Blog entries from December, 2007

I now have a digital SLR camera

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007 at 02:46pm

Earlier in the week I decided that I had thought about a Digital SLR camera enough. After all I had borrowed Hamish’s Canon EOS 300D, borrowed David’s Nikon D80, and read through countless articles and reviews.

Of the Canon EOS 400D and the Nikon D40x (which the reviewers couldn’t decide between) I was initially leaning towards the Nikon for a couple of reasons:

  • I could get it with the 18-135 lens that I really liked when using it on David’s D80.
  • It was a fraction more comfortable to hold compared to the Canon (very briefly with the display models in a shop).
  • It used an SD card, not compact flash. I like being able to just pull the card (with built in USB connector that I got this time last year) out of my current camera and just plug it into an available USB port.

There was however one huge drawback with the Nikon. The D40x (and D40) do not have a focusing motor in the body. For autofocus you must use a lens with a built-in motor which severely reduces the lens options. As I didn’t want to pay more for the D80 or opt for the older D70s (at a similar price to the D40x) I chose the Canon.

And this morning I got it.

Instead of my usual sleep in on a Saturday morning, I got up at a reasonable time and headed out to Knox as there were four shops (JB, Dick Smith, Teds and Harvey Norman) within close proximity and I knew they were on special at three of them, some for a better price than others. After checking out JB (their price was the second cheapest, by AU$15) I was walking around to Dick Smith and I passed Retravision.

I wondered if they had cameras. So I went in. And they had it (400D twin lens kit) for even less than the other four shops, and they still had two (one being the display model) black ones in stock. After doing some other shopping I came back and bought it AND a 4GB CF card for a price that was still less than the other stores. It really does pay to shop around, and not just online.

Coincidentally there was an eBay auction for the Canon 28mm f/2.8 lens that finished this afternoon. With myself as the winning bidder for a reasonable price. The seller is also located in Melbourne so I might even be able to pick it up today. If not today then in time to use it on christmas day.

I still need to get:

  • A small USB 2.0 CF reader
  • A protective sticker for the LCD display
  • A bag/case.

I really should thank Hamish as I am leeching off the research he did…

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The recruitment process for developers

Sunday, December 16th, 2007 at 01:18pm

Last night I finished reading through Joel Spolsky’s book on recruiting developers, Smart and Gets Things Done.

This was a bad move as I started thinking back over my involvement in the recruitment process at work, seeing what rang true and what didn’t. In itself this was good. What was bad was that it prevented me from getting to sleep.

The most useful thing about the book (and in his articles where I had already read much of what is in the book, but had forgotten) is that Joel is not afraid to state the truths that many seem reluctant to acknowledge. For example:

  • Not all developers are created equal and they are far from interchangeable; and
  • It is better to say no and live with a vacancy than to fill it with someone who has no positive effect on the team.

The final chapter is not really about recruiting new developers, it is about fixing an existing team. To be honest this chapter alone is much more relevant to me than the six repceeding chapters.

I picked up two main points from this chapter:

  • Get rid of the underperformers that are wasting the resources of the team; and
  • Provide sufficient information that enables people to identify with the goal so they will want to perform the task, the Identity Management Method.

(I acknowledge that I am guilty of using for the Command and Control Management Method.)

In my experience there are two reasons why getting buyin from the developers fails:

  • Management actually considers the developers to be all the same so they don’t need to know the goal, they can just churn out the code; or
  • There is no actual business goal to buy into. At most the goal is something like ‘so and so said to do it’. That is no goal.

This time of year is full of tasks with arbitrary deadlines which, to me, fall into the category of not having a business goal. Why should we compromise on a solution to get it done by the end of the year? Will the stakeholders even look at it over the christmas/new year break? Will they even look at it before the end of January?

Getting it done by the end of the year just so a manager can tick a box is always a waste of effort. Either more effort will be spend in January fixing the problems introduced by the compromises that where made, or the problems will never get fixed which causes even more problems in the long run.

Enough of this rant.

This book is now on my list of books to get (I only borrowed the copy I read) and it has also given me another prompt to re-read Mythical Man Month and Peopleware.

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Blogging tools for more than blogs

Thursday, December 6th, 2007 at 11:48pm

Tonight I went into the city to hear James Farmer ask Whoever Said Blogging Tools Were Just For Blogs? at a Web Standards Group meeting.

Compared to the Webates the turnout was low, but it was still respectable. As for the talk itself, it was good. Although it was less technical than I had hoped, it still showed how blog tools can be used for a sites that does not look like a blog, instead it can (for example) look like a news/magazine site.

Afterward we ajourned to the pub where discussions continued. It is a different experience talking with people that are not as technically involved as I am as they provide an alternate perspective.

One other thing is that this has encouraged me to having a proper look at converting my friend’s site ( to be based on WordPress which would make editing easier and provide the ability for vistors to leave comments about each ride.

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Backups are worth it

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007 at 07:18pm

Just before I went to OSDC I moved the contents of my Inbox to a new folder so during the conference I only had to worry about anything new that had come in. My first attempt at applying the concept I have seen referred to as ‘process to empty’.

This worked well and I ended up using it as a place to store anything that came in during the conference that I wanted to deal with when I returned home. Which I did.

However, once I had dealt with all of the recent items I accidentally deleted the folder. This meant that a couple of emails that had been hanging around in my Inbox for a long time were gone. And I still needed them.

Six months ago I had burnt a backup of my photos and documents that I was storing off-site (aka at work) so today it was a simple matter of grabbing the appropriate disc, extracting the archive of my home directory, and picking out my Inbox from that. Then when I got home it was a matter of dumping the files in the appropriate directory (under Maildir) and looking at the messages in Thunderbird.

Now, the data that I lost wasn’t particularly important, but I do need it in order to follow some things up so I was thankful.

Something I need to improve is the interval. The off-site backup is 6 months old. While my other backup is a nightly rsync that gives up to 24 hours. I have been meaning to use an external hard drive which could give a number of week intervals.

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