Saturday, 26 June 2010

Dell Studio XPS 1645 System BIOS A10

I see that Dell have released an updated BIOS version A10.

Good to see that my experience trying to upgrade to A9 hasn't been in vain – some of the fixes sound like they specifically address the problem I (and presumably others) had. eg.

  1. Prevent potential risk of BIOS crash during WIN-FLASH
    1. Disable USB device during WIN-FLASH.
    2. It will skip to flash un-used ME block during WIN-FLASH

I'm not going to be in any rush to install this update however – I've learned my lesson on messing with things that are essential for my work!

Monday, 21 June 2010

Passed 70-452

Today I passed the exam 70-452 - "Designing a Business Intelligence Infrastructure Using Microsoft SQL Server 2008" with a score of 752.

This means I now am a Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP): Business Intelligence Developer 2008, and also will contribute toward LobsterPot Solutions attaining 'Advanced Competency' status as a Microsoft Partner in Business Intelligence.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

What makes a workplace (part 6)

Professional development

  • Career path
  • Training/Learning opportunities
  • Conference/seminar attendance

A chance to learn and develop new skills, being given opportunity to use those skills, and being valued appropriately.

You do want to get paid your worth, but often your financial rewards are enhanced by other means. eg. conference attendance, salary sacrifice opportunities, stylish work shirts etc. I remember one of the places Narelle worked at had a monthly prize (she won a night for two at a fancy hotel – and yes I got to go with her!)

My UniSA and ABB colleagues will surely remember I always wanted to get team t-shirts. One thing I like about working for LobsterPot Solutions is that that idea has finally been realised :-)

Perspective

I'm sure I've overlooked some things. What do you think is important?

Having considered all that, it is sobering to realise that for probably millions of people, workplace choice isn't even an option – they just do what they can to survive. I am conscious of the privilege I have had in where and how I was brought up, the education I was given and the opportunities that have been presented to me.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

What makes a workplace (part 5)

Bob the builderTools

  • Current PC, OS, software
  • Willing to get additional tools in as required

"Don't go blaming your toolbox, you need the right tool for the job" – Bob the Builder

There are times when you will have to use older versions – especially if that's what a particular client is still using, but hopefully this is the exception rather than the norm.

This is something that Rob has also expressed, in that I hope to leave a client better off than when I first came. At least one of better code, better performance, better processes, better practices, better maintainability, better sense of humour.. you get the idea.

It shouldn't be a drama to get access to decent hardware and software. When you consider how much per hour you're being paid, anything that can reasonably be done to remove impediments to your productivity should be followed up.

Friday, 18 June 2010

What makes a workplace (part 4)

Environment

  • OH&S
  • Sunlight
  • Coffee/tea
  • Biscuits (nice to have)
  • Flexible hours
  • The odd pot plant!
It shouldn't be a problem to provide a friendly, safe, healthy environment. I've worked in places that provide basic tea/coffee/milk facilities, and also in some where they think they're saving money by making the employees provide their own. I think that's a false economy – the value of better moral surely outweighs the insignificant cost. If you're lucky, throw in some bickies (cream assorted would be nice!), or one of those fancy coffee machines.
On the other hand, if you have those things and then management takes them away – don't expect any productivity improvements!
You don't realise how useful flexible hours are until you have kids. Not everyone lives close to their place of work, so the option of working from home, or doing that extra work at home instead of the office means you're more likely to be around home – just so the kids and spouse remember you live there too!
Finally, the physical location of your team is also important. Having a space where all your team can sit in close proximity really helps with communication, team identity, and ideally reduces outside interruptions.. There are few things more distracting than a non-team co-worker with a particularly loud, carrying voice - especially in a large open-plan office.
Martin Fowler posted recently on his thoughts on the ideal team room.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

ASP.NET web host suggestions?

I'm wanting to change the hosting provider that I use to host the Australian Carnivorous Plant Society's website. I've been with with SeekDotNet since 2006, but would like some more modern features and the ability to pay using the society's PayPal account (instead of using my own personal credit card for which I then need to get reimbursed :-( )

I'm currently paying $US8.75/month for:

  • ASP.NET 3.5
  • IIS 6
  • 1.5 GB disk (only using 70MB!)
  • SQL 2005 (100 MB max)
  • 30GB bandwidth

I would like to pay using PayPal for roughly the same price and have:

  • ASP.NET 4
  • IIS 7/7.5
  • At least 1GB disk space
  • SQL 2008/2008 R2 (at least 100 MB!)

Any suggestions?

What makes a workplace (part 3)

Managers

  • Protect you from politics and other stuff
  • Set appropriate boundaries
  • Respect
  • Honest and courageous
  • Encouraging

As Rob said, I want my manager to "go into bat for me". They should be my advocate, saying "Dave, what can I do to help you do your job?". They're off dealing with all the other stuff so that you can get on with your job.

Likewise I think you want a manager that keeps you informed of things that are relevant, so that you aren't left out of the loop.

I mention "Honesty and courage" in that they need to have the guts to tell the "big" bosses the truth. The last thing you need is the CEO being told "everything is fine, yes we'll make the deadline" if that's not correct – everyone loses when that happens.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

What makes a workplace (part 2)

Continuing my thoughts on what makes a great workplace..

Tasks

  • Interesting
  • Challenging
  • Useful

Whilst there are always times when you can't avoid some tedious or annoying tasks, for the most part I want to be working on stuff that I find engaging.

I've also found that there's nothing like working on something that is appreciated by the end users.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Australian Weather Radar Gadget v1.2

It's been a few years since I've been able to update the Vista Sidebar Gadget that I wrote which displays the radar images from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. It's worth noting that while the sidebar doesn't exist in Windows 7, you can still add gadgets to your desktop.

I'm now hosting the source code on Google Code, and I've released a minor update to reflect some changes to radar locations:

Added:

  • Sydney (Terry Hills)
  • Norfolk Island
  • Emerald (QLD)
  • Bairnsdale (VIC)
  • Perth (Serpantine)

Removed:

  • East Sale

I've had a few reports of a memory leak when people run the gadget for extended periods of time. I think this may be an unfortunate side-effect of the way the gadget uses HTML. Maybe re-writing the gadget using WPF or Silverlight might help with that.

The gadget can be downloaded from the Windows Live Gallery from here (currently 1.1 but hopefully 1.2 will be approved shortly), or go to the Downloads page of the Google Code site.

What makes a workplace (part 1)

Not everyone gets to work somewhere like Fog Creek, Google, Microsoft or even LobsterPot Solutions. I thought I'd take Rob's lead and write down some of the things that come to mind when I think of the characteristics of my ideal work life. It ended up a bit longer than I was expecting so I've broken it up into multiple posts.

People

  • Friendly
  • Peers
  • Complimentary skills
  • Shared values
    • Passionate about quality
    • Continuous learning/improvement
My best work experiences have always coincided with being part of a great team. I don't remember too many people that I've worked with that I haven't got along with well. I also discovered that you can learn a lot from older, wiser colleagues – sometimes they're in the best position to realise that the latest trend or fad is just a variation of something that's been around before.

Having complimentary skills is also really valuable. You can learn from each other, but also you can bring new perspectives to particular problems that otherwise may not have been considered.

Edited 24/6/2010 - Included LP in list of desirable employers!