I’ve decided I need to dance more in my life.  Being a techy-programmer-web_developing-CEO-type, there is so little time anyway.  With the remainder, I usually indulge in sci-fi, walking the dog, eating… and occasionally sleeping too.  Yet, being almost an artificial intelligence by any reckoning, I can tell you that Androids are too busy to dream.

Well, this has to stop!  No more sleeping!  Only raving.  It’s essential.

A trip to Miami is essential too.  After all, you can’t be #superhuman all the time!

#trancenation

If there is one thing I become acutely aware of, as time rolls by, it’s that the effort to write a page on my blog never diminishes. As the length of time since my last post increases, so does the psychological pressure to produce the next post. But one has to question, why is there this innate need to compose something, share it to the world and possibly see no return for the effort?

As strange as it sounds, I am intrugued by blogs that appear to have “stopped” at some point in time. When you come across a really useful post from a blog that was last updated three years ago, you can’t help feeling a bit sadenned by it. What happened to the poster? Did he/she get busy doing more even interesting stuff – so much more interesting and so much more busy, that they have neither the time nor the inclination to share?

This is a problem I have and I suspect I’m not alone. Sharing what goes on in my daily life is sometimes not possible. People count on me to provide web hosting support the moment they need it, not after I write a blog post. Working with a number of UK graphic design agencies, my days are kept busy and varied. Staying on top of the latest technical developments – often blogged by others in the industry, means I have little time to share this newly-acquired knowledge myself.

To address this issue, I am going to start worrying a little less about the content of my blog posts and more about their timeliness. Sound strange? Perhaps. Having read others’ blogs, though, it seems that social, political and technical comment is still a sought-after item of value in cyberspace. It all comes down to trust. Do you trust the opinion of the writer of this blog?

In our increasingly exposed digital world, establishing trust is something that comes from interactions and being able to judge a person’s character through what they share. As time rolls on, I will attempt to share more of my thoughts and observations through this blog and other social media sites, and worry a little less that I’m not providing a how-to on “everything you ever needed to know”.

If you have any comments, please feel free to add them below. Thanks.

Working alone can be tiresome.  If you are your own boss, it can be pretty gruelling to keep tabs of your schedule, stay on top of development plans, keep up communications with friends, family, business contacts and your wider network.

Here are five tips that I find help me enormously on days where I work alone.

1. Structure your day

Decide on a routine and stick to it and don’t be tempted to “just do this” when it means overshooting your alloted time

2. Be mindful of your caffeine intake

It is very easy to keep piling up biscuits and gulping down pints of coffee, but this can have a deleterious effect on concentration and productivity

3. Get outside!

As simple as it sounds, taking just 30 minutes away from your screen at lunchtime can make the second half of your day as productive as the first

4. Speak to people

Being totally isolated and not having the benefit of human interaction can make the brain lethargic.  Stimulation by interaction – whether a phone call, or video chat, can help minimise this

5. Decide on your end time

If you are the type of person who likes to knock off 30 mins early, see if you can discipline yourself  to complete “on time”.  Or, if you tend to overshoot and work longer than you should, be firm.  Make your deadline real and stick to it.

I find that these simple rules help maintain a clear mind during both busy and less intense periods.

Also on:

*Getting into Getting Things GNOME!*

(Edit: this is an old draft, now published for testing purposes)

This is the beginning of what I hope will become a multi-part journal of my adventure into contributing free software.  I thought I’d share my education, FWIW! 🙂

Part 1: Read The Flipping Manual(s)!

As a user of a great amount of free software, I often wondered what was involved in producing it.  I was aware of the basic process – or at least I thought, but not really much of the details.

Here’s how I kinda reckoned the basic process works:

My take on the basic process of Free/Open Source software projects

  1. Some people (usually one person) would start a project off, following their interest in some way.
  2. He/She would set up somewhere for software code to live (a repository) which would be available to anyone to download.  This, the source of the project’s code, would be what’s often referred to as “upstream”.  It’s where the goodness flows from.
  3. Other people interested in this software could also join up and contribute changes to the code.
  4. At some point, someone involved with a distributor/vendor like Red Hat or Debian would “notice” the project and be interested in packaging up the software.
  5. The upstream software would get duly packaged up and released into the distributor’s/vendor’s “downstream” repository.  Users could then install and use it at-will.

This only really covers the basic of software creation though.  What about bugs?  Even the best software has the odd bug or two.  What happens then?

There are two main places for bugs to be recorded:

  1. On a downstream bug reporting/management system.
  2. On an upstream bug reporting/management system.

Typically, users of the distributor’s packaged version of the software will report bugs with it on the distributor’s (downstream) system.  Why not on the upstream one?  Mainly because a distro (distribution) will contain an older version of the software that may, upstream, now be fixed of that bug.

When a distro user reports a bug, he/she is reporting against the distribution’s version of that software, not against that software in general.

Doesn’t this create a duplication of bug reports?

In a nutshell, yes.  But it’s better that the same bug is reported twice, than not at all.  Quite often duplicates relating to the same issue are recorded, even on the same system.  They are simply marked as such, with one bug record being the “master”, to which the others are link for reference.

Getting involved upstream

The project I chose to get involved with is Getting Things Gnome! – a Getting Things Done-inspired task manager application for the GNOME desktop.

My motivations to get involved were:

  • I like the GTD methodology – it helps bring focus and organisation to my working day;
  • I want to learn how to program in Python – a well respected and widely utilised programming language;
  • I want to see the gtg tool develop so I can use it more effectively; and
  • I want to contribute something back to the free/open source software community.

 

Expressing (and progressing) an interest

The first thing to do was to express my interest with a project leader.  From doing this, I received very supportive and constructive emails relating to ways in which I could contribute which suited both the project and me.  (a hat-tip to Izidor Matušov for enormous support and coaching in the early days).

Secondly, after receiving such great support, the thing I soon realised is that the responsibility to check things out really rests with me.  I want to be involved, so I should be the person reading the mailing list posts, reading related blog posts, reading the web site, reading the manual for hackers… You get the idea.  If you’re considering joining a software project, you need to read a lot to learn what it’s all about!

Finally, be prepared.  Prepare your computer to work in the best way possible.  Prepare your mind to be opened up to learning new programming techniques.  And prepare your attitude – you will be rewarded and pleasantly surprised by the capability and maturity of others who are already contributing to the project.

Getting involved in free/open source software is educating, inspiring, liberating and, most importantly … (I hope he doesn’t mind me stealing this line from his first email), “Don’t forget, hacking opensource should be about having fun!”

And it is.

I work daily with visual designers and am constantly in awe of their skills.  Visual design makes so much in life interesting.  Playing with logos and branding is always a fun thing to do, as it offers a counterpoint in thinking about who the people are behind the image.

Here are a few of my favourite images, spotted across other blogs and RSS feeds…

21st Century drug

from: http://lukreszja.deviantart.com/art/XXI-century-drug-197126336

The origins of logos

from: http://rayvellest.com/humorously-combined-logos

Honest Logos

from: http://www.logodesignlove.com/honest-logos-viktor-hertz

and

from: https://secure.flickr.com/photos/hertzen/sets/72157626308238830/

Enjoy 🙂

I recently ‘dented’ (tweeted on identi.ca) a question to a group of software developers: what music do they listen to that is conducive to coding?I received a variety of answers, with just as wide-ranging tastes as you could expect, really. Clearly, I hadn’t conducted a very economic experiment. Perhaps I was asking the wrong question.

The question I should have asked is this: which music do you listen to that evokes a calm, creative and logical state of mind? In other words, I needed to key-word the question to (a) elicit greater impact on the reader and (b) give the question more scope, more context.

The premise of the question is the science behind brainwaves. Apparently, alpha waves in the brain (those which occur at between 8-13Hz [cycles per second]) are the most conducive to creative AND logical thinking. It is commonly associated with a meditative state of mind, deeply relaxed, daydreaming, fantasizing and creatively visualising various scenarios.

This dispels some notion that left brain/right brain dominance exists. I can’t remember which is which, but it is said that the right hemisphere is more creative and the left, more logical/analytical. Or vice versa.

But this alpha wave state could, in fact, also support such dominance, if it allowed for the idea of submission of the dominant region during periods of relaxation. In other words, we will have one personality profile when active, busy, even stressed, and another profile when relaxed, calm, clear.

It follows, then, the people seeking to produce creative works – whether it be software code, writing, visual art or music, should always seek the best environment to create alpha brain waves. Music is just one component; meditation, light scents, lighting, physical comfort and staying hydrated also contribute, as does the avoidance of caffiene and alcohol.

But for me, most of all, it’s music.  And quite often, that’s trance. 😉

I have two blogs hosted by Google/Blogger (a blog for work, life and general stuff that interests me) and WordPress (a blog just for work).  I differentiate these on the basis of content type as opposed to areas of interest.  That is, purely commercial (or tech-commercial) stuff goes to the WordPress one.

And yet, I wonder, what is the point?  With the ability to group, tag, label and so on, I can collect similar articles together in a variety of ways.  Anyone with half a brain, left or right, would be able to see that any articles I have labelled “business” are probably more commercially-oriented that ones labelled “may contain nuts”.

The problem is, I don’t want to miss the party – anywhere.  WordPress blogs seem, by some opinion, so popular that it makes me wonder if WordPress is more of a writer’s platform than blogger, and that blogger is something more akin to myspace for the blogosphere – a kind of scrawly, messy, throw-together-but-informative kind of creative jumble.  Perhaps I’m being harsh of others’ blogger blogs, even if I’m being slightly too kind to my own… 😉

Conversely, the opinions cited in various threads (1, 2, 3) would suggest that Blogger is the way to go, at least for feedback options and template customisability

Regardless, I am not entirely convinced that either system is, actually, tremendously brilliant. Maybe I’d be a better person to judge once I’ve committed a thousand or two- more articles to cyberspace and then regret/celebrate making the wrong/right choice.

Then everyone would really thank me for my opinion.  Then disregard it.  😉

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.. 😉