Monday, April 13, 2015

Remarkable Curry Puffs

A few months back the oldest boy bought home some curry puffs he'd made at school, in cooking class.

They were learning about spices and flavours and so on. His were seriously hot. He'd experimented with the curry and the chili.

He'd learnt too. I loved them. No one else did.

Is it better that he made ridiculously hot curry puffs that I loved and most people hated, but that everyone talked about, or should he have just followed the recipe and made something that everyone expected.

I think his remarkable curry puffs were far more....well,,,remarkable.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Don't follow your passion....

You don't follow your passion, you take it with you everywhere you go!
Tony Robbins

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

You can have any colour you like as long as it's Red, Green, Blue and Yellow.

Statistics gathered from over 3800 US government websites, using analytics software custom built by Google indicate that Desktop computing and Microsoft operating systems may not be a "dead" as many would like to believe. 
There is a fairly noisy anti-Microsoft movement (I.T. techy types probably the most outspoken on that issue) that loves to point out the Microsoft is dead, Windows is gone and [insert new technology of your choice] is here to take over.
Recent findings might indicate differently.Broken Screen
Interestingly, despite claims from some many leading software companies with products of their own to push, real world users (particularly businesses) still use predominantly desktop computers and by far most of those computers still run Microsoft operating systems.
Desktop computers constitute over 67% of traffic to the 3800 websites analysed (many of them among the most widely used consumer sites in the US, such as weather and IRS queries). Microsoft Windows still holds a healthy 86% of the share of PC operating systems in Apple's strongest market - the U.S.
With the "end of life" of Windows XP (meaning Microsoft no longer support it or provide security updates) Windows 7 has rocketed to the top, boasting 71% of all the Windows operating systems. Windows 8 is also becoming more significant.
So take it with a grain of salt, next time someone tries to tell you "nobody's using Windows anymore" and "everything is mobile".
We (particularly small businesses) still all need viable, easily supportable, affordable I.T. and software solutions.  Sometimes the elegant, beautiful, artistic and aesthetic options don't come with the supportability or readily available expertise to make them practical. Maybe it's a case of, like Henry Ford bringing cars to the people by providing them in any colour they liked, as long as it was black. Maybe sometimes we are settling for less, maybe sometimes we take what we can get / afford, but maybe sometimes we just need to get the job done.
See this article for more details and some colourful follow up - any post about Microsoft in Tech news brings out the trolls.
(This is a cross post with www.constructor.com.au)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

US visa service scam.

If you have the need to obtain a US visa for travel to the US, please be aware of these scams, offering you the service of obtaining a visa on your behalf for a fee about $73, as opposed to the legitimate $14 fee charged by the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation.

The variant we discovered was courtesy of a search engine ad, which appears on Google and Bing, when you type the ESTA web site addess into your address bar, using http instead of https. 

Because you have not typed a valid address (https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/ works but http://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/ does not) your browser will perform a search, and clearly these scammers have paid for ads using the valid site as the keywords. The first ad, took us to a site that could have obtained 4 visas for us, for the pricely sum of $236. A fair hike from the $64 quoted on the legitimate ESTA SITE.

Thankfully, due to the unexpectedly high cost, we decided to look a bit closer. That's when we noticed the subtle difference and i decided to do a little extra Googling. we quickly doscovered plenty of references to these scams and saved ourselves a couple of hundred dollars. There's a few pina colladas in hawaii.

The legitimate site you're after is https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Last Tram to Belmont


Thursday, March 19, 2015

If you're a child of the 70's you should be jealous.

"You're a child of the 80s if... you know you're a 70's kids if...  and only children of the 60's know..." ; The truth is, if you're any of these things, you're probably really jealous of a child of the  noughties or the teens...

Those nostalgic Blog & Facebook posts, Tweets etc that seem to go viral fairly easily, always cast the modern day as an instant gratification cursed, pasty faced video game playing introvert ridden society and the [insert decade of your choice] era as more wholesome, healthier, righteous and just plane better.

Yet that same technology, infrastructure and social medium used to promote the message of piety  provides us with the most information rich, accessibility to everything, and a more even playing field than ever in post industrial revolution history.

Firstly, I think there are some pretty thick lensed Rose Coloured Glasses being worn when it comes to memories of the various decades of the 20th century.  We're always criticising the millennial generation and Gen Y, for wanting things now, for sticking their noses in iPads, iPods, mobile phones and the like, but I remember video games in the 80's. A bit more crude by today's standards for sure, but every bit as addictive, and condemned just as fervently by parents and grand parents who "had to make their own fun back in their day!". The 1970's and 80's, while holding some wonderful childhood memories for me and my friends were also a far less tolerant era, in which the ability to memorize the periodic table, the years of the World Wars, the Magna Carter, the Ming Dynasty and the capital cities of all the countries in the world made you "smart".

In our current, privileged era, of so called instant gratification - I prefer the term instant feedback and accessibility incidentally - the problem of rote learning has been solved. To quote the Great Seth Godin - "you no longer need to know how long the hundred years war lasted" - the facts are in your pocket. The spoils go to the most creative user of the knowledge just as they did in the 1960s and 70s when Steve Jobs, Bill Gates et al were forging the information era, just as they did when Henry Ford revolutionized transport, or Andrew Carnegie steel production.

You still need drive to succeed. You still need creativity and the ability to apply your knowledge and deliver high quality solutions to people's problems, in order to succeed. What I feel that modern technology, the Internet and the instant society we live in does, is level the playing field so that anyone with a few hundred dollars for a lap top and/or a phone, has access to what they need to produce, publish and connect.

For the record, my kids play a lot of video games - it's easy for them because you can grab a iPod and sit on the couch at any time - they don't need to slide out the Atari, change the setting on the TV and interupt eveyone else - that doesn't make it any more "wrong".  Those same kids play cricket with neighbourhood kids, kick the footy in the park and have to be dragged away from our cricket club nets, usually after dark every Saturday night, after having played cricket in various forms, Friday evening and all day Saturday.

I don't think things have changed that much across the generations. Maybe the tools of the "kid trade" have changed, but kids are still kids - just with more opportunity than ever before.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Success is a lifestyle and an attitude
Emina Dedicwww.lifehack.org

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

#HelwigsInUSA: Day -81

So it's 81 days out from the great USA family holiday of 2015, and for the last couple of nights I've been browsing the web, checking out the location of the hotel we'll be staying at in LA (Anaheim - Hyatt Regency Orange County) on Google Maps. What a fantastic way that is to get your bearing. With street view, it's like we've been there to check it out already, until that is, we actually do get there. The resort we're staying at in Hawaii (Honua Kai - https://www.facebook.com/HonuaKaiResort - @HanuaKai) looks awesome - can't wait for that leg of the trip.

Tonight has been Disneyland ticket price research night. Looks like we'll be settling for a 2 days, hopper pass allowing us to jump between both the Disneyland Park and the Disney Adventure Park, for 2 complete days. I think we'll need every minute, but the budget doesn't really allow for any longer. I hope the feet, legs, and kids patience can hold out that long.

Rach has also touched base with an old QCBB friend, who is playing in Vegas - a Bee Gees tribute show. Free tickets are being arranged and a night in Vegas is now on the itinerary.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Constructor's new promotional video

The final product is now up on our web site and YouTube Channel. After an exhausting day a couple of weeks ago, and some wizardry from Mio at Video Vault, here's the end product.

Monday, January 26, 2015

#YourTurnChallenge retrospective

So what have I learnt by forcing myself to meet Seth's 7 posts in 7 days challenge? It's about priorities. It's about lifestyle and it's about weighing up options consistently.

The schedule you commit to is driven by what priority you give to writing and how important you define writing in public to be to your career.

When attempting to meet the YourTurnChallenge, spending 30 minutes at work to post because I'm determined to meet the challenge, seems justifiable. That's not sustainable but it does illustrate what level of commitment you need to make in order to achieve your goal.  I think the key is deciding what the goal is, and why, then really understanding that no matter what the goal, and what the regime,mit is going to take strict committment and adherance to thc regime.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Getting unstuck - Just keep swimming.

So, for Day Five's post I found myself a little stuck! I resorted to the list of questions for inspiration. I was stuck. So the question says...."what advice would you give for getting unstuck". 

That would be "read the questions..." right?

But next week, when I'm stuck again, the questions will be gone - that's tough!

Anyway, being unstuck is temporary. This week, Seth's #YourTurnChallenge has provided the motivation and drive to actually write, and post daily. It's been great. In doing so I've also either discovered or re-discovered so many tips about drive, motivation, shipping and failing, but I'm still a long way from solving that problem, or creating the habit of turning up again, and again and again, and shipping again and again and again... Then it occurs to me, you never solve that problem.

It's like running into a patch of form in your favourite sport, or a run of luck or whatever.

It's temporary.

You're only as unstuck as your current streak - blog posts, exercise days, wins, shipments, whatever...

It might sound a bit pessimistic to say you can never win - you can never solve the problem - this is not a game, but it's also means, you can never lose. It's all tempoary. The sun will still come up tomorrow.

So, while I've had to resort to the YourTurn questions to get some inspiration, this doesn't alter the fact that I'm learning a valuable lesson about what commitment it takes to do something as simple as submitting post every day for a week. It takes physical action as well as a mental commitment. It's all very well to tell yourself you can do it - and you'd be right, you "can" do it, but executing, there's the key.

So my advice on getting unstuck is to remember, you can get unstuck as easily as you can get stuck. Start small, and keep going. Like Dory says, Just keep swimming.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Apps you can't LIVE without?!

I just read a list of 36 killer apps you shouldn't live without - seriously, 36?! and heaps of them double up, performing the same as others in the list. 

Here's a list of 5!

Evernote - record everything, to do lists, scan documents, diaries, links to web sites, take it everywhere, phone, tablet, PC, whatever. This is the last app I would remove and the first app I pay my annual subscription for.

KeePass - great secure way to store passwords for the plethora of accounts, we need to log in to these days from network to your electricity account....when combined with Dropbox, Google drives or someother cloud storages, you can take it anywhere...and there's mobile apps for it too. Invaluable.

Trello - organise anything....

GMail - these days you have to have webbased email - give up that ISP email address you've had and never change your email address again. (I've had mine since 2004!)

Teux Deux - it's kind of like my scratch pad list, before items get promoted to full on Trello Cards!

These are apps that I would and do pay for, and you know what? If I was pushed, I do believe I could in fact "live" without them, but they make life that little bit easier.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

How to install the Dot Net 3.5 runtime to a Windows 8.1 Pro system

I've been attempting to add the Dot Net 3.5 run time to my new Surface Pro 3 running Windows 8.1 Pro for about half a day now.

Initially the normal web installer for the 3.5 run time was failing with error:
"0x800f0906 : “The source files could not be downloaded. Use the "source" option to specify the location...". 
After a bit of Googling I discovered (in fact remembered because I think I've been here before) that you can only install the Dot Net 3.5 run time from the Windows "Add / Remove" features section of the Control Panel. However, this too failed, with the same error.

Now our Internet traffic in the office is all routed through a Web Guard proxy. There is however a work around for this exact scenario which I promptly implemented, ensuring I was bypassing the proxy - still the same error.

Next, I discovered there was a security patch, which could actually prevent the run time being installed - but that could be resolved using security update 3005628. I ran the Windows 8.1 x64 version of this - guess what, no change.

Now you always find what your looking for in the last place you look right? The next discovery on my part was that, as the only way to add the Dot Net 3.5 run time to Windows 8.1 Pro is via the Windows Update service (no stand-alone installation is going to work) you cannot be running your Windows updates via WSUS. Guess what, We are!

So, the work around for this is a command line option - found here.
DISM /Online /Enable-Feature /FeatureName:NetFx3 /All /LimitAccess /Source:installationMediaDrive:\sources\sxs
But alas, that too was failing.... still failing to locate the required files, with the same error!

Next, to disable the WSUS Group Policy. Luckily, we are a very small company, and I, as the developer and also "the I.T. Guy" because, you know, I know how to restart a server!

So I located the Group Policies in question, recorded the settings for each relevant one, then disabled them. (For the record, they are in the Computer / Policies / Administrative Templates / Windows Components / Windows Update branch of the Group Policy editor.) Having run "gpupdate /force" on the Windows 8.1 Pro machine, I tried again from the command prompt. It didn't work!  I was attempting to use a Windows 8.1 Pro MSDN disk as the source for the component.

So, I went back to the control panel, and tried adding the feature the original way - now that my WSUS Windows update policy was turned off, I was optimistic - with good reason - it worked! The Dot Net 3.5 run time was installed, on my Windows 8.1 Pro, Surface Pro machine.


Now I don't expect many people to read all that diatribe - here's the executive summary:

For error 0x800f0906: The source files could not be downloaded..... when attempting installing the Dot Net Runtime on a Windows 8.1 Pro machine:

  1. Make sure you are not accessing the Internet via a Proxy that is preventing access to Windows Updates (pretty unlikely you'd hope) - you must have Internet access as this is the only way, for Dot Net 3.5 on Windows 8)
  2. Remember, you need to be using the Control Panel / Programs and Features option to "Turn Windows Features on or off (you can find Control Panel in Windows 8 by just typing "Control Panel" from the Start Screen.)
  3. Make sure Security Update 3005628 is applied.
  4. Find out if you are using Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) for windows updates as this will prevent you PC from accessing the files required to add the feature. If so, you'll need to get it disabled for this process. If you're like me and in control of those Group Policies, temporarily disable them. If you work for a larger organisation where that is impractical, you will need to see if you can get yourself temporarily excluded from that policy, while you add this feature.
If none of these things have helped solve your problem, I'm sorry, but as I mentioned, step 4 fixed mine, and you also find the answer in the last place you look! (sorry I didn't keep looking for answers, after I found one).

Game Changer

I loved my first ASUS (Android) tablet. Still use it daily after nearly three years. It's mainly a social tool though for Facebook, Email, and then some Evernote.

At work I develop on a desktop computer and have a development laptop which I take home, for all that after hours stuff I do! I remember not that long ago, when we were debating whether you could develop satisfactorily on a lap top!

Yesterday however, my 4 (and a half) year old work laptop was replaced - yep - with a Surface Pro 3. It's an i7, 8GB RAM and 256Gig Hard Drive - and it works like a tablet, and like a lap top.

It comes with a 12 inch screen, which makes for some pretty small fonts at times, but considering we also got the dock, I can hook it up to a couple of monitors and all is good.

I guess this means I'll end up doing a bit more work at home in the near future - well considering what I'm supposed to be shipping over the next 12 months, that's to be expected.

As exciting as new toys are, it's now time to squash that lizard brain and get on with using the new toy tool, to ship today's work!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Don't break the chain

It's like the universe is conspiring to help me.

Just before Christmas I came across the "No More Zero Days" movement - doing something, one thing, no matter how little, that contributes to your goal, to a new habit and to your progress. No matter how little you end up doing, just do at least something, not nothing during your day - no "zero" days.

Then Seth Godin presents me with the #YourTurn challenge and today I find this, from Jerry Seinfeldabout turning up regularly and never breaking the chain of positive behaviour when forming a good new habit. Day after day after day, inch by inch by inch.

This theme has presented itself to me regularly and increasingly in recent times and it's something I know deep down is true and necessary - for posting content, work, exercise, eating better... pretty much anything worth improving on.

I am reminded of that story about the guy on his roof in a flood...
It had been raining for days and days, and a terrible flood had come over the land. The waters rose so high that one man was forced to climb onto the roof of his house.
As the waters rose higher and higher, a man in a rowboat appeared, and told him to get in. 
"No," replied the man on the roof. "I have faith in the Lord; the Lord will save me." So the man in the rowboat went away. 
The man on the roof prayed for God to save him. 
The waters rose higher and higher, and suddenly a speedboat appeared. "Climb in!" shouted a man in the boat. 
"No," replied the man on the roof. "I have faith in the Lord; the Lord will save me." So the man in the speedboat went away. 
The man on the roof prayed for God to save him. 
The waters continued to rise. 
A helicopter appeared and over the loudspeaker, the pilot announced he would lower a rope to the man on the roof. 
"No," replied the man on the roof. "I have faith in the Lord; the Lord will save me." So the helicopter went away. 
The man on the roof prayed for God to save him. 
The waters rose higher and higher, and eventually they rose so high that the man on the roof was washed away, and alas, the poor man drowned. 
Upon arriving in heaven, the man marched straight over to God. "Heavenly Father," he said, "I had faith in you, I prayed to you to save me, and yet you did nothing. Why?" 
God gave him a puzzled look, and replied "I sent you two boats and a helicopter, what more did you expect?"
 (Not that I'm religious at all but hey, it's a good story), 

So the universe has sent me numerous cues on how to improve all the things I've vowed to improve on, from "No More Zero Days" (the row boat), Seth (in his speedboat) with the #YourTurn challenge to help build the writing / posting / "turning up" habit and now it's Jerry Seinfeld (in a helicopter) highlighting yet again the importance of regular, never ending, incremental work towards any and all of your goals.

I'm placing a lot of faith in my week of posts and its ability to form better more regular writing habits for me and I hope I'm not pleading with Seth, or Jerry, next week asking why they didn't help me. It's time to accept their help and help myself.

As the Seinfeld article points out, this habit of continually turning up, day after day works for all habits, and it's very much what I need for my work projects, my exercise, my eating habits and my writing and content.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My Little Golden Book

When I was a really young boy, I loved a "Little Golden Book" called "Danny Beaver's Secret". No-one wanted to help Danny build his pool; "too hot, too tired, too busy, you'll never do it." In the end, when summer came, they were all happy to swim in it though....

I would ask my Dad to read it to me every night, night after night after night. One night at about the age of 2 or 3, he found me "reading" it to myself, the way plenty of kids that age manage to do, completely by rote, turning the pages at pretty much the right time, reciting my beloved story - that's how well I knew it.

It's so easy to be negative. It's so easy to say, "that will never happen" or "you can never do that..." and is it ironic and pessimistic of me to say you will probably be right, most of the time.

What a downer of a meeting I've just come from, hearing team members scoff when you bring up dates that you're planning to release things by. And if I'm completely honest, they've probably just acquired these negative (realist as they like to call it) attitudes over years and years of being let down by over optimistic schedules and grandiose plans.

Right now I feel a bit like Danny Beaver - I'm drawing close to the end of a mega-development project that will be the springboard to the next 10 years at this company - many think it's never going to happen, but I bet they will all "be around for a swim" later this year, when it does! So like Danny, I will not give up, and when I'm done, I'll welcome everyone in!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Day -118 (and Day 1)

Today is Day +1 of the #YourTurn challenge is also Day -118 of the #HelwigsInUSA - something I've just started to go a little bit public with and something which is really in the forefront of our collective minds at our place right now.

When you've been telling yourself for months  years the importance of regular posting and content, and failing or succumbing to the Lizard Brain for just as long, then Seth Godin calls you out in such a blatant (how dare he see inside my head) way, you cannot shy away.

So here we are, Day 1 on the #YourTurn challenge and Day -118 of our great family adventure of 2015. We've been planning our US trip for a few months and finally settled on something affordable and yet still totally exciting for the four of us. We'll be at Disneyland, LA, and Hawaii this May! The kids can't wait for Disneyland, the grown ups are quietly looking forward to the Maui resort for those last 7 days.

I'm now working through the best ways to document our adventure. With the plethora of social media options available, I want to spend the time to get this right. I don't want to flood my friends' news feeds with show off pictures of us at Disneyland etc, but I do want to update them just a little.  I don't want to hide everything we do away in my DropBox folder either. I'm searching for that easy balance between Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, my blog, and simply storing all the photos and thoughts somewhere, for my own person record.

I don't want my the recording of the holiday to take over from the enjoyment of the holiday, but I do want to stay a bit "social" while we're away. The regime will need to be easy to follow on the run, mobile, remote, whatever, and thorough enough for my own personal enjoyment, years from now. My current way of thinking on this is daily blog posts (travel journal) all photos to Drop Box folder, every two or three days, a highlight photo post to Facebook. Then, using IFTTT, automatically Tweet all Facebook posts and automatically "Instagram" all Facebook photo posts...

Of course, I'll also need to have developed some really good, regular posting habits, so thanks Seth and Winnie for the #YourTurn challenge and bring on May.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

On the movie set

Something different at work today,as we spent the day with Mio from Video Vault, shooting the footage for a 2 to 3 minute promotional video for Constructor.

This is a project we've been putting some time into for a few weeks now. We took advantage of a generous promotional offer from Video Vault to have a few videos done and have settled on one, fairly ambitious video to be made, in the style of the "Sliding Doors" movie, about a builder who decides to buy Constructor (and also doesn't buy Constructor - that's the sliding door!) and the difference it makes to his lifestyle.

That's quite a bit to pack into a couple of minutes. Shooting took all day, and we were quite organised, with a well planned story board, locations etc.

I can't way to see the finished product. We should have the first draft copies of in a week or so.

It was great to have Kieren and Toby involved too, as kids being picked up from school (or left alone waiting...on the other side of the sliding door).

Thursday, December 04, 2014

We're not going to remember how cheap you were. We're going to remember that you let us down.

Seth Godin.

Friday, November 07, 2014

So tempting to blame the user for bad design...

The me from 15 years ago would've blamed the "dumb user" for this, but in these days of UX Design, usability and delighting the user I'd like to think I'm bigger than this now....

I am working on a line of business, Windows application which involves quite a bit of data entry. The screens are nice and consistent in their layout across many aspects of the system ranging from CRM and Sales tools to Accounting and graphical estimating tools. (www.constructor.com.au). Users are presented with summary information and choose to open the information they want to edit. Slightly old fashioned but with a decent user base around the country and the promise of lots of fancy new services to hang off this system, the windows client will suffice for our desktop users for sometime to come.

Today the boss came in, a little sheepish, asking if we had a back up. He'd just deleted an important client he'd been working on. He admitted to not really reading the message that popped up, but also insisted that he'd just altered some information and thought he was just confirming the "save before closing" style message.

Now the messages in both these situations (saving and deleting) are in fact quite different. We use these HTML message boxes (a custom thing I wrote years ago), so save confirmations are all green and blue, positive look and feel, with "Save Now" captions on the buttons etc, and delete confirmation messages a red with the item you are about to delete bolded, and so on.  But still, I found it intriguing that a relatively experienced user could "accidentally" click the delete button and confirm the action, on a screen he swears he wasn't using.

Turns out, I guess it's something of a design flaw on my part - if I'm tough on myself. It's still going to bite me again at some point though if I don't do something about it now. 

I watched briefly as my boss explained what he thought he'd done and something jumped out at me - the detective work here did impress him in the end, helped perhaps by the fact he was already somewhat placated by the fact I have backups occurring every two hours so the information he thought he'd lost was pretty simple to recover.

After entering a diary note against a sales lead he was working, he "just saved then clicked yes to confirm the save and close"....

Now that's strange, because you shouldn't have to confirm the save if you click on save - that would be just silly. You would only have to confirm the save, if you clicked on "close" and had made some changes that maybe, ought to be saved.

So I watched....

"Yeh, I just entered the notes in here the clicked here to save them and close" - I watched as he moved the mouse up to the "Save and Close" button and double clicked it....

Wait!  You double clicked....

Here's what it looked like when you close the diary screen....

So, directly under the "Save and Close" button, as "design" would have it, is a delete button. (At least when the screens are maximised.)

Now as I said, firstly there is no need to double click a toolbar button in any Windows system I've ever used, but, it does seem to be a common misconception.....and I have worked hard to have a very well worded, "are you sure" message, with RED text, and "no" as the default choice. We do however try to live by one other little golden rule here - use message boxes as a last resort. Try to design so you don't need them, and try not to build rude software the continually interrupts the user with such dialog.

We use message boxes sparingly and even then, they don't get read!

So now, I have to set about redesigning this scenario.

It appears far harder than it should to simply capture/handle the double click event on the toolbar buttons of the standard Toolstrip control in .Net. (At least not when you also want to handle the click event.)

Do I just move the delete button somewhere else - it is probably ironic that it lines up so perfectly with the save and close button on all our standard summary and edit screens (especially when they are all full screen size). Do I work harder on fixing the actually response to a double click on a toolbar button, of can I just step back in time, and blame the dumb user?

I think I'll sleep on this one....