Sunday, January 25, 2009

Jurassic Coast

I managed to take advantage of the fine weather yesterday, and took my camera down to Dorset for a scout around Corfe Castle and the coastline around West Lulworth. It was a fantastic day, with not too many people around, allowing some nice interrupted shots to be taken.

The best ones are on-line here

I find the winter sun a much better light than in summer, as you have a lot more time (i.e. all day) to enjoy the soft light and long shadows. Next time I fancy getting out onto the Isle of Portland and Chesil Beach a few miles west from where I was yesterday.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Where next?

Here's a neat gizmo I just nicked from my work pal Tim Dickinson's blog.

I like travelling to places, and the map below shows where my carbon footprint has lead me so far. It's a big world!

visited 19 states (8.44%)
Create your own visited map of The World or try another Douwe Osinga project

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Bloodhound SSC

As I mentioned the other day, I have now signed-up as a gold supporter of Richard Nobel & Andy Green's latest land speed record attempt, Bloodhound SSC. Their web site is already showing significant progress in the project. Be sure to check it out.

Fedora Linux 10

Alright, let's take a moment to embrace one's inner geek.

I've always found Windows a little painful to use - not sure why, and after all, should it really matter? A computer's OS is just a way of launching your web browser or e-mail client, so why do I (and many others) feel the need to try new alternatives? I've often been tempted to get a Mac, but exquisite as they are, I could never justify the premium compared to much cheaper PCs. So how to get the Mac experience, without buying one?

I've been playing around with Linux alternatives, and think I have finally found one to move wholesale from Windows Vista: Fedora 10.

Whilst I still don't believe Linux is easy enough to use for the mainstream, it does now offer a powerful and attractive alternative to those who want to 'Think Different' without buying a Mac. Fedora 10 (a product of Red Hat) works very well for me, having tried all the mainstream alternatives (Ubuntu: too ugly; SuSE: too fussy). I might talk a bit more in detail about the benefits some time in the future, but for now here are a few screenshots to show how my desktop looks as a basic illustration of the Fedora experience:

1. Here's the basic desktop, as it appears having booted-up:

2. Firefox web browser:

3. The OpenOffice suite, an effective alternative to MS Office (and of course, free):

4. Virtualbox running Windows Vista for occasional times when I can't get a job done in Fedora (i.e. updating my Tom Tom, and synching my iPod). I admit, this is not an ideal solution (especially as you have to buy a copy of Vista!), but it works very well:

5. For me, here's the best bit: multiple desktops. When I started work at Nortel, my first PC was a HP Unix workstation, which had multiple workspaces on the desktop. Once you're used to this way of working, it is very hard to go back to a single desktop (i.e. Windows). Even Mac OS X has recently added this feature - I was surprised Vista didn't have it. In my opinion, Fedora, and the other Linux distributions, implements this feature the best out the lot. My last screenshot is just one example of how this looks - you have to see it in action, and use it, to reaslise how much easier it makes juggling multiple tasks. Anyway, here's a 'zoom out' of my four virtual desktops:

Alright, that's enough nerding around for today. There are loads of reviews and videos of Fedora out on the web in case you want to see more. If I have already inspired you then get over to the Fedora web site and download (yep - it's free) the operating system and try it for yourself.

On a slightly more serious note though, why on earth hasn't Apple released OS X as a software product you can buy and install on your standard Windows PC, to rival Vista directly? Surely this would open a whole new route for people to migrate from Windows to Mac, generating more sales for Apple. Right now, you have one option if you want to migrate:

1. Buy a new (expensive) Mac.
2. Dispose of your old PC.

Not the cheapest, nor the most green approach if you have no good use for the old hardware.

Instead then, if people could buy Mac OS X and install it over (or along-side) Windows, then this is what could happen:

1. PC user buys an iPod. Installs iTunes on their Vista PC, and likes the simplicity and style of his small Apple product. He wants more of it.
2. He buys a Mac OS X CD-ROM and installs it on his Windows PC. Apple will have written a very friendly migration tool, so the PC user does not lose any documents, all his mail is migrated, and his internet bookmarks. He's now a Mac user, albeit on his existing PC hardware.
3. After a while, the PC user is loving the Mac OS experience, but hates his ugly old PC hardware. Time to upgrade, so he walks into an Apple Store, and buys an iMac.

There you have it. Apple have ultimately gained a sale of an iMac which they might not have got otherwise. They have also made some high-margin revenue from the sale of the software-only Mac OS X CD. Finally, as long as the technology all works, the user is then locked-in to the iMac hardware, and so becomes yet another very loyal Mac fan.

No doubt this is a stupid idea, otherwise why haven't Apple already done this (well, perhaps the iPod and iPhone have kept them busy enough)? Anyway, seems like a good plan to me!

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Crazy mixed-up second week.

OK - I have a confession to make. I work for Nortel. And, I'm proud of it!

Today's announcement, and resultant media coverage, that the company had taken protection against bankruptcy was quite a shock, but to be honest, not the most surprising news.

I'm not a financial expert, but our business is struggling to shake off debt, a lot of which is left over from the dot com boom & bust. Admittedly, the company has had it's dark times during the early 2000s, but those responsible have been punished, and we have an entirely new organisation. Our current CeO, Mike Zafirovski (Mike Z to us employees) is the best we've had in a long time. Hell, even us Brits have adopted the 'Mike Zee' rather than 'Mike Zed' pronunciation, such is our loyalty. That's a big deal!

I joined Nortel in the UK straight from University in 1996, so have seen the amazing highs of 1999 - 2001, and the subsequent lows. A lot of people have come and gone, sadly most have gone. What remains, however, is in my opinion a group of tough, battle hardened, dedicated professionals, just aching to enjoy the good times again. I know we would all agree the excesses of 2000 will never return. Fine by me. All we want is a fair chance to turn a decent profit, and continue to contribute to the global telecoms revolution.

Reading the Canadian Globe & Mail news coverage of today's events, I was most impressed by comments left on their web page, in the middle of the freezing Canadian night, by readers of various opinions. There was a lot of support for the company, and some people ready to have a kick. What most made me smile, though, were those who were correcting the other's spelling and grammar. Great fun, and an example of how the Canadians take pride in everything they do.

I've worked in Nortel's Technical Support organisation for the majority of my career, and have recently moved to become a Project Manager. I have worked with some of the most innovative, clever, and hard working people in the industry. A lot of them are still here. If you can value a company on it's products, people, and customers, then we are certainly a world leader (even despite my admittedly biased opinion).

Tough times, but tough characters. The banks have had some help - I hope there are a few dollars (or a few hundred million dollars!) still free for the manufacturers. Then we can get on with delivering the future.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Survived the first week.

Had a pretty good first week back at work fortunately - no disasters or nasty shocks, which is always good. I tend to avoid new years resolutions, but this year I've decided to put a list together of things I'd like to do, or get involved with.

The usual items are all there: get fitter (I'm a part-time long distance runner, and have had a few modest successes, completing the Greenwich 'run to the beat' half marathon in London last year in under 2 hours). Learn to play my (two!) guitars is another I hope to make some progress on. Watching 'Guitar Heros at the BBC' on TV last night gave me a bit of inspiration. Perhaps I'll pick-up my white Stratocaster later today...

One other project I'm looking at, as an observer at least, is Richard Nobel & Andy Green's new bid to produce a supersonic land speed record car. Bloodhound SSC is aiming to hit Mach 1.4, or 1,000 mph - quite incredible. I was a close follower of the Thrust SSC project back in 1997 (via their then ground-breaking web coverage) and watching the on-car video of some of the supersonic runs, I'm amazed Andy Green wants to go through that again. I do love his comments on the Bloodhound web site, stating that breaking the land speed records is considered his 'holiday job'! Anyway, I'm toying with the idea of buying the Gold membership for £75 which includes, amongst other things, to attend a test run of the car in the UK. Seems like very good value to me.

Anyway whatever speed you drive today, be it 30 mph, or indeed Mach 1.4, it looks pretty icy out of the window today, so take it easy around those bends!


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Let's kick-off.

Greetings people of the Internet - I come in peace!

Working down my list of new years resolutions for 2009, the next to get started is a blog. Well, here it is!

I've no specific agenda to talk about - I plan to post my thoughts as and when I feel like it. My main interests are technology related, so chances are I'll be posting some thoughts, and tips on items such as computer networking, migrating from Windows to Linux, and that sort of thing. I may also impose my tastes in music on you (you have been warned!), and if anyone has spotted the musical reference in my blog's title, then you'll know what my favourite album is currently!

I'm also getting more into digital photograph, having received a recent birthday gift from my folks of a fantastic Lumix DMC-FZ28 (thanks again Mum & Dad)! This will replace my good, but tempremental, Samsung Pro815 I've had for a few years now. I've not had much chance to test the Lumix out in anger much yet, but plan to as soon as the dreary English winter weather brightens up. Meanwhile, I've recently set-up an on-line gallery (another new years resolution) where I'm uploading some of my favourite shots. Hopefully you might like some of them too. The photos are located here:

I'm sure other topics will come and go through this blog - let's see where 2009 takes us.

Final thought for today: I, like a lot of people, will be heading back to work tomorrow, into unprecedented workplace uncertainty, which of course started last year. I work for a Telecoms manufacturer, and have been going through cut-backs, redundancies, and falling share prices since the dot com bust in 2001. From a personal perspective, I'm hoping my company is doing enough to weather the storm, but only time will tell. I just want to wish everone out there, heading back to work this week, a smooth return to the office - whatever form that takes. If we all get our heads down, work hard, roll with the punches, and make the most of whatever comes our way, I hope we'll be facing a more certain future this time next year.

Thanks for reading,