August 13, 2009

Off on another BlackBerry journey

I love my iPhone. As a Mac Geek, and having owned 4 previous Macs in addition to the 2 I own now, having an iPhone is just the completion of the love affair I have with Apple products. I love the way it interfaces to MobileMe and Exchange and gives me both my work and private calendars, contacts and email. If anything that level of integration is the selling point.

The app store is another great thing about the iPhone, there’s almost an application for everything. I’ve even started thinking about getting in on the same and writing my own someday.

Of course it also plays music, tells the time, checks the weather, takes photos, and tells me where I am. It does all this and looks sexy too.

There is a BUT coming on. But.... The battery life and the keyboard frustrate me.

Prior to standing in the queue outside the Vodafone store on the 11th July 2008, I was a BlackBerry user or CrackBerry addict. I had the 8800 which while a nice size and shape, wasn’t that sexy, didn’t have a camera or a great music player, only allowed me to look at work contacts & calendar (it did the email thing very well), and didn’t have much in the way of apps. BUT... It had a keyboard and the battery life was brilliant. I got it out of the box yesterday for no real reason and went to charge it up and found that after 12 months, the battery had only lost about 10% of its charge.

The reason why I’m getting frustrated with the iPhone is due to the volume of work emails I get. While not all of them need to be answered, typing on the touch-screen keyboard is fiddly after a while, and doesn’t lend itself well when having to deal with a significant number that need to be answered. What this means is that I don’t answer as many as quickly as I should, and wait to get back to a desktop or a laptop. Partly, this has cured me of my CrackBerry-itis, but means that the support I provide others is sometimes a bit late or lacking. On a lighter note, often the auto-correct kicks in to produce some funny emails (this mornings “I’ll cone over when I get in” - happy coning!).

BI (Before iPhone), if I had to go interstate or even to some client meetings, I would often just take the BlackBerry and leave the laptop at home. I could do emails, create and respond to meeting requests, as well as set Out of Office all from the BB. It was great being able to travel light, especially when it was an in and out job (so to speak).

Now, with the iPhone, I am back to carrying a laptop with me, so I can do all of the above. While I can do emails, and now can send meeting invites with iPhone 3.0, there still a few things that require a proper keyboard or access to a proper exchange/Outlook client (or use the Safari Browser on the iPhone I guess).

Then of course there is the battery life. Doing a Twitter search for “iphone battery” finds many interesting tweets, mostly about how bad it is, but sometimes with a contradictory “it’s great” one in there. The battery life, particularly compared to the BB is appalling, as many people would know.

Take today for an example. Fully charged at 6:40, turned off at 8am for a 2 hour flight. Checked email, and twitter. Back on at other end, checked and then sent 4 emails, checked weather, twitter, tweeted, received two short phone calls, sent and received one SMS. The battery is now down to 80%. I don’t have wireless or Bluetooth on, and have screen brightness just under half way. Push is permanently turned off. Now there may have been other things that I did, but given it’s just gone 12:30, I would expect that I’ve still got some good juice left, e.g. down to about 90% instead.

The iPhone is left on but on silent over night, and mostly gets down to 20% in the morning, which could be good. My ritual every morning after getting up, is to plug the iPhone in so that it is fully charged by the time I leave for work.

This routine works, but I remember days where I would charge the BB every 2nd day and would still get all of the above done in a morning. Some days, I charge it again during the day, or at least give it a little top up, remembering the old iPod rule of “a little and often” and also have a charger in the car.

The other night I got the iPhone out and noticed that it was having trouble connecting to the Bigpond POP server. While over a wireless connection, I watched while over 3-4 minutes, at least 1/3 of the battery charge indicator (I didn’t check the actual %) disappeared while it continually tried to connect to the server. That’s madness. It seems when it tries harder to connect to something, e.g. when it falls back to non-3G, it uses up way more battery. That has to be fixed.

Given I would place myself at the lower end of being a road warrior these days (I was mid-range 16-18 months ago), and given I’m going to start getting back on the road more and more in the future, I am starting to think that the iPhone is not the ideal tool for what I need. The integration of the iCal and Exchange calendars is absolutely fantastic, but as each day goes by, I can see myself going back to the BB and managing 2 handsets.

I’ve availed myself of a new BB Curve 8900, which is small, light has a keyboard, already is showing great battery life, has a much better media player, a better camera, and of course will do the email thing very well. I need to determine whether it will sync with iCal at all (the desktop sync app does I think), and then I need to consider whether I will replace the iPhone with it once the current contract runs out. The truth is that I don’t listen to music much and only use a handful of the apps I’ve downloaded, so it’s going to be a hard and tough decision over the next while.

Like my other Mac exploits, when I have them, I will blog any interesting things that I find about integrating the BB with Mac Life and MobileMe as I discover them.

So the BB/CrackBerry journey begins again, and who knows where I will end up.

July 16, 2009

Mindfulness etc

I've just been doing a bit of bin-diving to rescue my copy of last week's Sunday Life magazine from the recycle bin. Sarah Wilson of Masterchef Australia writes a column and last week's was on the subject of mindfulness; a take on the 'living in the present' and 'being present' perspective. It's a good article because it did get me thinking again about the way I live my life and indeed the way I live each minute.

Sitting here in the kitchen after reading the article again, I looked at the clock and thought "three hours until I have to leave for the Osteopath - that will go in no time." As the thought had rattled through my conscious brain, I then thought "actually, no, that's heaps of time, three hours worth of cleaning or ironing (as an example)." In case you're wondering, I'm not a clean or ironing freak. The article, like many we often read throughout our lifetime did good to reset the tought patterns, as we seem to need occasionally.

Several years ago, I worked with an inspiring Project Manager who had studied human behaviour and some psycho-analysis over the years. She would often say things that at the time seems a bit cliched but years later we find ourselves quoting this person as we realise that did actually mean something at the time. To clarify, we did think they were good at the time too! Three of these 'phrases-of-wisdom' that I still try to remember are:
  • Be present
  • What's the purpose
  • When the lift door opens in the morning, I'm at work, and home is left at home (and vice versa)
In many a meeting, I remind myself to "be present" which in a way is a take on the mindfulness. The aim is to put all other thoughts away, stop thinking about what's for dinner, or what life might be like if xyz had happened, and concentrate on the meeting. It's amazing that when I do this, as simple as it sounds, the meeting seems to go much better and both the other attendees and myself get the most of out of.

Relevant to my line of work, but possibly can be used elsewhere is the response "what's the purpose?" In the my world, when working with a client replacing an old, ageing Health IT system with a new and current one, we get asked (or told) that the new system must do this, that, or the other. The same can be said for business process. One of the responses we were taught was to ask back "what's the purpose?" because often the person requiring whatever they require cannot articulate exactly why. It sometimes comes down to "because we've always done it this way" and no thought has been given to exactly why or whether it's still needed.

Driving to work is a good thinking time, even when the drive is only about 15 minutes (sorry, too far to walk in the morning!). Once I get work work, lock the car and walk up the stairs, I force myself to leave non-work stuff in the carpark, and concentrate on work. While that's often easier said than done, because calls and emails come through during the day, the aim is that while I'm at work, I concentrate on work, and when I leave work, work stuff is left behind for the next day. It's about being mindful, or present at work. I've had people work with me and for me in my team who quite obviously don't understand this, some even after discussing it in team meetings. Calls are made, bills are paid, fellow colleagues are distracted by these, or what they're packing to go on holiday. It doesn't just affect yourself, it affects those around you, allowing others to be mindful and present as well. Training family members to call between 8 and 8:30am or after 6pm unless it's urgent also helped me here too.

The mindfulness lark can apply in so many different situations, both professional and personal, and it's been tough, and in a couple of cases, just about impossible to get others at work thinking the same way, but the biggest challenge is one's self. Start working the change at home and see how different the day becomes.

July 13, 2009

My Twitter experiences so far

Twitter seems to be the latest thing when it comes to keeping in contact with anyone and everyone, or even seeing what people are up to, are about to get up to etc.

I've been on Twitter since the end of March 2009, having originally joined with the intention of boosting my blog (which I've hardly written in) and develop, maybe, a (change of) career in writing and social commentating. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened, but I have gone through the addiction, searching for anybody and everybody, posting inane updates (e.g. I'm having beans for dinner), and generally wasted a lot of time. I have found people I know, and added some, and avoided others. However, I have come to some realisations:

Post about relevant stuff and people may follow you.
One thing I've noticed is that when I tweet about relevant or interesting stuff, e.g. Mac/iPhone, my wine and restaurant choices, commentary on TV programs (Masterchef is a good one!) etc, then I sometimes get a response/tweet back or a follower or two.

Contribute to trending topics
Tweet about stuff that's trending, and people will follow you, particularly if you show some humour (e.g. again, Masterchef). The highlight is being 're-tweeted' where someone posts your tweet back

Answer questions asked by fellow tweeters. While it's fun to tweet that you're eating beans, it's actually more fun to interact with fellow tweeps by answering questions or comments if you know the answer. This also means they might follow you.

Be aware of volume
When I consider whether I may follow someone, one thing I do look at is the volume and quality of their tweets. I'd be more inclined to favourite the tweet I thought was interesting if I think that they person tweets too much about not much at all. This one is a funny one though because I have been prone to the quantity, not quality rule at times!

Use favourites
Favourites are handy. 'nuff said.

Get a good Twitter client
Using the web interface is good for occasional use, but if you're going to get into it, get a web client. There are heaps out there. The ones I have used/tried are:
  • Tweetdeck
  • Nambu
  • Tweetie
There are also ones out there that look like an excel spreadsheet, apparently done so your boss doesn't think you're on Twitter!

Also, there are plenty of sites that work in well with Twitter to allow to you post links, pictures etc:
Happy Tweeting, Tweeps!

p.s. I don't really like beans!

June 29, 2009

Run Melbourne result

Well did I do it? Yes I did!
Can we fix it? It seems we can!

I completed the 5 km run in a time of 00:31:04 which, for me, was great. I had planned to stick to a pace of 6 minutes per kilometer, but ran somewhere between 5.5 minutes and 6 minutes for most of it. Well that is apart from the 4 or so minutes where I walked across the bridge past the tennis centre and MCG (there was a hill!!).


That's me on the left!

I consider this result bordering on the amazing, if I may say so myself, given that I hadn't really trained for the month leading up to the run. Like many, training in winter is just such a drag!


The above graph is from my Polar Personal Trainer software that came with my Polar 625X heart rate monitor. It interprets the data on the monitor that includes heart rate as well as distance and pace from a foot pod. It also talks to my bike. For anyone wanting to run and make a difference, something similar which can track speed/pace is a must have!

The 2009 season of Spring into Shape is my next serious run, although a short course entry in Melbourne Marathon is also kicking around in my head!

June 10, 2009

Not feeling particularly motivated

In ten days time, I will be running in the 2009 Run Melbourne "fun" run. I have done very little training over the past several weeks and before that, I was lucky if I ran even 2-2Km at the gym on the weekends. It would appear that when the 28th comes around, it will be a case of a steady pace and putting one foot in front of the other for the 5Km. I used to go to the gym twice a week in addition to my Personal Trainer and in general, run on both of those days. Why I lost my motivation, I'm not sure.

I have an Orbea Tri Bike sitting here in my study that has been rode too few times. I had got it two years ago and started riding in preparation to do some duathlons (don't even talk to me about swimming; I'm one of these people who tries to swim and never moves from the same spot!), but that ambition also dried up.

The whole lack of motivation thing is kind of surprising to me, given the fact that I used to be an aerobic instructor back in the days before Les Mills, and would sometimes 3 classes a night several times a week. Perhaps it goes back to one of my earlier posts about t-shirts (I'm wearing one now despite a not-so-warm house) and that as we get older, our abilities, and in this case, motivation changes. It's not that I don't want to; I really want to be a good runner, good cyclist, and even learn to swim in any direction, but I just lack the self motivation these days. Maybe I need to join a group and train with them, but then I'm not the most social of people a lot of the time, but that's a whole other post!

June 8, 2009

Life and Death and everything in between - part 1

It is a truth universally acknowledged... that we exit this world the way that we entered it. We dependent on someone else bathing, dressing, feeding us, turning us over in bed, checking on us in the night. It is a concept touched in 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Yet, a newborn or young baby receives, generally, more attention that the elderly despite needing many of the same basics of life. We would never leave a baby on its own, but it's the easiest thing to deposit someone in a hostel or nursing home and let someone else worry about them.

Nearly every Sunday, while visiting my Grandmother in her room at the hostel, I would think to myself that I hardly see anyone else visiting their relatives up there. One of the other residents was the mother of someone with whom I went through high school, and not once did I see him up there. The government pledges baby bonuses and other monetary incentives to help new mothers, which incidentally is OK by me, but the funding and the responsibility for the aged often falls short. In my Grandparents' case, too often the DVA pension would go up and then the age pension would be adjusted so that the increase was cancelled out. The cost of age care just never seemed to be a priority.

The crunch came recently, when nursing homes and residential aged care facilities were forced to close due to the owners owing in excess of $23 Million dollars, having gone into resident's bond money, and not paid staff superannuation for years. If there is no government regulation on this, then why don't we see the same thing happening for the other scenarios? Out of these closures and the news being reported, it has become quite clear that the government have not been providing the same level of protection for these residents, their money, and for the staff that care for them, as it would for other citizens. This is despicable, and tends to reinforce the "dump them and leave them" attitude.

What it does make you realise is your own mortality. In my case, this could be me in 50 years time. Left in some nursing home bed with no-one to feed me, wash me, or even talk to me. Our population is aging but the the moral sense of responsibility is not ageing with it.

It makes me extremely angry.

June 2, 2009

My thoughts on presenting and demonstrating

One of the many things I have to do as part of my job is conduct presentations and demonstrations of our product. Public speaking has always been easy for me, probably since I was "made" to go and read the lesson at church as a youngster, and now I almost relish to opportunity to speak in front of large groups or present our product to them. Of course, over the last 17 years with my job, I have learnt the hard way through feedback and watching my own presentations, but also through observing others. While I don't profess to be an expert by any means, often the way to learn is through the experience of others.

Recently, I was asked to present to my team on some tips and techniques for presentations and demonstrations. I thought that I'd summarise some of them on this post, keeping in mind that not all of them may apply if not demonstrating a software product.

Comments and feedback appreciated.

Mouse work: When presenting anything that involves a mouse, e.g. navigating a product or web page, I encourage my team to take note of the following:
  1. Mouse movements can be distracting. Make use of ‘home position’ for mouse when talking, for example, sit the cursor top left or centre screen.
  2. Fiddling can be really distracting even if you don't realise you're doing it. One thing I see the team doing is making columns wider/smaller while talking and it can be distracting because the group watch what the mouse is doing rather than listening
  3. Be careful not to rush from one concept to the next. Use pauses while the group take in what you've just said and process it. Sometimes, if it's an interactive group, and you're showing something quite new such as a software product, 'digestion' time is needed. Pauses are also good because they let the presenter think about the next bit!
  4. Compartmentalise concepts before moving onto a new one
  5. A trick I've learnt to emphasise something I'm doing rather than saying, is to not say anything while using the software/moving the mouse. It can be very effective to draw attention to what you're doing by not saying anything at all!
  6. In reverse to the above, sometimes I've found that talking and no mouse at all can work as well if you want to get a point across.
  7. When talking or answering questions, keep your hand off the mouse.
Question time: There will always be questions! This is one area that I've really worked on over the years as I was in a position to observer some of our presenters in action:
  1. Do not talk over client. Stop and let them finish the question. Too often I see our staff guessing the question and then giving the wrong answer. Normally I hate people talking over me, but in a demonstration/presentation scenario, I stop dead and let the person speak.
  2. Clarify Question if not completely certain what was being asked.
  3. Check that you gave the correct/expected answer, e.g. ask “did that answer your question?”
  4. Keep people on topic. Sometimes I'm fortunate to have someone facilitating the session, but don't be afraid to say that a question is off topic and it can be addressed later, particularly when doing software demonstrations.
  5. This can be a difficult one, but try to watch for potential question. For example, the person who has something to ask but cant get a word in, but be careful not to prompt them if they don’t have a question!
Presentations: Slide shows are very very popular and there are enough web sites devoted to the topic of creating good presentations, but some points I try to stick to:
  1. Keep it simple. Take a cue from Steve Jobs/Apple who give great simple presentations where it's about the speaker, not the slides. However, if you're not as confident at presenting then the slides can be a good 'support' for you. An example slide I have used is below.
  2. The slides should either reinforce what you're saying with key points or "take-home-messages" or introduce/sign-off on topics. Don't read the slides word for word - the group can do that for themselves!
  3. I find that if I do need to read the bullet points (it has happened) then either my presentation is wrong or the slides need re-work to take out some of the detail.
  4. Having said that, summary slides sometimes may need the words.
  5. If slides do get wordy (sometimes it happens), give the group a few sections to scan/read it.
  6. Don't use sounds or fancy transitions. PowerPoint is great because it provides sounds, actions etc for building slides, and are great for schools, but in a professional setting they can be annoying or inappropriate if over used.
  7. Keep images to a minimum - this works well with the 2nd point above. Having said that, I did do a presentation to a NSW university once where I found funny pictures like those old black and white photos you can buy on the front of greeting cards, used only those in the slide show and talked to the slide headings instead.
  8. From experience, people remember the simple rather than the detailed when it comes to presentations.
Some other miscellaneous points:
  1. Know your audience. Talk to the right level. Be aware if some/all of the group might have heard some points before, that may not be needed.
  2. In a professional demonstration, sometimes it's worth avoiding giving of personal advice, just re-word it. For example, “personally, but you don’t have to do this” doesn't work, but say instead "a suggestion is..."
  3. Having said that, in some presentations, the group appreciates getting to know a bit of who you are, rather than just someone up the front talking. This might be an introduction point about you, but could also be some personal experiences. When I'm presenting our product, I talk about "when I implemented this in xx area/department of the hospital".
  4. PowerPoint and Keynote have presenter views when you have multiple monitors configured, and this can provide you with your notes, next slide and a timer. I use this where possible.

My Office 2008 for Mac journey

Today I finally gave in and purchased a full version (well the upgrade) of Office 2008 for Mac. When I had purchased my new MacBook, I'd also purchased Office Home/Student edition on the assumption that it also had Exchange Server support.

For the uninitiated, Exchange Server support means the ability to talk to your corporate/office Exchange email server. If you're a home user or have a home/small business, it's possible you won't have an Exchange server running.

The assumption was based on the Apple Store web page that contains the same blurb for all versions of the Office product, which is very misleading, especially when there's a radio button at the top allowing you to select your edition.

I currently use Office 2004 with Entourage (the email product, not the TV show!) on my other desktop Mac, and connect via Outlook web access, which seems to work, but it does lack a few of the things that I needed to use, such as Out of Office and Rules. Trying some clever things like loading Entourage 2004, then Office 2008 and not removing the 2004 program, or doing it in the 2008, then 2004 order was not successful. Office seems to load "something" that disables all Exchange support as soon as the Home/Student edition is loaded. Bummer, but clever at the same time.

This morning I loaded 2004 on the mac book, thinking that I'd just go with that, and then, I promptly got some emails that had Word 2007/2008 documents attached. Now I know I could have just loaded the converter, but I thought what the heck and forked out the $320ish dollars to buy the upgrade. I will keep 2004 on my other Mac as it's become mostly a web surfing machine, and will use 2008 on the MacBook. My Personal Trainer might buy my Office/Student edition off me if I succeed in converting him from Windoze land.

So what benefits have I discovered of using Office 2008 Standard over the other editions? I really wanted just the Exchange server support so that I could use my Mac at home and access the work email with a little more flair than the Web version. Office 2008 now gives me the ability to set my out of office, displays calendars and emails better and has better access (it seems) to view team calendars etc. The little pop up "My Day" widget seems cool too. Having the other applications of course does give me the ability to exchange documents better, now that more people are getting Office 2007 for PC or 2008 for Mac. As I find more interesting bits, I will post them in future blogs.

May 9, 2009

Eight things I noticed on my trip to town

I've just been into town for a little shopping trip and a look around. A couple of books, a coffee and an extra battery for my laptop later, I thought I'd note down eight things that I noticed or came to mind on my little trip:

1. It's very common for people to stop at tops of escalators or in doorways while they wonder where they're going next without realising they're holding up a stream of people.
2. We drive on the left but tend to walk on the right (or all over the place in some places, e.g. Myer Bourke street store).
3. Some people have a knack of walking right in front of you and somehow moving in front of you again when you attempt to walk around.
4. There seems to be very few places for someone to sit down and have a relaxing cup of coffee without there being heaps of people also sitting, talking, walking or being pretty painful also having a coffee in the same place.
5. If you walk down Bourke street Mall, looking at your friend behind you while calling him a "stalker" then I'm bound to call you a something that rhymes back.
6. Hopetoun Tea Rooms in Block arcade do a respectable latte in a cup.
7. Apart from Myer and DJs, there is no dedicated Apple shop within a hop/skip/jump of the Bourke street Mall.
8. Whoever writes the "humorous" Mother's Day cards should quit now and start looking for a new job (there were some terrible ones in Myer)

MacBook batteries and sleep vs. hibernate

As a new MacBook owner, I'm paying careful attention to how the thing is working etc, just in case I've got a bad one. As it seems, everything is pretty good, some strange console messages, but on the whole it's a pretty fine beast. I bought it with the intention to start blogging and to maybe explore something a bit more creative given the logical way in which I go about my normal 9 to 5 job.

Being a gadget boy (both self-confessed and labelled by others), one thing that always concerns me is battery life. Like many others have reported in the Apple Support Forum I noticed my MacBook slowly lose charge when in sleep mode. For example, I'd charged it overnight one night - 100% in the morning - and then on the trip to work (I'd put it to sleep), it would wake up to 96% after a 15-20 minute trip.

Yesterday, I let the battery drain completely (doing pretty much nothing, it took about 4.5 hours), which then put the MacBook into Hibernate mode. I left it charging yesterday evening until the power adaptor went green, then unplugged and left it as is over night. This morning, it's still showing full charge when I plug it back in.

It seems that the new MacBooks (as compared to my 2004 PowerBook G4) have a different sleep mode where it's a low-power mode holding memory contents rather than writing them to disk. This means there is a slow drain when in sleep mode, although the definition of "slow" can differ from laptop to laptop and person to person.

There is a preference pane/tool called SmartSleep that can be installed to control what my MacBook does when the lid is closed. I'm going to test this out over the next week and see what effect it has when I set it to hibernate instead of sleep. I don't see a real need to be able to open the lid and have it ready to go, and am happy to wait the few seconds for it to come back to life. I've just been reading comments on the Apple site above that there may be battery cost while it comes out of hibernate but will see how things go.

The other things I'm going to do over this weekend is go through a couple of full charge/discharge cycles to try and calibrate the battery.

Change in Blog Plans

OK, so my plans to be a prolific Blogger haven't quite worked out, and it's probably the case that people won't want to hear about what I had on toast (Twitter is good for that). My intention to write about HealthCare, workplace Psychology, Workplace bullying (as a 3rd party observer!), and other stuff haven't started flowing freely from these fingers, so I'm going to Blog a bit about my experiences with my new MacBook. Stay tuned...

April 25, 2009


From an early age we are taught numbers, letters, colours, behaviours etc. A conversation with friends the other day about colour blindness made me wonder about colours and the fact that we've been taught that red is red and blue is blue. Of course that got me wondering that what if we'd been taught that red was blue and blue was yellow? What's to say that we've been taught is correct, and that those that are colour blind are actually seeing things correctly!

March 30, 2009

Approaching 40

OK, so I know I'm still 21 months off, but already I'm thinking of the slide that is the road to 40. I remember back to when I was in this position approaching 30, the attitudes I had to life, people, situations, my dress sense, and now feel in a similar place again 2 years out of hitting 40.

I remember a couple of years ago noting the "40" thing that makes people want to wear tighter t-shirts and jeans, possibly in order to show that the body, now it's 40, is still in good shape, and thinking that I'd never do that and remain true to my (hopefully) better dress sense. Without realising it, I have, over the last few months, invested in a larger number of t-shirts, possibly to show off that my body, now that I'm approaching 40, it's still in good shape..! Without realising it, I've subscribed to the one thing I always thought was a bit funny. Having said that, t-shirts are a lot more comfortable at time, so I'm prepared to give in on that bit!

March 29, 2009

The first post

Well this is my first post on Dinsypedia. I created this blog with the intent of plugging it into my strange and rambling thoughts. Typically many of these have dried up since the blog's activation, so I shall wait patiently for them to commence again.