Top 10 Tech Challenges

There are a few techie things I’ve been putting off (other things taking priority) so here’s my New Year’s Top 10 Tech Challenges:

  1. Now that BlogTraffic has bitten the dust (why don’t they just find another programmer?), find another place to generate traffic for our blog – I’m already signed up with BlogClicker and BlogExplosion. [Update: now signed up with BlogAdvance too] [Update#2:BlogMad is accepting pre-release registration but doesn’t have a go-live date (that I can see)]
  2. Finish reviewing/pruning my BlogRoll
  3. Configure TripWire on the server
  4. Update my technical/professional website – it’s been stagnant for a couple of months
  5. Work on a new layout for the blog – upgrading to WordPress v2 means the old ones need some work … including re-adding the hit counter and BlogExplosion’s “Rent My Blog” widget.
  6. Improve the spam filtering – I installed SpamAssassin a while back but I think it needs tweaking
  7. Fix the linking issue with the new Gallery v2 software
  8. Upgrade the server to FC4 – it’s been out for months, and FC5 is coming soon! [Done]
  9. Sort out Andy’s parents’ problems with their XP machines (biggest issue is the file sharing not working) [Done]
  10. Investigate the grinding noises coming from the games PC … before a fan dies and it cooks itself! [Done]

Top 10 Tuesday – Things To Remember Tomorrow

I’m finally going to convert my UK driving license to an Ontario one tomorrow, so here’s my Top 10 list of things I need to remember for the road test:

  1. An emergency stop isn’t the same as in Britain – here it means to pull over and park in a hurry (e.g. if your car has a problem) and put your four-way flashing lights; in the UK an emergency stop is much more urgent – stop as quickly as possible but keeping your car under control. (My instructor today called it an emergency stop but the official handbook calls this a roadside stop.)
  2. Merging onto the freeway (today we used the DVP) is also different to the UK – here the law is the way many people seem to think it is in Britain, that the traffic merging has a right to join – in fact in the UK there is a Give Way line at the end of the “on ramp”, which means you may have to stop if no-one lets you join.
  3. Merging, therefore, is done at a much higher speed here – my instructor said I should be at the (freeway’s) speed limit (90kph)before I join.
  4. Remember to change one lane and “rest” before moving to the next one – don’t move across multiple lanes, no matter how smooth it is or that there’s no-one else around.
  5. At a Stop sign, make it obvious that I’m checking left & right before moving off; I do it but he didn’t notice me do it.
  6. The urban speed limit is 50kph unless otherwise posted – my instructor said I was dropping my speed to 40-45 at times; I maintain that it was snowing and I had absolutely no idea where I was.
  7. At a Stop sign, make the stationary step obvious – give it 3 seconds before moving off again.
  8. Use my indicators even when there’s no-one else around, even on a 3-point turn – the tester will deduct points if I forget.
  9. Remember it’s a test of how to pass the test, not of how to drive in the real world!
  10. Be seen to be observant! (I had this comment on my UK driving test too!) I usually have my mirrors set so I don’t need to move my head much to see them all, but the tester is watching to see if I move, so I have to make the mirror check more obvious. (Of course they could ask me what’s behind me to check, but there you go.) If I set the mirrors wrong (i.e. not how I’d usually have them) then I’ll have to move my head. πŸ™‚

Top 10 Tuesday – Top Tracks

Always a tough one (for me at least) – my current top 10 tracks. These are the ones that makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck (e.g. “Forgotten Sons”) or I just have to re-play a couple of times with the volume wound up. πŸ™‚

  1. Jethro Tull – “Locomotive Breath” (Aqualung … and about a dozen others!)
  2. Pallas – “Beat The Drum” (Beat The Drum)
  3. Rush – “The Trees” (Hemispheres)
  4. Bjork – “Isobel” (Post) … but “VΓΆkurΓ³” (MedΓΊlla) is fascinating too
  5. Marillion – “Forgotten Sons” (Script For A Jester’s Tear)
  6. Pink Floyd – “Interstellar Overdrive” (Piper At The Gates Of Dawn)
  7. Led Zeppelin – “Bring It On Home” (II)
  8. Dare – “Cold Wind Will Blow” (Calm Before The Storm)
  9. Genesis – “Follow You, Follow Me” (…And Then There Were Three)
  10. Marillion – “Don’t Hurt Yourself” (Marbles)

Oh, and Styx “Come Sail Away” … but only so I can do the Cartman version πŸ™‚

Top 10 Tuesday – You know what really grinds my gears?

Hurrumph! It may be the season to be jolly and all that, but here’s my current Top Ten Gripes*:

  1. Surly staff who are supposed to be providing customer service. I don’t care if you’re only earning minimum wage and that you hate your job/life – pretend to be helpful for a couple of minutes and things will go a lot smoother for both of us.
  2. Dog owners who think they are exempt from the law. Our local park is not a leash-free zone – Toronto has specific areas where you are allowed to let your dog run free, but this is not one of them – so don’t get angry when I (or other people) point this out. Same applies for when you let your dog run free along the footpath; maybe if it gets run over you’ll realise that you should have used the leash that you’re carrying?
  3. The [lack of] job market! (I know, another post where I whine that I still don’t have a job.) What’s more frustrating is when the local news reports how the job market is stronger now than it’s been in quite a while. Hearing that friends are losing their jobs doesn’t convince me that companies aren’t still cutting back.
  4. Spam: whether it’s via email, snailmail or (the most annoying of all) telephone, you’re all spammers. Stop it now! No-one in their right mind will buy from you. I know it only takes one gullible punter to hand over their credit card details to make it all worthwhile, but stop now before we hunt you down and flay you!
  5. Websites/blogs that go on about how Dubya is a great leader, how the Iraq war is justified, and how torture is necessary for the safety of the free world (by which, of course, they mean America). If the US government really wanted to know why so much of the rest of the world hates them, they should try reading some of these sites! I saw one today [I’m not posting a link because I don’t want to encourage them] which said that “black site” (the US torture sites hidden in places like Syria) are justified because those people (the prisoners) don’t deserve to be treated like domestic prisoners … never mind they’ve not been tried, apparently being foreign means they’re guilty.
  6. Those who are too lazy to speak English correctly – I don’t mean that non-English speakers should be forced to learn (unless you live in a country where English is the official language), I mean those who deliberately abuse their mother tongue. A common one that really grinds is when someone says they “could care less” when in fact they mean “couldn’t care less” – if you could care less then it means you do care. (I’ve seen three of these today, which is why it’s further up the list than you’d expect.)
  7. Following on from that, businesses which think it’s clever to misspell their name, e.g. “Kwik” instead of quick, or “Foto” in place of photo. If it’s because you can’t trademark commonly used words then think of a new name for your company; stop dumbing-down the language.
  8. Political correctness and “positive discrimination”. Why is it OK to have a women-only event but not a men-only one? Why is it OK to have adverts that objectify/make fun of guys but not women? I’ve seen surveys which collect demographic data ask if the respondent is “African American” (amongst other PC options) or “white” – either use the proper terms (Negroid, Caucasoid, …) or colours (black, white, …) but be consistent! Oh, and there is no such thing as “positive discrimination” – it’s all just discrimination.
  9. Websites/blogs which automatically start playing video/music when they load … or worse yet, those which do that and don’t even give you a way to turn it off! (Another one that’s higher than expected because I’ve encountered about a dozen of these today!)
  10. People who preach tolerance but fail to practice it. Prime example: the Weavers on the current Amazing Race. If you’ve seen them, you’ll understand; if you haven’t, I won’t spoil the fun.

*This list changes over time and I’m sure its focus will change when I start driving again. πŸ™‚

[Yes, the title is a reference to a Family Guy episode. Big whoop. Wanna fight about it? … OK, so is that.]

Top 10 Tuesday – Job hunting

As you probably know, I’m still looking for a job πŸ™ so I thought this week’s Top 10 list could be related to that. Given that my ideal job is a project management position in a software development environment (based in Toronto), here’s the Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Hire Me:

  1. I’m a techie at heart – I started messing with IT back in about 1978, while I was at school; I took a very active role in teaching the school’s first O-level Computer Science classes
  2. I also understand it’s not all about the technical answers – without a good business case you’re building something for the sake of building it and it’ll never succeed
  3. Wide range of market vertical experience: healthcare, military, government, commercial, not-for-profit
  4. Many years as developer/supplier but also having been a customer of software projects I understand better the issues that can arise and the frustrations both feel
  5. On-site experience during installation, acceptance testing, training and post-install support phases; worked in Denmark, Germany and Italy, as well as on domestic projects (England & Canada)
  6. All too used to managing the eternal project management resourcing challenge of insufficient time/money/staff
  7. Strong proponent of standards, e.g. ISO 9001 (quality), X.400 (email), XPG (portability)
  8. Led multi-national, multi-disciplinary teams
  9. Very familiar with reporting to senior management, advisory committees, stakeholder groups, customers, end-users, technical teams and other involved/interested parties
  10. Wife and three cats to support πŸ™‚

You should read my résumé (also available in PDF and MS-Word) for a better picture.

Top Ten Tuesday #next – I’m bored of counting already!

It’s only week four and I’ve already decided I’m going to stop numbering these entries. Feel free to take a pen and write the number alongside this entry – it’s your screen. πŸ™‚

I was thinking about doing a Top Ten Scotch list but Sunday’s tasting session has made me realise I need to revisit everything I’ve ever tried, now that I’ve discovered that adding water can actually be a good thing!

So how about a techie Top Ten this week? How about my Top Ten Techie Toys that I’ve owned? That sounds like a good idea, and then I can do a Top Ten Toys I Want For Christmas in a week or two. πŸ™‚

Oh, and I’m scoring these on how good they were when I got them, not now, before someone laughs at the age of some of the picks. :p

  1. The new video card/ TV tuner I got at the weekend – a TV window in the corner of the screen is really distracting πŸ™‚
  2. Dell Latitude laptop / wireless router – I’d wanted a laptop for a while and we finally bought one on eBay; it’s really useful for when I write my notes during the Formula One races. [Sad but true]
  3. The hand-built Linux server that I put together…
  4. …and the cooling system that got it through this summer!
  5. Dell 19″ LCD monitor – if it hadn’t been on sale, I don’t know when we’d have been able to get one … and it’s a huge improvement on the CRT I used to have.
  6. Creative Nomad Zen Xtra MP3 player
  7. Hooking up our Pioneer 5-disk DVD player to the Samsung Worldwide VCR means that not only can we play video tapes from (almost) anywhere, we can also watch DVDs from other regions. It’s really smart – just put the tape/disk in, hit play, and the VCR works out how to translate it to NTSC. Very cool.
  8. Palm PDA – first I had an M105, then an M130, and now I’ve got a Tungsten|E – each one has more bells & whistles than its predecessor, but they were all great.
  9. Canon PowerShot S110 digital camera – it’s just over 4 years old and still going strong; it goes everywhere with me, which is why the photo gallery is so big!
  10. Memotech MTX512 – my first computer (circa 1984) and co-star of “Weird Science“. Yes, it had 32Kb RAM (that is Kb, not a typo) and a 4Hz (yep, 4 Hz, not KHz or MHz) Z80A processor πŸ™‚