Friday, November 30, 2007

What does an IT director do?

That was the question I jokingly asked twitter the other day, @sgala said "make IT happen".
How right he was!

In one week I've:
Tried to support my guys while they launched a new client store, or should I say officiated at its birth. Thankfully after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between anxious client and harassed project manager it snuck into action last night.

I've had to rebuild and redistribute PC's in the office to keep the wheels of industry turning while I sort out my purchasing budget.

I've fixed some annoyances with the internal DNS server and a certificate problem that had stopped us from using Outlook when we weren't in the office.

I've set up a dead letter email account in M$ Exchange for diverting bounces to, first time I've touched Exchange. It isn't Apache James.

I've installed JIRA and provided some initial training to project managers and developers, but there's still a long way to go. At least we're starting to get most of the immediate tasks and all of the new stuff into some kind of workflow.

I've set up the tomcat/IIS ajp "thing", and set up a proxy in IIS, for JIRA. I've never touched IIS before either, and boy was it wierd compared with the king of webservers Apache httpd.
I've chaired a meeting with my managers, and another with the same folks for project status updates.

I've been to a sales meeting at a potential client's printing works, we got lost on the way there but it was interesting and hopefully worth our while.

And last but not least I've been exercising my sysadmin and dba skills (how that will make my SLC former colleagues laugh!) getting tough on slow performance by optimising httpd and applying new indexes to speed up worst offending queries. Now and are flying along in fine fettle for the peak of the christmas shopping season.

So Santiago, you were right it seems like I have just made IT happen. :-)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Living With an xps m1330, Vista, and office 2007

I recently got my hands on a shiny new dell xps m1330, its a 13" wide screen notebook, and cute it is too.
The sad thing is that it only comes with vista, I would have been happier with xp pro, but ho hum.
So what's nice and not nice about vista?
Well after a couple of weeks the following things are worth sharing

  • Turn off the eye candy, it just uses cpu cycles.
  • Wireless support is brilliant, but figuring out how to change some of the settings is hard.
  • The windows explorer is more user oriented than machine oriented, offering you loads of "my" folders, pictures sounds etc. Which isn't really to my taste, I like a nice clear filepath, like C:\projects\stuff
  • bluetooth support is also pretty solid.
  • The security manager is a royal pain in the arse, how the hell do I know whether or not I want to allow aghsdfjkhasgjkfhgaksdhf.exe to run? Why don't you tell me what it does. And please stop bugging me to update "defender" definitions. I tried it doesn't work, more to the point I'm not even sure what "defender" is actually for, sounds like An Important Security Thing though, so maybe I'm living on the edge here. My point? I know a bit about this stuff, and I'm pissed off and confused. How do Microsoft expect my mum to react to the vague but dire pronouncements? (Actually she'd pick up the phone to the "family helpdesk" i.e. moi. On which note we've finally reached the stage of having to look at multi-user licences in our own home. I spent the weekend buying licences for norton anti virus, one for each of us. I didn't think work-life balance was meant to go like that!)
I'll have more to share as life with vista goes on, but on the whole I'm not tempted to install XP just yet (apparently I'd have to "dumb down" the SATA hdd bios settings), I'll set up a dual boot with ubuntu soon though, I hear it works well on the xps.

As for other bits and pieces about the new toy:
The nvidia graphics card is totally awesome (dude), half-life two on this teenie notebook is fast smooth and crystal clear, and has to be seen to be believed.
The battery life (with the middle range battery) is a useful 4-5 hrs (OMG useful battery life, what an eye opener :-)
None of the ports are on the back so I won't break things off when I pick it up by the front. (I'll break them off because I conditioned myself and my kids to pick up laptops by the side!)
That screen turns night into day, I wonder what its like outside? (Raining, but that's not what I meant.)
The bundled macaffee security stuff is expensive and intrusive, I turned most of it off apart from AV, then binned it after the trial was up and installed vanilla norton anti-virus.

I'm using office 2007, which is turning out to be a mixed blessing, and that's being generous!
1/ I'm no longer limited to 3 custom formats in excel, but the "x" file formats aren't used by anyone else I know, as coherently pointed out by steve so I loose the new features when I save in "compatibility mode" Some kind of marketing ploy?
2/ I can't make the "ribbon" small, its either huge or hidden.
3/ I love word's "reading" view.
4/ Why can't I have menus or toolbars docked at the side of the screen? More and more people have wide aspect displays, so there's a ton of empty space at the side of my document, and I want all the height I can get for my stuff, not wasted by the damned ribbon.

That's all for now.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bugger off! email is still great.

Enterprise 2.0 is the term for the technologies and business practices that liberate the workforce from the constraints of legacy communication and productivity tools like email

Bollocks to you, I say, email is still a great productivity tool. We're just starving it of attention, and innovation, because we can't be bothered solving the problem of spam.

IM is not email 2.0, and it is high time we figured out what email 2.0 should be.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Today's news..

Just spotted these two in my morning trawl through the blogosphere...

Is Microsoft Building a Flickr Competitor? In which we discover just how much of your plans you can give away in a job description.

And WiFi T-Shirt possibly the geek-most shirt I ever saw. Apache should mod these for a hackathon shirt.

Imagine what a crowd would look like, you'd see the signal fading out as it crossed the room, the inverse square made flesh. Would we, as geeks, congregate round the person with the strongest signal? The Alpha Geek?

Kind of reminds me of Natalie Jeremijenko's feral robots project in which toy robot dogs, you know the things, were fitted with sensors to detect stuff (like bad stuff coming out of landfill) and their movements mapped as they homed in on hotspots.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

James power MarkMail

I blogged the other day about a cool new list archive tool, MarkMail.

Well it turns out that the man behind it is Jason Hunter, and he was kind enough to post this message to the James list the other day.

Turns out that it is none other than our own Apache James that is the spider in the middle of the web, handling all the mail, with, I assume, bespoke mailets converting them into XML and storing them in the the Mark Logic server.

Nice one Jason, and thanks for sharing.

I wonder what other people are doing with James? Do you have a James case study I could share? If so get in touch!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

User Servicable Parts Inside

I've taken delivery of a new Dell XPS m1330 for the New Job, its much the same as the one I bought Nikki, and I like it. In fact I love it.

But probably the most impressive thing about it is the Big Manual it comes with, and the fact that about 1/3rd of it is devoted to instructions, with pictures, for taking the thing apart and putting it back together again.

Given the number of times I've had to figure out how to dismantle notebooks to remove crud from the keyboard or apply some glue to busted connection sockets, and given the fact that I always have bits left over, this is hopefully an omen that this notebook will survive "danny-world" for a long time.

Notebook users... Is this a general practice these days? Or is Dell breaking new ground here?

Monday, November 05, 2007

*How* much mail did I send???

Can't really believe it, but according to this cool new mail search thinggy (via ben) I've so far sent 2751 messages to the James lists since 2001.

That's a lot of email, how the hell have I managed it!

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Not often these days that I get captivated by a website anymore, there's an element of "been there, done that" creeping into my cynicism. But this...

...which I found thanks to Sacha, had me hooked. To see it out of its iframe (or if you can't see the image) go here, but it works quite well in the iframe.
I once drew a site, including navigation, on a couple of bits of paper, complete with dymo tape "buttons", scanned the whole thing then sliced up the image. I'll see if I can find any trace of it...

I know nothing, I'm not a fortune teller, and you'd be insane to think that I am. This disclaimer was cribbed from an email footer I once received. It is so ridiculous I had to have it for myself.

Statements in this blog that are not purely historical are forward-looking statements including, without limitation, statements regarding my expectations, objectives, anticipations, plans, hopes, beliefs, intentions or strategies regarding the future. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from the forward looking statements include risks and uncertainties such as any unforeseen event or any unforeseen system failures, and other risks. It is important to note that actual outcomes could differ materially from those in such forward-looking statements.

Danny Angus Copyright © 2006-2013 (OMG that's seven years of this nonsense)