other hand.
  2. Then, repeat but throw back from the right to the left.

    Completing just this first step is the key to learning how to juggle. 

    Continue to practice this method, tossing the sack from one to the other hand.  When you can always catch it, try the next step:

  3. When the ball is up in the air, throw the opposite ball up too.  The best time to throw it is just before the first ball reaches the parabolic peak (the top of the arc of travel).   Now that your second hand is free, catch the first ball.
  4. If you can, try to catch the second ball as well, using your first hand – just as you have already practised.

    Once you have got this far, you are well on the way to becoming an expert! 😉

  5. It goes without saying that, to improve, you need to throw the third ball into the air before catching either the first, or the second.

The paradox

This is the secret to success.  In order to successfully catch, time after time, you must successfully throw.  In other words, to hold on, you have to let go.

Perhaps it can be best summarised with a quote from Star Wars.  When Princess Leia is speaking to Governer Tarkin, shortly before he destroys the planet of Dantooine, she says (paraphrased), “the more you tighten your grip, the more will slip through your fingers”.

I have recently spent a considerable amount of time updating my blogs. This is my personal, “daily diary” style blog and I contribute to another blog for work (One Cool).

Why, you may ask, did I decide to use two different systems? Well, not knowing the strengths or weaknesses of one in comparison to the other means I cannot exploit them. One strength of Blogger, for example, is how quick the non-WYSISYG editor is. The speed of it means it’s a joy to type into as opposed to WordPress‘s more advanced, touchy-feely editor.

But it’s all relative – there’s still the need to complete commercial work and get dinner on the table. And apart from that, there’s an outstanding Fedora 9 blog article or two that I still need to sort out.. 😉

Been swimming a fair amount in recent months. The original intention was to build up some endurance for when I go surfing, but the swimming has since become an enjoyable thing in itself.

A friend and I go, 2-3 times per week, to a 50m Olympic-sized pool. 32 lengths = 1600 metres, or 1 mile. We normally manage the 32 lengths each time we go, but we are now looking to push it a bit further.

Normally we warm up with 10 lengths, split into 5 sets of 2. Then we do sets of 4 lengths for the bulk of the distance, before warming down with a closing 2-4 lengths. It’s great fun, and every time we go I feel we progress that bit further.

It’s a good reminder that achievements can take some time to accomplish, but they are then with you for life.

Ok, so perhaps it’s me. I can live with that. But the reason I pause for thought on this is that I recently received a link that a friend emailed to me. It was a link to a site with a video of computer technology that is now 20 years old. It really made me stop and take notice.

Here’s this computer running on a 25MHz processor, with more responsiveness than my 2GHz laptop. Is this progress? It doesn’t seem like it to me. Surely I should not only have the tools on my desktop today, but my desktop should have evolved into something more capable too?

It’s like that, and that’s the way it is. It’s small, it’s a business, it takes up a lot of time and even then you have still only chipped away at your task list. Little-to-no social life. Sometimes you wonder why. And then you get a call. A prospect – cool, but interested. Then you forget about the Small things.

It might not seem like it at first glance, but I’d say it’s true: whichever medium you choose (e.g. Blogger, Myspace, Facebook, LinkedIn,, etc…), we are collaborating in an unprecedented fashion.

Collaboration is a nice corporate word. It conjurs up images of busy, suited professionals using PDAs to respond to “Bob” back in the office while we, us more important types, are out there on the road, winning at business and life.

Yet we are all performing the very thing that has been, and still is, this “holy grail” of modern communications. Instead of having our network defined by corporate governance and a system administrator’s tenacity (and love) for rules, simply having a connection to the web now means transformation – not of business, but of people.

And when you think of the web, you can think of people, interconnected by their elected social networks, not just their prescribed business ones. For those of us who are employed outside of the megacorps as well as in, this is natural.

But what it means to those with their roots in structure, rules, regulations and definitions is much more exciting. It is your time – embrace it, wisely.