Blog entries tagged with "work"

Taking a shortcut

Monday, October 5th, 2020 at 09:34pm

It is now October which means for Australians that their tax return is due by the end of the month. I always do mine as early as possible so I can get my tax refund as early as possible, but I have noticed a couple of articles popping up and also while cleaning up my desk I found some notes with my calculations.

With so many more people working from home, the ATO introduced a new “shortcut method” for claiming home office expenses, this is in addition to the existing “fixed rate” and “actual cost” methods.

As I was one of those working from home I sat down and worked through all three methods (not fully but enough) to determine which was the best for me to use.

Shortcut method

By definition this is the easiest to work out, you claim 80 cents for each hour you worked from home, this is all you can claim as it covers electricity, heating, internet, depreciation, etc.

As I knew I would be claiming something I had been keeping a record of when I had been working, so I counted them up and got 73 days. As I had always put in eight hours of work (making up time on a couple of days such as when my power was out) this meant I could claim:

73 days * 8 hours * $0.80 = $467.20

Fixed rate method

Under this method you need to have a home office, but if you do you can claim 52 cents for each hour (which covers electricicty, heating and decline in value of office furniture) and then the work related use of phone, internet, consumables/stationery and decline in value of the equipment.

The first part is simple:

73 days * 8 hours * $0.52 = $303.68

Phone and consumables are also easy as I don’t use my phone for work and I have used about ten pages of a cheap notebook, so no cost incurred there.

My laptop is provided by work so there is no cost I have incurred for that. I am using my existing monitors, keyboard, mouse, etc but they are all a couple of years old and it wasn’t clear if they were already part of the fixed rate or should be calculated on their own, I decided to leave them out.

The remaining item to calculate is internet. I live alone so 100% of it is used by me, but how much of that is work related? I pay $80 per month for an unlimited plan, so there are is no clear time based or usage based way to split between work and non-work. The best answer I could find is to pick a method that you can justify.

First let’s see about time based: there are 168 hours in a week, if I worked every day then that is 40 hours. So 24% of my internet use is work related. I pay $80 per month and there were three and a half months of working from home:

3.5 months * $80 * 24% = $67.20

What about usage based? I keep track of some stats for a few days and found that the data used from my work laptop ranged from a low of 300MB one day to a high of 2GB on another day that had a few Zoom meetings. That was lower than I expected, and also nothing compared to what I use for non-work, as a percentage it would be in the single digits, so I didn’t continue down this path as time based is higher.

So where does this method leave me?

$303.68 + $67.20 = $370.88

I can claim more under the shortcut method than the fixed rate method.

Actual cost method

The final method is where you work out all the individual costs, but what are they?

In my study the modem, router and two computers are on 24/7, so there is no additional cost for them to also be on when I am working.

However there are work related things that do consume electricity:

  • my monitors, speakers and desk lamp would normally be turned off, using a power meter I found that collectively they consume 0.075kWh
  • averaged over a few hours, I measured my work laptop at 0.013kWh
  • the ceiling light is an LED that comes in at 0.007kWh

Combining these together and multiplying by the cost of electricty at the time:

( 0.075kWh + 0.013kWh + 0.007kWh ) * $0.262 = $0.025/h

Hmmm… claiming 2.5 cents per hour is a lot less than claiming 80 or 52 cents per hour.

The other thing that is now on when I am working from home is my central heating. This is gas, so I will first work out how much electricity it uses. As this is controlled through Home Assistant I can see when it is turning on or off, and I am also pulling instantaneous usage from my smart meter.

I could probably do a deep analysis to get real values, but instead I looked at a couple of cold days and found that the heating is on for ten minutes of every hour, and when it is on the power usage jumps by about 400W for those ten minutes:

( 10 minutes / 60 minutes ) * 0.4kW * $0.262 = $0.017/h

This means my total cost of electricity to work from home was:

( $0.025/h + $0.017/h ) * 73 days * 8 hours = $24.52

The only thing I have that uses gas is my central heating, so I don’t need to worry about splitting the type of usage (eg heating vs cooking vs hot water), I just need to come up with a work and non-work ratio.

I don’t have the heating on 24/7, but the months that I was working from home were all cool to cold, so the heating was on for most of the time that I had it scheduled. If I said that during the day on a weekday was work, with weekday evening and weekends being non-work, my estimate was 40% of the schedule was work.

The cost of gas varies throughout the year, based on my bills I estimated the cost for the period I was working from home to be:

$420 * 40% = $168

From what I worked out for the fixed rate method I have internet expenses to include, but I have no expenses for consumables or any legitimate decline in value for furniture or equipment. I also have no specific cleaning expenses for my study, so not including anything for that.

After all this, where am I up to?

$24.52 + $168.00 + $67.20 = $259.72


Putting the different methods side by side:

  • Shortcut: $467.20
  • Fixed rate: $303.68
  • Actual cost: $259.72

If I had needed to buy a computer for work or new furniture the situation might have been different, but the shortcut method works best for me so that is what I went with.

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Six months at home

Wednesday, September 16th, 2020 at 08:18pm

Today is the sixteenth of September, not a particularly significant day, except that six months ago the sixteenth was a Monday, the first day of working from home.

Sure there are some benefits like not having to commute, but I miss the commute as it gave a clear separation between work and non-work time. I also miss the lunchtime conversations with people on other teams or even seeing changes around the CBD due to construction or other works.

Is it ironic that we had only moved into our shiny new office only a few weeks before it all changed?

At the start of 2019 we had to move out of our previous office, and became mostly remote workers. We got a couple of rooms at a managed office space and each team was assigned a day to come in, the other days they would work from home. However there were a few of us (myself included) that opted to come into the temporary office every day.

In my case I knew that I would find it difficult to focus on work when I was at home, unless I was able to create a separate office for work, but I don’t have the space, furniture or equipment for that. It was better for me to tolerate the cramped shared office, with the benefit of still being in contact with people not on my team.

In February our new space was complete enough for us to move in and despite areas like the kitchen and meeting rooms still being set up, we started to make it our own, and then the world changed.

While I would love to have a work office that is distinct from my home office I have gone for a compromise of being able to switch over to a work environment. I’m still sitting on the same chair at the same desk in front of the same monitors, keyboard and mouse, but when I am working that is all driven from my work laptop. Come 4pm I switch the monitor inputs (KVM built into one of them and audio over HDMI is handy) back to my own computer, put the work laptop away and I am no longer in work mode.

So far this has been good enough™ but I am yearning for the day when we can be in an office again, but who knows when that will be…

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Three weeks in Kansas

Sunday, February 7th, 2016 at 11:19pm

The place I have been working for the past eighteen months is part of a larger company based out of Kansas City. One of the biggest direct impacts this has on me is working 7am-4pm so that the start of our day overlaps with the end of their day, but I have come to appreciate avoiding the crowds on the train or on the bike path.

The other possibility is travelling to Kansas City for work, which has just happened for me. A few of us went over, my reason for going was to be there to support the first US based team that is using the tools we have build to upgrade their application for the new servers.

This was my second trip to the US, and only my third trip overseas. This was quite different as I didn’t pay for the flights or hotel, and I received a per diem, but of course most of the time was spent doing work. During the two weekends I was there I managed to squeeze in some sightseeing with my camera, I went to places that other people (who have made the trip multiple times before) had not even considered going to. As I ended up having one of the cars to myself, I headed out over a couple of lunchtimes to some nearby areas.

Of the photos I took, my final selection of 60 is in a Flickr album, with my favourites including:

Museum entrance Shaft Three In the afternoon Path
Arched over Hydrant Heading home Touchdown Frozen outflow

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Back on the bike

Saturday, January 10th, 2015 at 09:32pm

Today I rode my bicycle into the city. In itself that isn’t much, but to me it is both the first time I have gone for a ride in over six months (not sure when, but before my US trip last July) and has removed another excuse for not cycling to work. Currently the weather forecast for Monday is humid with late showers, so it looks like I will be riding in. Whether I ride home or catch the train with my bike will be a question for later.

In the past when talking about rides I have used Bikely but since the last time I used it it has become broken. There are two versions of the interface, in the old interface you can draw out a new route but then you cannot save it, while in the new interface you can save your route but I cannot find where to edit an existing route. I also was not able to import a GPX file as a new route like I used to, it says there was an error.

Instead here it is in a Google Map created from this KMZ file:

This is a mix of on-road and bike paths:

  • Along High Street Road taking advantage of the downhill to maintain speed
  • Onto the Gardiners Creek Trail, including crossing under Warrigal Road
  • At Alamein Station skip a section of the Gardiners Creek Trail by using streets that a more direct
  • Rejoing the Gardiners Creek Trail and follow to the end (including the new bridge near Kooyong)
  • Join the Main Yarra Trail and follow it past Federation Square and Flinders Steet Station
  • Loop around to the bottom of Queen Street to the office

The distance was 21.7 kilometres, with a moving time of 56 minutes. The total time was just over an hour as I did briefly stop a couple of times. I expect that as I get into a routine that time should reduce a bit (and I won’t need to stop).

I expect to refine the route over time, should I get back on the Gardiners Creek Trail a little bit earlier or should I use some of the gravel sections instead of crossing back and forth over the creek? One mistake I did make was to miss the turn to the lower path next to the Yarra at Birrarung Marr which meant I had more pedestrians to negotiate and then had to zigzag down. Now I know where to go (turn next to the Angel sculpture) and at 7AM there should be very few pedestrians.

Right now I am committing myself to riding at least once a week, but hopefully more. This will depend on what else I have on, for example in the coming week what I have on the evenings means I will not be able to ride on Tuesday Wednesday or Thursday. So Friday is still a possibility…

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Four weeks

Sunday, August 31st, 2014 at 04:42pm

Today, four weeks after returning from my US trip, I have completed processing my photos and uploading them into albums (also completing the draft posts I wrote while on the trip). Of the 6,000 I came home with, 275 made the cut and can be seen in 12 albums over on Flickr. They can also be found on Google+ and Panoramio, but they don’t have a nice collections page to link to.

My use of the word “completed” is not quite correct. Every day after getting the photos off the camera I did a bit of sorting, mostly deleting obvious bad images but also flagging images for editing. About half of what I flagged during the trip made it into the final selection, but I still need to go back through and cull out other unwanted images.

It is also been four weeks since I started my new job and I think that I am almost used to getting up for the early start. When asked about how I an finding it my response has been that it is “different.” There were good things as well as bad things at Monash, there are also good things and bad things about this place as well. Further down the track I might have another view, but for now there are so many new things to pick up that I don’t know what to think.

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The next phase

Friday, June 20th, 2014 at 11:09am

This day six months ago was my last day working for Monash Uni. Though not much work was done, it was a matter of making sure I had all my personal things, the handover of my (and others from my team that also took the package) laptop and ID card before heading over to our usual last day BBQ. Except that this time it was also a farewell for those of us leaving, combined with commiseration for those who were not.

The next month was surprisingly busy with Christmas, new years, two weeks in Perth, and even a call in for jury duty. But that was part of my plan, to have some long overdue time off from work.

In February and March I got through a number of house related tasks (some like gutters and cleaning study were from my original list, others like drip irrigation were not) but an unexpectedly large amount of time went into research for two trips, the easter long weekend up to the Victorian high country and my four stage trip to the US which includes TAM and OSCON. (In fact I am still researching what to do for my six days in San Francisco, apart from accommodation and the Alcatraz tour nothing is booked, it it just a big list of places to go…)

In between these other tasks and travel research I was slowly going through old records to build up a list of things I had achieved while at Monash, eventually this was refined down into a resume. At various times I was toying with the idea of changing career direction, moving away from writing code to something else (eg interface design), but the act of listing my achievements and continuing to write code for little things at home reminded me that I really enjoyed building things by writing code.

By late April I had an updated resume, but that it only part of the job search process. Through a couple of my former colleagues I ended up in contact with a recruiter (but he didn’t know about any jobs at the time) and I started looking through online job sites. While I did send off a couple of applications, my expectations were low as they were for technologies that I didn’t have much experience with. I was also not very active with the job search as not being available for four weeks in July could be an obstacle.

Then I got a call from the recruiter, would I be interested in a job that had come up? I said yes and they must have liked my resume (no opportunity to write a cover letter) and I went in for an interview. While I had been on the panel side of interviews many times at Monash, it was my first interview in eight years and my first proper interview with people I did not know. Luckily it wasn’t as formal as what Monash imposes – more of an extended discussion – and I must have done well as I was offered the job. I am going in this afternoon to sign the paperwork and I will start right after I return from my trip.

I only have a little over two weeks until I leave for my trip, but I think they will be the busiest in months as while there a couple of trip things to do, some of the house related things (such as getting quotes) will be easier to do now while I am available during the week.

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The cost of the commute

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014 at 11:19am

If things stay on track, when I return from my US trip I will be one of the many that commute to and from the CBD every day. This is quite a change from the short commute I had when I worked at Monash Uni for all of those years.

A few weeks ago I decided that it was highly likely that I would end up getting a job in the CBD, so I looked into what options there were and what they would cost.

Driving all the way is definitely out, and while long term cycling should be an option, in the short term I will commute via train. But even that has variations:

  • walk/drive to the nearest station which is in zone 2
  • drive to a station in zone 1
  • Early Bird – free travel before 7am
  • Myki money versus Myki pass (specifically a 33 day pass to cover 5 working weeks)

Others have already done some of these comparisons (eg Ways to save with myki) but I didn’t see the scenario of weekday only travel, no regular weekend usage.

For the scenario of traveling every weekday the weekly costs I got are:

 Zone 1Zone 1+2
Early bird morning, 2 hour afternoon$17.90$30.30
Myki 33 day pass (starting on a Monday)$29.04$44.88
Daily tickets$35.80$60.60

Committing to using early bird every day of the week does give the lowest cost at half that of daily tickets, but you need to be able to have an early start at work. The pass is cheaper than ad-hoc daily tickets, but not as much as early bird and you commit to the pass for five weeks at a time, even if you do not use it. If you cannot use early bird at least twice a week (three or more for zone 1+2) then you are better off with a pass.

As it happens I will have 7AM starts, so early bird is the go both for price and the flexibility for when I do eventually start riding at least some of the time.

That is the type of ticket, but what about the zones? It is clear that getting to a zone 1 station is cheaper for the ticket, but what about the cost of getting to the station.

There are three likely stations that I would use, with different timings:

 Home to stationStation to CBD
Walk to closest station (zone 2)1.3km, 15 minutes30 minutes
Drive to next closest station (zone 2)2km, 5 minutes33 minutes
Drive to zone 1 station8km, 15 minutes23 minutes

I’ll probably drive to the zone 1 station. Even though that would cost around $1.40 in petrol (compared to $0.40 to the zone 2 station) it still comes out ahead of the zone 1+2 cost and means less time on the train itself and I don’t expect there to be much traffic at 6AM.

Of course all this is just theoretical, what actually happens in eight weeks time might be different.

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Next year will be … different

Saturday, December 14th, 2013 at 04:16pm

A little over twelve years ago (8 November 2001 to be precise) I sent an email regarding a position listed on the student job site at uni. This was the start of my work on as a casual. Later becoming full time, then a senior developer and eventually a team lead responsible for not just but also email hosted via Google Apps and the email routing infrastructure. Throughout this we moved to offices off-campus and endured a number of rounds of organisational change.

This is all coming to an end in just a few short days, Friday 20 December 2013 will be my last day at Monash.

The last couple of weeks have been the busiest in a while as we try to tie up as many loose ends as we can, but unlike the previous years they have not been stressful. I attribute this to actually writing code and doing technical things, not managing people or dealing with internal politics.

I do not have a job lined up and I am looking forward to having a break. This is my list so far:

  • clean and oil deck
  • clean gutters
  • sort garage
  • paint hallway and laundry
  • Arduino based home automation
  • get flyscreen doors
  • paint gutters and eaves
  • sort through remaining old computers
  • assemble some Lego
  • tidy up study
  • change which photos are on my walls

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A ride to Caulfield

Sunday, April 15th, 2012 at 01:41pm

This morning I went for a bicycle ride from home to the Caulfield campus of Monash Uni and back. At a trip distance of 10km each way (not the exact same path) I was surprised that I got there in just over 25 minutes, with the entire round trip taking just over an hour.

As I currently work at the Clayton campus, why would I ride to Caulfield? Because they will be renovating our building (yes again…) and this time they want 100 people to move to space in Caulfield for the six months the renovations will take. Although we were told late last year that they wanted to renovate the building, it was only a few weeks ago that they dropped on us a deadline of construction “starting” in June. After much discussion within our team, we finally decided to say yes to moving.

At Clayton we are not in the main campus, we are out on Blackburn Road which means that on the days I don’t ride my bike, there is free parking on the street a short walk away. At Caulfield the parking is much more limited (there is also a large railway station next to the campus) which changes my transports options to bicycle or public transport.

After extensive review of online maps and aerial imagery, today was a test and this is the path I followed:

The route is what I determined to be the most direct, while still avoiding hills and busy roads where possible. The route back is different, significantly in that I will not return via High Street Road as a big downhill would turn in to a painfull uphill stretch. Just look at the elevation profile:

Breaking the ride down it is:

  • Along High Street Road taking advantage of the downhill to maintain speed
  • Onto the Gardiners Creek Trail, including crossing under Warrigal Road
  • Loop onto the footpath and then follow Argyll Street that parallels the railway line
  • At the freeway join the western end of the Scotchmans Creek Trail to get to East Malvern Railway Station
  • Through the station carpark and then out and along Waverley Road.
  • Leave Waverely Road for the parallel side street of Ardrie Road
  • Onto Burke Road for a short distance and cross over Princes Highway at the lights

The route home is the reverse of this until nearing Holmesglen Railway Station where I enter the station carpark and then use the pedestrian bridge over Warrigal Road where I follow the railway line until Mount Waverley Railway Station. The benefit of this change is that instead of climbing the hill up the busy High Street Road, I use a mix of off-road paths and side strees.

Variations include:

  • Heading up to Mount Waverley Railway Station and following the railway line on the way in
  • Keeping to the Gardiners Creek Trail and getting to East Malvern Railway Station from the other side of the freeway
  • Following Gardiners Creek Trail further until Winton Road and then using side streets on the north side of Waverley Road

Of course there is one other variation that I wouldn’t plan on using, but is handy to have: using the train between East Malvern and Mount Waverley Railway Stations.

It is not yet final if we will move to Caulfield during the renovations (keeping the team together is one of our conditions), but now I know that cyling is a realistic option.

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Read the Diffs

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009 at 11:34pm

Tonight I went to the camera club meeting and I have some thoughts to post about that, but right I know I’m going to mention a post from one of the blogs that end up in my Inbox: Read the Diffs.

A few years ago at work we setup our CVS repository (it’s not shiny, but it does what we need it too and there are other issues in the team to address before the choice of revision control) to send an email whenever a commit is made. Instead of spamming everyone in the dev team, the email actually ends up in an NNTP group for people to check as required.

At least once a day I use Thunderbird to scan through the message and diff of each commit so I can be both aware of what is changing and to pick up things that might be problematic. I can be fairly confident when I say that I am the only one who does this. There used to be one or two others, but they moved on.

So when I saw Eric’s post I got a nice warm feeling to know that I am not alone in thinking that it is a good idea to know what is happening to the code.

Tomorrow is our weekly dev meeeting (with cake!) and I am going to recommend that everyone in the dev team looks at the commits everyone else is making. As well as the technical benefits that Eric mentions, I believe there are benefits in relation to the revision control process that can arise by simply making the commits more visible.

These include:

  • Making sure that the commit message efficiently communicates to others in the team why the change is being made
  • Committing files in batches with the same message (they end up in the group as a single email and all the diffs attached) instead of as lots of little commits with slightly different messages (because they have different typos each time they type it)
  • Not commiting multiple changes with an overly broad message (we have discussed not doing this, but it hasn’t sunk in)

An example of the last one that really annoys me is a commit of multiple files that has a commit message separated into points, but the points only relate to some of the files. The dev has spent the time working out the separate points, but then they negate the benefit of that by lumping them into a separate commit. So when you look at the diff it can be difficult to determine the reasons behind the actual changes as only one point may relate to the change in that file, or different points relate to different changes in the file.

Hopefully I can report back in a few weeks if the commits are being read, and if there is any improvement in CVS usage.

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A shiny blue device … for nothing

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008 at 09:44pm

At work today was the second of three Christmas parties, this one for all of ITS. Normally these are not very memorable, except that for the last couple of years the prize draw has had a couple of nice items.

For the second time in a month (the CSS book from the last WSG meeting) it has been my turn. A blue 8GB iPod nano. Hmmm… shiny…

But do I want to keep it?

I have loaded music onto my phone, but I have only listened to it a few times. When on the bus/train or when walking up to the shops. So when would I use an iPod?

I have yet to open the packaging, which in itself is very nice. But I have noticed that after carrying it back to the office, being handled by people and then coming home in my backpack the plastic box has quite a few small scratches.

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I did need a Lego earthmover

Sunday, October 5th, 2008 at 03:15pm

Yesterday Dan said that I needed to get a Lego earthmover which are currently on special. As I was already planning to stop via Kmart, and needed to get my mind off a specific project at work, I decided to get one.

Which then led to a relaxing couple of hours where I first assembled it, and then (temporarily) motorised it. Since I don’t have the current motor set (which integrates extremely nicely inside the model) I turned to my 18 year old universal motor set. As there was an intermittent fault with the battery box I got my first ever technic set, the Technic II Set, down from the roof. After playing with it for a while I reverted the earthmover back to its non-motorised form.

It’s a very cool model and contains heaps of pieces that I have never seen before, not surprising since my next most recent set is the Supply Ship from 16 years ago. Unlike Dan I do miss the studded-beams, but I think that is mainly because the style of construction is now quite different and I am reacting emotionally to the change.

At some stage during the week (after I have printed the downloaded instructions in colour) I will break it down and reassemble it into the B model. And then probably back into the A model.

And that project at work? Just one of those projects that if not done properly will have a negative impact on most of the users and could even have major negative impact to the production environment. All because when the two developers on the project were asked to start designing (thinking, planning, etc) they started writing code without even looking at what specs existed. So at the time when the project should be ready for end to end testing; the specs are incomplete, there is no technical design and the code that has been written is only partially functional, not to mention it being overly complex for what is needed. And don’t get me started on our style and standards that have not been followed…

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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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A correction to my paper from OSDC2006

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007 at 07:01pm

In my paper at last year’s Open Source Developers’ Conference I said that one of the negatives of Class::DBI was that it connects to the database at module load. If this fails an exception is thrown which can cause issues when the Class::DBI code is just one part, for example in a web server.

It looks like we were causing this behaviour, instead of it being how Class::DBI operates.

By default DATE fields in Oracle are formatted for year, month, and day even though the field includes hour, minute and second. In order to get the complete date and time our base class changes the default formatting with a line similar to:


It is this line that triggers a connection on module load. If it is removed then the classes can be loaded even if the database is dead. Connection is now only attempted on first action which is a much more approriate time.

I’m not sure what the documentation said about it when we put the line in, but Setting Session Globals and Working With Oracle Date Fields on the Class::DBI wiki warn about using it in a mod_perl environment and that it will initiate a connection when the modules is used.

Over the next few days the commercial product that this database is used with is being upgraded. During this time the database will be unavailable for use so we revisited the issue of how to get the classes to load cleanly. These investigations found the root cause and we now have a solution; alter the base class so that the date formatting is altered whenever a connection is initialized (using information from how to use multiple databases), not when the class is loaded.

Now, although we have solved this issue, having to solve it wasn’t trivial as we were required to dig through some of the Class::DBI and Ima::DBI internals to mimic its behaviour.

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Mmmm… Chocolate self-saucing pudding

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007 at 09:31pm

Today was my turn to provide cake at our weekly meeting. I was considering making pikelets but it seemed like too much effort so I fell back on a chocolate self-saucing pudding.

Since I had to dig around for the recipe, here are the ingredients for future reference:


  • 1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa
  • 2 tablesoons margarine, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk


  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups boiling water

Bake at 160C for around 30 minutes. Serve with a scoop of icecream.

For work I added 50% to the pudding ingredients and another 150-200% to the sauce which works out nicely for 10 people.

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Forms That Work

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007 at 07:15pm

I spent today in a training course about how to improve the usability of web forms: Forms That Work.

We had been led to believe that the course would be about practical methods to construct the forms in a usable manner. However, that was only one part of the training. The focus of the course was on the entire form process, starting from why you even need to ask for information.

Because of this, the course was even better than I expected as I believe that most of the problems we have at work stem from a lack of suitable analysis and design. Too often we are implementing solutions in need of a problem. Instead, we should be understanding the problem and then considering possible solutions, including not doing anything.

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Answered: How to write tests for online applications

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007 at 11:12pm

Four years ago I wanted to know how to write tests for online applications. Tonights OSDClub meeting featured a talk that reminded me about Selenium, a test tool for web applications.

Although I had heard of it before, Simon’s simple demonstration made that light go off in my head. Now to work out how it could be used…

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Using the box and running out of power

Friday, April 27th, 2007 at 08:47pm

Today was the first time that I used one of the new bicycle lockers to store my bicycle at work instead of keeping it at one of the empty desks inside.

My first issue was that, technically, my bicycle does not fit. When my handlebars come in contact with the sides of the locker my front wheel protrudes about ten centimetres which gets in the way of the door. Fortunately the walls are only thin sheet steel and flex enough for me to push it back enough to close the door. This is an interesting aspect of the design as my handlebars are the same width as the bars on most mountain bikes that are sold these days.

My other issue is a logistical one. Originally I toyed with getting the locker near the powerpoint so I could just continue to charge the batteries for my lights while still on the bike. I decided against that for two reasons; first because the access to that locker isn’t the best due to a pillar and second because that is where the smokers congregate.

Based on one days experience I’m thinking that the hassle of taking the batteries off in the morning and putting them back on at the end of the day is greater than the hassle of working around the support pillar. But then there is also the risk that my lights would not get charged if the single powerpoint was needed for something else, for example the builders that were using it for their saw the other day.

None of this matters in light of what I discovered fifteen minutes into my ride home. Even with a full charge the batteries for my lights now only last fifteen minutes, down from the fifty minutes when they were brand new three and a half years ago. I estimate that these batteries have gone through around 700 charge/discharge cycles plus four periods of stitting idle (and self-discharged) for a few months.

This means that I will need to do something with the batteries and I am leaning towards making a new battery pack instead of replacing the current cells. This is because I could make a new battery pack that is quick and easy to remove. It was a real fiddle getting my current batteries back on the bike as, along with a rubber strap, there is a loop of velcro that runs through a slot in one battery, between the frame and the drink bottle holder, through a slot in the second battery, under the frame back to the first battery. This is a pain to reattach as it must be thread under the drink bottle holder every time.

However my immediate concern is to, over the coming weekend, mount the addtional LED based front light that I have. Mounting the new rear light is less critical as I do have a working rear light.

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Boxes for bicycles

Friday, April 20th, 2007 at 07:21pm

After well over a year of talk it looks like one of the final aspects of the renovation is nearing completion as I spotted the following from my window at work:

A truck with metal boxes

That is a truck reversing into the carpark under the building with what looked like six storage lockers, each holding two bicycles.

Later, when I was down in the carpark it looked like:

Bicycle storage in place

Which is storage for eight bicycles. One of which looks like:

The bicycle goes here

Sometime soon allocations should be made and keys distributed.

What about charging my lights? There is a power point located on the ceiling near the lockers so I may just get a locker near it and run a lead down. Another option is to get new batteries that are more convenient to remove from my bicycle and charge them at my desk.

Also, it is interesting to see that they chose this type of storage, not a shared cage as recommended by Bicycle Victoria in their Bicycle Parking Handbook.

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When ‘off’ isn’t off

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007 at 08:40pm

As part of the push to reduce energy usage at work we were able to borrow an energy meter so we could see first hand the usage of various appliances.

The most common LCD display we have is the HP 1702. At full brightness it uses 30.2W while at half brightness it uses 21.4W. These numbers are not that surprising, neither is the standby usage of 1.7W. What did surprise us is that when the screen is ‘off’ it still consumes 1.6W. The power needed to monitor the soft power switch is only slightly less than the power needed to watch for a video signal and to light the orange LED.

The other displays we have (HP 1740 and HP L1706) were similar with off/standby values of 1.0W/1.1W and 0.8W/0.9W.

So should we bother turning these displays off? The only way to have significantly less power consumption than putting them in standby is to switch them off (or unplug them since the points in the partitions do not have switches) at the power point.

Next week we should be able to borrow the meter for longer which means that some of us will be able to take it home for personal tests.

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It’s all turning blue

Monday, February 12th, 2007 at 09:26pm

This morning they started repainting the lines in the carpark at work. What colour? Blue of course as a AU$280 permit will soon be required to park in what used to be free.

We have also been told that proper bicycle storage will be installed as part of all this…

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We should be thankful

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007 at 08:13pm

Fourteen months ago we moved into the renovated open plan area. Since that time there has been a general dissatisfaction with the environment.

We should be thankful.

Today we used one of the meeting rooms upstairs which allowed us to see the newly renovated area, which people are moving into later this week. As the area was just offices (no server room like our area had) there was no significant change to the layout, a couple of walls were moved, some paint, new carpet and new desks.

In our area most desks have a blue 1.5 metre partition on one side (supposedly made of acoustic material) and a dark gray short ‘wave’ along the other side (made of hard laminate). These can be seen on my desk except that my desk is not typical due to the window:

My new desk

What we saw upstairs was disturbing. All of the partitions are made of a hard laminate and the majority of the desks in the space (slightly smaller than ours and in an L shape) have the low ‘wave’ types. This means that there will be zero privacy. However this is not the worst. Down one end of the space the partitions are 1.8 metres high and are intended for people who are on the phone all day, they are sitting in an echo chamber.

While our space is not the best we now know that we have the lesser of two evils.

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Too many options

Thursday, December 21st, 2006 at 07:42pm

Today marked the end of yet another working year and for another year running we spent the afternoon at the South Oakleigh Bowling Club for lawn bowls and a barbecue. It was interesting to note that only a handful of people actually played bowls, the remainder did other activities.

So what were the other options?

  • Wii Sports on Ben’s Nintento Wii
  • Arcade games on Andrew’s MAME setup with his X-Arcade controller
  • Chess, which included the final of a tournament that started a week ago
  • Talking, etc

One contributing factor against the lawn bowls was that it was the only activity that was outside in the 35°C heat instead of inside with air-conditioning.

The point I am trying to make is that when there are multiple options people will take them which is not necessarily compatible with doing things as a group.

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Thursday, August 3rd, 2006 at 09:28pm

Today was and tomorrow will be the last day for two more people at work. I say more because there have been a number of departures since the start of the year:

  • three left for jobs at other organisations, two of which were for a signifigant pay increase;
  • one moved to a position elsewhere in the university;
  • two were seconded to other projects, while they are theoretically supposed to return that is unlikely; and
  • two have taken leave without pay in order to travel, one starting with the world cup and the other leaving today;

If you have been keeping count that is a total of eight (a third of the team) departures with only one of them being replaced which hasn’t been good for morale…

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The power of burnt toast

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2006 at 08:58pm

At work this afternoon we had a real evacuation involving alarms, leaving the building and attendance by the fire brigade. Fortunately for us it wasn’t raining during half hour interruption but unfortunately for Monash an alarm set off by burnt toast is classified as a false alarm which is charged for.

On a side note I wonder if the false alarm could have been prevented from escalating if the building didn’t contain two separate fire systems, one of which wasn’t completely installed (the red phone at the panel in the foyer doesn’t have a counterpart and is only for a quarter of the building anyway so who knows what else is missing) during our renovations…

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Bystander effect

Saturday, February 11th, 2006 at 11:41am

Earlier this week I decided that it was about time that I stopped reading fiction novels and resume working my way through my (growing) pile of ‘educational’ books as it had been at least six months (probably more based on this post from last April) since I read the first chapter of Emotional Design. I am nearing the end of the book and although it has has been pretty interesting so far there has not been much of immediate practical use. Fortunately I will eventually be able to apply what I have learnt as my subconscious processes all of the information over time.

One item that immediately stuck me was the discussion about bystander effect (Norman refers to it as bystander apathy) as we have been guilty of that at work a number of times, most recently a few weeks ago. What happens is that the project is well on its way to failure but even though each member of the project team has concerns (this was elicited afterwards) no one says anything, mostly because they feel that their concerns are unfounded if no one else is expressing them as well. Most of the time this has led to a product that is costly to maintain but in a few cases (where someone outside the project team says something) we have been able to fix most of the problems before it is rolled to production.

I found the description of how airline crews constantly question each others actions (they treat it as a mark of respect not lack of trust) to be very interesting as that is similar to the reviews we introduced into our processes. Unfortunately I think we consider it as a lack of trust as they don’t often get done which means the quality suffers and ultimately the project fails. (I consider them a failure as they are unmaintainable but others consider a project a success the moment it gets client sign-off in production.)

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The others are here

Monday, January 16th, 2006 at 06:04pm

As I mentioned on Friday, the others have arrived. Today was very disruptive as the boxes were first brought in (by the removalists) and then unpacked. It was pretty much all done by lunchtime at which point the small round table in the kitchen simply could not cope…

Also since it will also be a week or so until furniture arrives for the photocopier and meeting rooms we will still have to deal with the random assortment of junk in and out of boxes that is currently our stationery area…

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The others are coming

Friday, January 13th, 2006 at 07:48pm

Since the last change in the office dynamic (I am not counting the most recent arrivals as they moved into the far side of the open plan area) it has pretty much settled down and everyone is getting along. I suspect this may be because people are starting to take greater advantage of headphones and music, I know I am…

However on Monday the remainder of the people who we shared a basement floor on campus with many many months ago will be moving across on Monday. While we will outnumber them three to one in the open plan area I predict that they will be, at least at first, much more distuptive as they get the desks in the middle. ie there is no buffer and one of the two paths from my desk to anything else is through their area. That said I am being optimistic by thinking that the disruption will only last a couple of days until our routines are integrated.

Now although it won’t affect those of us in the open plan area much I suspect that those people in the smaller open plan area (three people in five desks) and the offices at the front will be in for a much bumpier ride. Why? Because the renovations are slightly incomplete (in the grand scheme it is only little things like the desks being assembled and partitions put up…) and unless it is done over the weekend (highly unlikely) it will get done while they are trying to work…

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Good design from bad design

Thursday, December 22nd, 2005 at 10:14pm

In my regular trawls through the various RSS feeds that I regularily look through I came across an essay by Scott Berkun. I cannot recall which one I found first but one in particular caught my eye: Why good design comes from bad design.

It has been recognised for quite some time now that most of the issues we have at work now derive from incomplete consideration of how to go from the requirements to code, ie the design. Back in September we formally introduced a design step in our process and provided a couple of examples of the main areas to consider. There was one small comment that said that even the alternatives that were not chosen for the final design should still be documented, including the rationale behind why they were not chosen.

One of the issues (apart from developers still skipping over design) that I have seen is that some of the developers are treating design like a bit of bureaucratic nonsense and spending as little as time as possible on it. On a number of occasions that I have reviewed and then discussed these documents I received a number of “oh yeah” or “that’s a good idea” responses, even when I suggested trivial (but often signifigant) changes such as a different name for a function. (This is where the mentoring aspect of my role that I touched upon yesterday)

This ties in with the Scott’s essay in that I feel that we are not yet experienced enough to know what makes up a good design, maybe never considering the varied nature of the applications we build. I am now more convinced that coming up with multiple designs is critical to getting a good design and it needs to be explicitly part of our process. How can you learn without being able to compare what is ‘good’ against what is ‘bad’?

I am almost hesitant to bring up the procedural versus object-oriented debate at this point but I will anyway… The paradigm chosen for an application is often arbitrary (also more often with a poorly designed interface whatever the paradigm) and I feel that the simple act of coming up with multiple designs can transform it from what the developer is most comfortable with to what is most appropriate. In most cases it should simply be enoigh to select a couple of screens from the application and write out some psuedo-code in each paradigm that will generate the screen… Another important ingredient is to then discuss the result with other (appropriate) team members…

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360-degree feedback

Wednesday, December 21st, 2005 at 09:24pm

This morning before we headed off the South Oakleigh Bowling Club for our end of year barbecue we were each given a report of our 360-degree feedback. Although I still have concerns about the entire process (two of the people I gave feedback on I have barely worked with so it was very difficult to rate them) I am happy with my report.

The first section of the report was about twelve key values/behaviours and all of these for me were either meeting or exceeding expectations. However when my average ratings are compared against the entire team’s average a slightly different picture is shown and that is that I need to work on communication and effective team stuff, the mentoring part of my role as a senior developer…

Read the rest of this entry…

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Renovations are nearing completion

Monday, December 19th, 2005 at 10:17pm

Sometime between last Thursday and today (I took Friday off) it appears that the painters were in at the office and their job is almost complete excepts for some little patch jobs. This morning the comms guys were in to finish patching in the remainder of the network and phone points and throughout the day there were a couple of guys preparing the floor and laying down the new carpet tiles. When I left there was even someone installing the new video intercom outside the front door…

The only major work that there appears left to do is for the desks to be setup and that could be done well in advance of the 16th of January which is when the last lot of people move across. At that stage we will see how well open plan really works…

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Being forced to relax…

Thursday, December 15th, 2005 at 03:32pm

Instead of going to work today I stayed at home and didn’t do much except for starting the reinstall of Windows on a laptop for someone and a little sorting through my computers.

Why did I take the day off? Because I had to.

If I had not taken today off my leave balance would have hit an (arbitrary) limit on the 9th of January and HR doesn’t like that. The second thing that annoys me about this policy is that it does not take into account leave that has been booked in the future, such as the two weeks I have planned for the end of January…

Fortunately I will avoid the disruption caused by the rest of our team moving back from the building next door…

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Second stage of construction begins…

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005 at 06:10pm

Following our move last friday and the removal of our old furniture on Monday the demolition has commenced. So far they have ripped up the remainder of the old carpet, removed old power and network points, and started pulling apart what was the old board room which had a movable wall.

It was interesting (yes, I also find it strange what I find interesting) to see an old serving portal exposed once they removed a shelving unit from inside a cupboard. It appears that on one side they build the shelved and on the other they simply layed a sheet of plasterboard…

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Hopefully the last move…

Friday, November 25th, 2005 at 07:39pm

This afternoon we moved from our desks of the past eight weeks out to the new and improved™ open plan environment.

Technically we were only supposed to finish packing all of our stuff into boxes so the removalists can move them the fifteen metres on Monday morning. We would then spend between half and all of Monday unpacking at our new desks. However as the final clean of our new desks was done by mid afternoon I started a trend of simply carrying my own stuff out to my new desk and setting it up. We avoided one occupational health and safety issue by using the drawer pedestals as trolleys instead of just carrying them.

Now it will be possible to do some work when I come in on Monday instead of wasting the whole day doing what took three hours… The removalists are still coming in at 7AM on Monday as almost all of the furniture we were using is being tranferred to another department.

And here it is… my new desk:

My new desk

And a closeup of my protest against the low positioning of the power outlets:

My protest against the low positioning of the power outlets

More photos from today are available.

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Requirements are always the key

Thursday, November 10th, 2005 at 07:52pm

One positive aspect of the renovations that are underway at work is that it is a practical example of the problems that incomplete requirement elicitation can cause.

<disclaimer>be warned, the following is a rant</disclaimer>

The architect who designed the new floor plan was given an initial brief and it seems to have been something like: “x offices for these people, a large meeting room, some other meeting rooms, and as many people in open plan as possible”. This is obviously a very cynical view…

A set of requirements such as that is probably going to be ok for those who are getting offices but for the rest of us (the majority) it pretty much sucks… Irrespective of our job function and required resources we have all been allocated identical work areas:

  • A 1800mm x 2000mm corner desk
  • A single drawer unit (two small drawers and one filing drawer)
  • Maybe some shelves that attach to the screens that two thirds of us have against our desks.

For a number of people this will be adquate. But what about the people that we think should have offices but policy dictates they don’t? At the upper end are a couple of people with three drawer filing cabinets full of work, shelves full of stuff and in one case a free standing electronic whiteboard.

My requirements are more modest but still exceeds our allocation as I will require around two metres of shelf space for my books, folders, etc. This means that I will have to put up with part of my view (I’m lucky enough to be by a window) cut off by a screen so shelves can be attached to it…

And that is just the desks. What about:

  • Zero whiteboards (which may not be so bad as it should force people to go to one of the two (only) breakout rooms for discussions)
  • Zero coat space. Are we expected to hang them on the back of our chairs? Isn’t that unprofessional? Considering the fuss the architect made about all new desks and chairs so the colours would match…
  • No consideration for bicycles. There will be a minimum of five bicycles every day. Maybe up to a dozen…
  • A smaller kitchen. It currently maxes out at eight. How will it handle fifty when it is reduced in size?

I know it is futile but what if this had all been taken into account…

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The construction is over?

Wednesday, October 19th, 2005 at 06:54pm

When I left work today someone could be mistaken to think that the construction is nearly complete as all of the walls and windows (internal) have been installed and the builders even took away all the rubbish from the open plan area…

However I wonder if they are even halfway through as there would be at least the following jobs left to do:

  • networking and phones (over fifty people and each person has a phone and two network points)
  • power and lighting (some of the lights in the suspended ceiling have been reconfigured but most haven’t and the switches need to be put in walls instead of hanging down…)
  • plastering (there are a couple of places where the joins between plaster sheets needs to be filled)
  • painting (we are all looking forward to the white, beige, light blue, darker blue and bright orange colour scheme)
  • carpeting (how long does it take to glue down carpet tiles?)
  • installation of the cubicles (then these need to be wired for power and comms)

Only five weeks to do all that? Maybe…

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Demolition is quick… Will construction be also?

Monday, October 10th, 2005 at 07:39pm

It is now after the second working day since we moved offices and all the walls of where we were are gone and they have even started framing up one of the new walls. It will be interesting to see how fast the construction will progress…

I am planning to take a large number of photos every night (really late afternoon as I have been getting to work early for the past few weeks) in order to document the process…

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Still moving, just not as far…

Monday, October 3rd, 2005 at 06:21pm

Last friday I mentioned that we has been told that we were moving back onto campus to make room for the builders. Fortunately since then clearer heads have prevailed and while some of us have to move back to campus it will be the team who looks after a certain product for the university. This does still mean that the people in the same office as me will be moving… just to the office next door.

The ironic thing is that three of us still have to pack everything up in boxes as if we were moving a long distance as we will be in on a training course in the city when the removalists come on Thursday…

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Moving back to campus for two months

Friday, September 30th, 2005 at 11:28pm

The implementation of the office plan that we were shown a while ago will begin next Tuesday and is supposed to be complete by the start of December. The good part of this is that it will finally get done but the bad part is that nine of us (myself included) will be moving back to where we used to be (not the exact same rooms but next door) for the duration in order to give the builders space to work.

This does not bode well for performance as it will now be significantly more difficult to communicate with the remainder of the team who are staying behind…

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Damian makes my head hurt…

Monday, September 12th, 2005 at 06:23pm

… but in a good way.

Today was my first of four days with Damian Conway. Today was the first day of Advanced Module Interface Techniques and so far he as led us through the design and some of the implementation of ‘magic’ (aka sufficiently advanced technology) modules such as Perl6::Say (stunningly simple) and Contextual::Return (simple to use, mind bending to understand the implementation).

Tomorrow will be the second day of this course which is then followed by The Productive Programmer and Advanced Technical Presentation Techniques (one day each).

Damian will also be giving his “Fun with Dead Languages” talk at Melbourne Perl Mongers this Wednesday…

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Open plan means cubicles

Tuesday, August 9th, 2005 at 10:38am

For some unknown reason I thought that an open plan office was different to a cubicle farm. I was picturing some marvellous utopia where everyone was comforable and, most importantly of all, productive. What was I thinking?

This has come up today because in the weekly team meeting at work we were shown the basic layout for the promised refurbishment of the space we moved into two and a half months ago and we are getting cubicles. Half of the area will contain fourty four brand new modular corner desks separated by 1500mm partitions…

For the past two hours I have been trying to find anything on the internet that isn’t trying to sell cubicles and says that they make for a happy productive office. The closest I found were lists of rules that may make it tolerable. Two of these are:

One humourous page that I found was in response to company cubicle guidelines:

Joking aside I did find a series of construction technology updates from the Institute for Research in Construction which is part of the Canadian National Research Council:

I only skimmed through these updates but I understand that their research found that variations in job function and working style negated the benefit of giving everyone the same identical workspace and that there was a lot that could be done to customise the individual environments that typically was not done…

One good thing about the plan that we were shown is that they have moved the main meeting room into the centre of the building. The room that the previous occupants used as their meeting room required thick blackout curtains on all the windows (two sides) in order to use the projectors…

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Hmmm… shiny hardware

Friday, July 29th, 2005 at 05:21pm

At work this afternoon a number of us took advantage of a tour from the infrastructure services department to see one of the two machine rooms. Although it was smaller than I expected we did get to see the wide variety of hardware that runs all of the centrally run services as well as a section of the core network.

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All moved and unpacked, well mostly…

Friday, May 27th, 2005 at 09:03pm

The office move today went through reasonably smoothly with the issues that I mentioned yesterday were solved by placing a total of two desks in their planned locations. At minimum the other desks were rotated while others were swapped between locations and most of them were also rotated.

Instead of sitting so that one of the doors to the office (they are on opposite sites) would hit the back of my chair if I rolled backwards a bit I rotated my desk by 90 degrees so my back is to the wall and the door across to the right. Unfortunately I had to swap my desk (2100mm long) with another one (1800mm) in order to allow for adequate clearance but after getting set up I did miss the extra 300mm.

Surprisingly all the network and phone points were installed in time and much more importantly they work as expected. However one thing about that that may become an issue is that the new rack for all of this was installed in the old server room with a raised floor. Just how are they going to remove the floor from under it prior to renovations?

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All packed up and ready to go

Thursday, May 26th, 2005 at 07:20pm

For the past three weeks we have been spending one hour a day at work sorting through stuff in preperation for the move to new offices. Well as of tonight everything that is going is boxed and/ or stickered as at 7AM tomorrow the movers start moving…

It will be interesting to see how everything fits in the new offices considering that the facilities people have based the layout on a plan that has walls and doors in the wrong places. But if they say that two 2100mm desks will fit in a 3900mm space then I guess we have to assume they know what they are doing…

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Sydney and back in the same day

Tuesday, May 17th, 2005 at 10:23pm

Today I went (with work) to a usability workshop in Sydney. All up it was pretty good but having to leave for the airport at 5AM then returning home at 9:30PM was a pain…

I should write down my thoughts…

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An office move in the near future

Friday, May 6th, 2005 at 08:52pm

For some time now there has been a space issue at work as more staff join the team while the office space has not increased appropriately. We have taken over some other offices but it simply hasn’t been enough. A couple of months ago it was raised that there was a possibility of us moving across to some vacated space in a building just off campus (but owned by Monash) but it had already been promised to another group. Our offices are in the basement (really a semi basement with big windows in most of the offices) of one of the administration buildings and yesterday we received word that someone upstairs urgently needed space for some finance group and our current space would be suitable.

This morning this was confirmed and in around three weeks we will be moving and then again around four months later. This double move is because the new group urgently needs our space so we will move into the front half of the new space and then move into the rear half once it has been refurbished. Then once the front half has been refurbished another group that is also in the basement of the administration building will move across.

While moving will give us a lot more space there is the downside of no longer being a short walk from all the food outlets, banks and the post office that are located in the Campus Centre. Apart from one cafe around the corner anything like that will now require a, albeit short, drive. This does has the advantage of making it more difficult to waste money…

Apart from actual work this was pretty much all that was talked about and the biggest topic was in regard to transport and how it will affect people in different ways: Read the rest of this entry…

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Last day of work for 2004

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2004 at 06:06pm

Today was the last day of work before the Christmas/New Year Closedown period. Although since we spent the afternoon at the South Oakleigh Bowling Club for a barbecue and lawn bowls not much work got done so yesterday could probably be considered the last day of actual work…

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More departures

Tuesday, October 5th, 2004 at 11:13pm

It seems that time has come again at work where a number of people all leave around about the same time. Two are for clear reasons – one is moving back overseas to be with family and the other is off to have a baby – while it could be inferred that the other four are related to job statisfaction…

It does make me start wondering what my plans for the future are. How long should I stay working at Monash?

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Perl Best Practice

Monday, May 24th, 2004 at 06:06pm

Today was the first of two days of having Damian Conway in at work to present his Perl Best Practice course.

So far most of what we had been arguing over at work for at least the last six months was ratified by Damian.

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Under resourced AND under utilised

Thursday, May 6th, 2004 at 07:42pm

Work is getting pretty frustrating at the moment as I am assigned to a project that must be in user testing by the second week in June. That means that coding really needs to be complete by the end of this month.

Despite this deadline the project has always been way under resourced and the must frustrating thing is that the allocated resources (basically me) have nothing to do. Over the past two weeks I’ve only done about a day of actual work…

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Advanced Object-Oriented Perl

Thursday, April 29th, 2004 at 07:39pm

Damian Conway‘s Advanced Object-Oriented Perl course is excellent and now I can’t wait until the end of May when we will be getting him back again, but that time for Perl Best Practice.

The best thing about Damian’s courses is that we can delve deep down into some very elegant and powerfull constructs that have practical applications. Right now I want to write a class that uses a closure to implement a flyweight pattern in order to enforce data encapsulation…

I also want to do his Advanced Module Development Techniques, or as Damian referred to it "Scary Perl", course…

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Interesting developments…

Friday, April 2nd, 2004 at 04:01pm

Today was the last day for two devs at work. One after 27 years at Monash for whom leaving has been on the cards for a while and the other, who was supposed to be our ‘architect’, after three years and a sudden announcement yesterday. Also Monday will be the last day for one of the Client Relations team.

Things will definitely be different. Time will tell whether it is for good or bad…

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New desk

Friday, March 19th, 2004 at 10:38pm

Work this afternoon was interrupted by the arrival of new desks. I now have a huge expanse of light grey melamine instead of the sweat (other peoples) engrained wood veneer desk with drawers that I didn’t use…

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Software development process

Thursday, March 18th, 2004 at 06:14pm

It looks like the need to have a software developement process at work is finally being addressed. The good thing is that I am going to be a part of working out what we need. The first stage will be reviewing how we can scale down Thomsett for our small (one to four week) projects…

One thing that I am really concerned about is that there is a large project that has just started and we are already supposed to be creating screenshots and working out the backend database without any apparent problem definition or requirements analysis…

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Musical desks

Monday, February 23rd, 2004 at 07:44pm

It looks like over the next few weeks we will be playing a lot of musical desks as work while people are gradually rearranged.

Wouldn’t it be less disruptive to just allocate one afternoon in which everyone moves at once?

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Perl 6 In a Nutshell

Tuesday, February 17th, 2004 at 06:08pm

Today I went into the city, with a couple of people from work, to attend a two hour talk by Damian Conway on Perl 6.

It was very interesting and a tad depressing. In the sense that there are all these cool new things and a lot of annoyances removed but I went back to work and continued programming in Perl 5…

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RAMBUS, proper dual-head, new desk, contract

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2003 at 04:31pm

In the process of shuffling hardware around today I discovered that the computer I was changing to (P3-933, 128MB, Matrox G450 dual head) used RAMBUS. As the spare 256MB SDRAM DIMM that I brought from home wasn’t going to fit I had to roll back the shuffle. However I still got the G450 card by pulling an AGP Matrox G100 out of an old Pentium II for the RAMBUS box, it only does 1024×768 anyway.

There was also a shuffle of people and desks today so after we got back from Yum Cha I moved my computer and associated bits from my desk in the middle of the room to a desk up against one side that was vacated by someone moving down the corridor. As well as moving from a corner desk to a straight desk I will now be able to place my bike behind my chair against the cupboards, as next year there will be someone sitting where I used to store it.

Also I dropped off my signed letter of offer at HR first thing this morning and finally got myself an ID card…

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LCD dilemma

Monday, December 22nd, 2003 at 09:44pm

When I got into work today there was a pile of ten 17″ LCD displays, we must have got a bulk discount.

Half of them were given to various people, myself included, which actually raises a problem. For the past two weeks I have complemented the 19″ CRT that I have been using for most of the year with a 17″ CRT connected to an old S3 PCI card. I replaced the 17″ CRT with the 17″ LCD but the S3 can’t output the desired 1280×1024 so the picture was nice and fuzzy. Tomorrow (last work day of the year) I’m planning on doing some hardware juggling at the end of which I will end up with a box with a dual head Matrox G400.

The other dilemma is that I’m now running a 19″ CRT and a 17″ LCD, the most annoying difference is in the brightness levels, ideally I would like to use a pair of 17″ LCD’s. My only hope there is either to get one of the remaining displays or do a swap so that someone who got one of the new displays will use the 19″ CRT that I currently use…

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New job, yay!

Thursday, December 11th, 2003 at 08:56pm

now have a new job, in exactly the same chair at the same computer doing the same stuff. The difference is that I am now full time instead of casual…

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Pre-interview questionnaire

Thursday, November 20th, 2003 at 12:47am

I’m applying for a full-time position, I’m currently casual, at work and part of the application process is an online pre-interview questionnaire which I have just finished submitting. One of the quetions was Describe any one aspect of Extreme Programming that excites/intrigues you, and why. (hint: google for it)

I wrote up a, what I thought was good, response that talked about how XP takes a subset of the software development practices and combines them into a self referential loop in order to totally ignore other established practices. See the Circle of Snakes in XP Refactored.

However that was not the response I submitted as I didn’t think that an XP critical response would not be taken very well… The response I did submit was regarding coding standards and how they were beneficial, in particular that they are not tied to XP…

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Regular Expressions training

Friday, October 24th, 2003 at 10:53pm

Today at work we had Damian Conway in to present his Understanding Regular Expressions course. Overall it was good even though we only covered half of the material. This was because Damian would often talk about fundamental aspects of Perl related to his examples. So while that detracted from the regular expressions it added a great deal more.

A some stage we need to do his Perl Best Practice course, assuming he has finished planning it…

The course also brought back memories of having Damian as my lecturer for a couple of subjects back in my early years of university. His Object Oriented Perl book also brings back memories of similar concepts, except in C++ back then. I must finish reading it a some stage…

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What happens when the entire network goes away?

Wednesday, October 1st, 2003 at 06:18pm

Not much.

Something went seriously wrong with an upgrade to the network at work and all day today (possibly extending to tomorrow morning) nothing was accessable. Since we depend on the network, both development and writing documents, not much gone done.

Apart from moving my desk so people didn’t have to walk behind me to get to the shared printer I did manage to read through, thanks to a printout, a sizeable chunk of Joel on Software, in particular The Joel Test: 12 Steps to Better Code. What he is saying just makes sense, so why don’t we do most of it?

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Some background

Tuesday, September 30th, 2003 at 11:16pm

For the past two years I have been working as a software developer at Monash University in the Flexible Learning and Teching Program whose main responsibility is the ongoing development and maintenance of the staff and student portal. Part time during my final year of my Computer Science degree (2002) and basically full time since then.

A lot of changes have happened during this time and as a team we are still trying to develop a robust and workable software development cycle. Some other members of the team and I have been trying to push this process forward, basically to make our own lives easier.

Over the past few months I have been reading a variety of materials that talk about different software engineering concepts and practices. Significantly:

  • The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master
  • The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering
    (Still relevant over 25 years since it was written)

I’ve also been reading Extreme Programming Explained plus a variety of sites (google is your friend), one I was put onto recently being Joel on Software.

So far it seems that most of the writings on software engineering are really just expressing old ideas (largely common sense) in a different way.

Other books that it has been recommended to read:

  • Code Complete: A Practical Handbook of Software Construction
  • Peopleware : Productive Projects and Teams

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