Archive for the ‘work’ Category
We’re almost at the end of the day after Independence Day, and I’m finally getting the opportunity to sit down and write a little about my own Independence Day, 2007. I’m not American, but I had one, nevertheless.
July 4, 2007, was the day I started quitting my job, at a major IT company. I say “started” because I haven’t actually resigned yet: it’s too soon for that. I need to give four weeks’ notice; I gave eight weeks of actual working time, or ten weeks if you factor in holidays that I won’t be taking. What I did was inform my manager that I was leaving, with the rest of the team here being told soon afterwards.
Where am I going? Not another job, at least not yet: in early September I will start full-time study at University College Dublin (UCD). The course is Structural Engineering with Architecture, straddling two disciplines. A lot of mathematics, a lot of looking at the “designed environment”, some graphic design, even some materials and construction.
I thought it was a good all-rounder course: while I enjoy architecture and design, I have no illusions of becoming an Architect with a capital A; it would take a certain level of Arrogance that I don’t have or want (I hope). More details to follow as I get them.
That is not the only change around here: not long after the meeting where I made the announcement, a former colleague of ours came calling. He still works for the same company, but in a different area, and he needed a place to stay for a few days, possibly longer. He’s not Irish, but married an Irish lady, whom (he says) is no longer a Lady. As a result, my place is now his “halfway house” on his way to the divorce courts and out of the country. Good thing I have that spare bedroom.
The last change will take the next eight weeks to engineer: the end of this blog. The reasons are complex, and will be the subject of further entries, but the most straightforward is that this blog is out of step with the way things are done today. Blogging is no longer an end in itself, but a means to an end: an end that I have little interest in achieving.
A Saturday at home, with my energy levels back to normal. I’ve been taking advantage of the fine weather to stay indoors, giving my bedroom a top-to-bottom cleaning. Windows and walls first, cleaning off a strange black dust that may be fungal. It might be a sign of damp, which would be odd considering I’m on the top of a 3-floor building that doesn’t leak. It’s only happening on the inside of the external wall in that room, and it may have something to do with its construction; under the flaking wallpaper is a layer of galvanized steel, and I have no idea why.
While cleaning the wall I had my Bluetooth headphones on, catching up on podcasts, but anyone watching me would have been bemused by some of my odd expressions and exclamations as I was on my knees with brush and cloth. You can share the experience I had; head off to Neil Gaiman’s web site, and enjoy Neil’s reading of his short story How To Talk To Girls At Parties. The story is included in his Fragile Things anthology, which I bought last weekend but haven’t started yet. Hilariously surreal, it follows a couple of teenage boys as they blag their way in to a party with some most unusual guests.
With the curtains washed, rehung, and closed to dry, and parts of the carpet wet, I’ve been doing more laundry, making lunch, and have settled down with coffee to watch the Grand National at Aintree. One false start, struggles to get the riders lined up, but … They’re Off!
A strange sight from Fort Collins, Colorado, on my walk last Saturday. I didn’t go inside the “Bible Superstore”, out of respect… who am I kidding? I didn’t go in because I knew I’d be at risk of falling down laughing, and making a fool of myself. How could there be such a thing as a Bible Superstore? I can just imagine the layout:
- Aisle 1: Bibles
- Aisle 2: Bibles
- Aisle 7: Bibles
- Aisle 8: Bibles
- Aisle 9: Bible Study
- Aisle 10: School Books (Intelligent Design)
On Sunday I moved to Denver from Fort Collins, and on Monday I took a flying visit to Colorado Springs by Greyhound Bus. From the bus station I grabbed a cab to my company’s offices; the cabbie looked like Jerry Garcia, and we got talking about Colorado Springs, since it was my first time there. When I asked about Springs’ reputation as a very Christian town, with churches visible everywhere, it was like setting a fire under him. He was what you can call a pantheist, meaning he had a general belief in a “universal power”, but he’d given up on organized religion many years before that. The recent scandals in the town, involving Ted Haggard of the 14,000-strong New Life Church, had made world headlines (such as CNN), and to the cabbie this was just the latest confirmation of his opinion that organized religion is morally bankrupt.
I spent the day with my North American counterparts and their manager, who are about the only people left in a cavernous office floor. Cubicle after cubicle of beige and brown, desks gathering dust, chairs upended, the carpet in the aisles grubby and faded. It was a beautiful day outside, so we all walked down the hill to a barbecue joint, where I had another huge but tasteless sandwich. (If the bread, meat and cheese have no taste, no volume of condiments can make a great sandwich!)
My presence seemed to bring out the worst in my colleagues, in a good way – if that makes any sense. They had a new face to pour out their troubles to, all the while keeping up a brave sense of humour that would not be out of place in a Dilbert cartoon. I got even more of the same from their manager, who took me back in to central Colorado Springs and joined me for dinner and a beer. (I had a nicely microbrewed oatmeal stout and a huge “Chicken Gringo” concoction, with cornbread and potato wedges, that I couldn’t finish.)
As I Twittered in from the bus station, on the way back to Denver: it was one of those days that confirms your suspicions and fears. My US colleagues feel just as threatened as we in Europe do, and as isolated and frozen out of the “career path” in my company. For most of the day I was just someone to talk to, a role I’m happy to play if it helps, and this time I’m sure it did. The manager treated me as an equal, and clearly needed someone to help him make some sense of what is going on.
My qualms about the my employer’s plans seem to be well-justified. I am not going mad, and neither are those colleagues of mine with similar concerns. I can’t really say any more, but what I can say is that there are changes coming my way this year. I’ve learned things I might not be supposed to know, but the effect will be to give me more time to prepare.
The last couple of days in Denver were a mix of gonzo walks and lazing around in my nice hotel room. I will say some more later, but right now I have an ice hockey game to go to, so I need to get my skates on.
We’re not in Kansas, Toto. We’re in Colorado. It’s been quite a day, perhaps the most surreal I’ve had in the USA to date. It started out simply enough, with a copy of USA Today, and local TV, then the short trip to the office, where the course is being held. The attendees are mostly American, with a couple of Europeans and Indians. The trainer, as is to be expected, is Scottish.
Breakfast is served in the training room, which is a nice surprise in itself, but today was my first encounter with the legendary Breakfast Burrito, something I could easily become accustomed to. After a Sushi lunch, a real surprise: an unveiling of a new motorbike, built by Orange County Choppers for my company. No, I didn’t get to ride the bike, but seeing the bike and the stars of the show definitely let me know I was in America.
Now I’m back from dinner with the rest of the people on the course, with conversation covering just about all levels of technology from the high – computers and storage – to the lowest – cars and beer. My final course of the day? Apple Pie, of course. It doesn’t get more American than that, does it?
It’s on: I fly out to Denver, the Mile-High City, on Tuesday. Three intensive days of TTT (Train The Trainer), a semi-social visit to another company site, and then a few days vacation in and around Denver, Colorado.
I would call it a “holiday” if it was in any other country. I change planes at Heathrow, which is risky, but the alternatives were Frankfurt (totally unfamiliar to me), or various US airports, but I’ve been warned against going through any major US hub.
I was only granted permission to go on this course, on expenses, on the grounds that I will redeliver training on the product family. Later this year, in Bangalore is the current plan; or it was the plan a week ago. Since then something has happened that blows the situation wide open, and my involvement could go either way. I’ll explain as best I can without exposing any sensitive information.
OEM is short for Original Equipment Manufacturer, and applies to any company who makes a product released under another company’s name. Dell, from example, does not actually make anything at all: it is an assembler of PCs filled with OEM components from such companies a Intel (CPUs), Seagate (hard drives), or Broadcom (networking).
The OEM company behind my trip to the USA makes storage software, which my employer re-sold under its own name. It’s fairly high-end stuff, but it can take advantage of our less-expensive hardware in a horizontal scale-out architecture, so it has the potential to become even bigger than it is, by entering the “midrange” market aggressively. We’re due to meet company representatives, and be trained by them on advanced diagnostic techniques and system planning.
In the middle of last week, however, it was announced that my employer (a big company) is acquiring the OEM (a small company). The employees of the OEM are becoming colleagues of mine.
I can see two possible outcomes of this. On the one hand, the barrier between the two companies is being torn down, and I will have more direct access to knowledge and resources. It could mean that support for this product is no longer needed, and I go back to other products.
It could also mean that my role expands, since my employer has just demonstrated its full support for the technology in no uncertain terms, and probably plans to roll it out on a wider scale. Which reminds me of what Victor Kiam said about Remington, all those years ago: “I liked it so much… I bought the company.”
One of my rare nights out, last night, ended in the usual way: in a noisy Dublin bar, with the colleagues I arrived with to my right, engaged in an inpenetrable shop-talk session. Another closed group of people to my left, whom I had been introduced to earlier, fully absorbed in a mutual self-congratulation session. Not one of the party displayed even the slightest general social skils. How hard is it to notice that someone in your party is sat there by himself, staring at the wall, wondering whether he should bother to inform people that he is going home?
A typical response to that might be something like “stop feeling sorry for yourself, get involved in the conversation”. Well, I tried that, and the other person reacted as if I’d just shot her, before asking me to repeat myself twice further, over the noise. I was hardly feeling sorry for myself; bloody furious is a more accurate description. Once again, I found myself in a position where coming in from the cold would require me to explain basic social graces to people, and I frankly can’t be bothered any more. Am I really getting so old?
Here’s a short explanation of what I’m talking about: when you’re in a party of people, it’s common courtesy to think about every member of the party. The amount of work involved depends on your role; e.g. for the hostess of a party it’s practically a job, but it will be much less so to a member of an informal group. A key point is to recognise that you are in a party of people; it might not be the party you arrived with, or would choose to be with, but consider it a test of your social skills to make the de facto party in to a real party, and to keep it that way for as long as the party is together.
If your party has wallflowers, or gooseberries, your party has failed. (A “gooseberry” by my definition is someone in a party who didn’t arrive with a partner, and feels left out of proceedings as a result of that.) It doesn’t matter who they are, or what their personality is like (shy, obnoxious, deaf); my view every member of a party has some measure of responsibility (however tiny) towards making whole the party a success. I’ve made it sound terribly serious and burdensome, but I’ve been in parties where that kind of thing seems to happen naturally, without any sense that it’s forced, or anything but a pleasure to all concerned. The “recovering nerd” in me relishes these little social skills, but it’s hard for me to apply them when I’m the gooseberry in question.
Meanwhile, back at work, my aim of going a year without any plane trips may soon be thwarted; I’ve been asked to attend a training course in the USA, near Denver, Colorado. It’s not fully approved, and nothing is booked yet, but it’s only ten days away. That would be four flights, with one change each way, but there are further complications; it’s “train the trainer”, so going there will almost certainly lead to a return trip to Bangalore, to give a less-advanced version of training on the product in question. Four more flights.
While in the USA, the timing is such that I could easily make it to SXSW Interactive, the annual culture and technology festival in Austin, Texas, with near-perfect timing. I’m not keen on travelling, and definitely not keen on seeing the US Homeland Security Theater on its home stage, but SXSW might let me make that sow’s ear in to a purse of some distinction. That’s two more flights: I did look at the possibility of taking the Greyhound, but that’s a 48-hour round trip.
Monitors are the theme of this month so far, at home and at work. It tells you how little is going on, in general, that I find this a worthwhile topic to blog about, but hey.
In the office I’m just about the last person to switch from a conventional CRT monitor to a LCD, a 17-incher that another colleague was using before switching to at 20-incher left behind by someone who left. I’m managing to confuse the heck out of a few people by running it in Portrait mode, which suits me because of the amount of time I spend reading documents. It works because the vertical resolution, which is now the horizontal resolution, matches what I’m already used to, but it’s effectively twice as high; really great for Adobe Acrobat documents, such as manuals.
Meanwhile, at home, the 17-inch LCD TV / monitor I bought over three years appears to on its last legs. One edge of the display failed over a year ago, which didn’t bother me much, because it’s a widescreen, and that section is only used if I watch a movie from DVD. Now, however, the picture is completely scrambled most of the time. It’s OK for about a minute after power on, then goes again.
The warranty, such as it was, is long gone, so I had it in bits earlier this evening. Cracking open the plastic shell was a huge pain, figuratively and literally (fingers). Once I had the controller board exposed I could power it up and see if any connections were loose, but none were; the problem is in the core LCD module itself, a factory-sealed unit that I know not to bother opening. Besides the lack of screws, and the possibility of harmful chemicals, it’s a semiconductor that is very sensitive to moisture, dust and other contamination. I was pretty rough on it, I thought, but it made absolutely no difference, good or bad: the damage is sealed in.
Never mind: it’s had a good run, and I’m in the market for a new one, and a recycling service for the old one. The shops are open late on Thursdays here, so I’ll make a run in to Dublin centre, probably to Argos. Yes, they are a “box-shifter”, but I already have the catalogue and a Samsung model in mind. In general, I prefer box-shifters, for the simple reason that I’ve usually done more research, on the object(s) I have in mind, than any number of sales people.
I arrived in Dubai at lunchtime yesterday, after a morning that set the seal on my business trip. After this, I have no interest in visiting Bangalore, or anywhere on the Indian subcontinent, again.
My driver arrived on time: 06:30, two hours before the 8:30 flight, but I was late. The condo duty manager, who was trying to check me out, kept getting interrupted with other problems, just because he showed his face at that time of the morning. Not a problem: I knew the airport wasn’t far, and we did it in ten minutes, arriving well before seven.
After twenty minutes in the check-in queue, I checked in as normal, and got my boarding pass, but they would not take my luggage? Why not? It didn’t have a sticker saying it had been scanned. There’s a scanner off to one side as you enter, but no signs saying that a scan is required at that point. Nor was there someone to operate the scanner, not as I had entered the terminal earlier, nor when I went back to get scanned. I frightened the crap out of four local workers, just standing around the scanner, when I slammed my case on to the belt, and one scurried off to find an operator. Another ten-minute wait, a ten-second scan, and a sticker. This time I didn’t go to the back of the check-in queue, since I had my boarding pass, and all they had to do was print and attach the label.
Security was standard, if lax, despite the Indian Army uniforms on the operators; of course, my boarding pass was in my jacket pocket, being scanned, at the point where another soldier wanted to stamp it, so he had to wait. The bag got a scan, a sticky label and a stamp saying “32 DEC 2006″. Getting a little ahead of yourself, aren’t you?
Then, to the departure lounge (singular): I saw a Gate 2 sign, but everything seemed to be happening at Gate 1. I was in good time, so where was my flight? It wasn’t on the tiny TV screen at all, which showed a few other flights; in retrospect, I guess these were originating flights, while my plane had made a hop from Mumbai, which I wasn’t aware of. There were no airline staff in the lounge at all to check with, from any airline.
At about my scheduled departure time, a line started forming, and I joined it; a couple of other passengers thought it was my Dubai flight, and so it turned out to be. A member of the ground crew appeared and apparently tried to announce something, which was inaudible through a cheap PA over the noise from the TVs and passengers.
So, after a couple of strange questions, such as “do you have just the one bag checked in”, I was on board, just twenty minutes late. The plane was an Airbus A310-300 that had clearly seen a lot of air miles. It was so old that it still had the air-powered headphones and video projectors. The seats were cramped, and my neighbour seemed think it was acceptable to dig his elbow in to my side, but I was aboard, and we would soon be off.
Not so fast. A few passengers were standing around in the aisles, looking confused, and one came up to me with one of the cabin crew, who asked to see my boarding pass. All present and correct, I was in the right seat, so what was going on? The flight was “overboarded”, something I had never heard of before. Overbooking, yes, but that is usually sorted out before booking passes are issued. On this flight a few seats at the back, including mine, had been allocated twice, with two passengers having valid boarding passes for each seat.
I didn’t need to say anything; perhaps it was because I was there first, or perhaps because I was a Westerner whose reaction might have been “disproportionate” – a concern they would be justified in – but I was not asked to move. I didn’t see what happened to the other gentleman, but I hope they found him a place in first class for his trouble. There were other seating issues, including a lady who just grabbed a row for herself and her kids, and it took another half hour to sort that out.
Could we leave? No, there were still some immigration checks going on – it’s apparently harder to leave India than to enter it – and some more bags were loaded. We eventually left 90 minutes late. The rest of the flight was OK, thankfully: the breakfast was very good and big enough to be called Brunch, which was appropriate. I had my Tablet PC out, catching up on podcasts, and for a while all the window shutters were down, so everyone was able to relax. Just as surprising was the way my checked case actually arrived, in one piece, not too long after I picked up a few bottles in the duty-free shop in the arrivals hall. (A great example of logical thinking – that is when arriving passengers have time, and are not yet burdened with all their luggage, meaning it makes sense to shop then.)
Now I’m chilling out in Dubai: we’ll be going shopping just as soon as I finish this and hit the shower, and tomorrow is Christmas. I don’t mind calling it Christmas if my friends are: it’s just a name, and it helps to remember that midwinter was being celebrated long before any organised religions existed.
How appropriate. NAS is one reason I’m in Bangalore at all this fortnight: Network-Attached Storage is one of the two product families that I’m here to give training on, and a major source of aggravation in my work.
There’s not much wrong with the products, but there is much wrong with the way they are being supported by my company. Without saying too much, the issue can be summarized as: our NAS systems share a common base hardware platform with our general server products, supported by another team. The operating system on them – Microsoft Windows Server 2003 (now at R2) is also fundamentally common, with some renaming and restrictions that are due to licensing, not technical changes. There are differences, notably in the form of add-ons, but these are minor, so in my view the result is a huge duplication of effort that could easily be avoided.
Never mind: if effort is to be duplicated, let it be duplicated here in Bangalore, where bodies are cheaper. My “condo” is an expensive place by local standards: a better gauge might be in the costs of things, converted between Rupees and Dollars / Euros. The complimentary morning paper is 3 Rs ($0.07 / €0.05); in the little shop at the office, a 2-litre bottle of water is 20 Rs ($0.45 / €0.33), while a can of Pringles, imported from the USA, is 79 Rs ($1.77 / €1.34): half what I see in Dublin for the ones made in Holland.
One headline in this morning’s Deccan Herald, however, points he way forward: increasing costs are costing India business, in this case to the Philippines. If the eastward trend continues, the jobs might be back in the USA by the middle of next decade. Don’t you just love Globalization?
My own westward march stops at Bangalore Hindustan Airport on Saturday morning: it’s East for now, first Dubai for Christmas week, then back to Dublin and work. Hrrmmph.
A day in Bangalore, and I’m still in one piece. I think I’m getting a mild jet lag, which is making me sleepy: I’ll fight it for a while, then turn in, with plenty of time for a good sleep before my alarm goes off at 6:30.
On the flight from Dubai I found myself listening to an audio programme about the airline I was using, Emirates. It’s their 21st anniversary as a going concern, and the programme discussed some of their defining features. One that stood out, to my ears, is that they make a point of treating economy class passengers very well.
The flight was absolutely full, and I was lucky not to be bumped, even though I checked in over two hours before departure. It seems everyone else is checking in online, which you can do 24 hours in advance, something I was not aware of. Oh well: the flight was just over three hours, as scheduled, and I can survive the worst seat on the plane – in the middle of a row in the middle of a section. It couldn’t be worse than the Toronto to Edmonton standby seat I had on the now-defunct Canada 3000, with the blubber overflow on my right, and the nonstop electronic Yahtzee gamer on my left.
I didn’t get to experience that, this time around: I was asked to swap seats, so my neighbour could have his wife next to him, and I found myself in a window seat behind a bulkhead, so I had very good legroom. The meal service was excellent, with several advantages over Aer Lingus, starting with metal cutlery and free drinks, though I stuck to fruit juices and coffee. A baby near me couldn’t stop crying during takeoff and landing, but in the air I got to see how the cabin crew fussed over them.
Then, Bangalore. People, people, everywhere, so many people that many have makeweight (and poorly-paid) jobs that could be better performed by machines. Baggage took half an hour to make it the short distance from the plane to the belt, at which point there were people whose job it was to lift help the bags make an awkward transition between two belts, and pick some off, seemingly at random, to move them about ten feet away. There were two people checking passports at the entrance to customs, and two more, in plain sight of the first two, checking them again at the exit.
I have a driver, with a rental car, assigned to me, full-time. The driver, Srinivas, got my name over the phone, and mangled it almost beyond recognition on the sign, which was hard enough to see among the hundreds of other drivers jammed five deep at the exit from the airport. There seemed to be more waiting drivers than arriving passengers.
Then we entered Bangalore traffic, which was refreshingly anarchic. With the high volume of cars and a complete absence of lane discipline, it has nevertheless exhibited a compelling advantage over traffic in Western Europe, as I’ve seen over three rush-hour journeys so far: it moves. Traffic lights are few: occasionally traffic police wander in to the road to smooth the entry of side traffic, but not for long.
When there’s a lane-wide space available, there will soon be a car in it; half a lane accommodates a motorbike. Not a foot goes to waste, and each toot of your horn replaces another driver’s glance in the rear-view mirror, since no such mirrors could cover every angle that every driver needs to cover, on these roads. There is much contactless pushing and shoving, and some scarred vehicles, but no aggravation or rancour that I could detect. We were cut off many times, and did our share of cutting off, offences that would see fists coming out in Dublin, or guns in Los Angeles, but it’s just normal here. The title of this post come from the “Popular Mutton Store” we passed on the way back this evening.
Don’t get me started on the cheesy television here. I have a 2-bedroom “condo” all to myself, which could sleep four comfortably: what must appear unspeakable luxury to a resident of the slums just outside the gate, but which costs less per day than the inexpensive hotel I used on my last trip to London. I’m more than happy with it, but some of the details are amateur. For example, there is a bolster to stop the bedroom door banging against the chest of drawers, but it’s not going to do much good when screwed to the outside of the door, is it? The lighting is inadequate, so dim that I have the notebook screen’s brightness turned down, just so I’m not blinded by glare and can’t see the keyboard. (Edit: the fatigue allowed many grammar errors to survive, which I’m fixing two days later.)
The food is very good so far: a spicy Mysore curry last night, that had the chef coming out to check if I was OK – which I was, very much so. Fresh pineapple juice with that, and this morning an omelette made fresh in front of me, after cereals. I’m getting to like the local coffee – a vicious shot topped off with sweet milk. Lunch was a chicken sandwich and a mutton pakora, and I’m full enough to skip dinner for some of the chocolate and mixed nuts I picked up at Dubai Airport. Bottled water has helped to ensure no adverse reactions so far, though the all-day talking, combined with the pollution, will kill my throat by the weekend, I expect.
This afternoon, by surprise, I was roped in to the ceremonial opening of the local department equivalent to mine in Dublin, and had the honour of being one of the people lighting the Hindu ceremonial 5-wick lamp. It’s not Divali, but it still symbolises knowledge and good luck. (I got photographed, but was spared from giving a speech). The manager is from the Netherlands, and there are a few other Westerners over here, so the ceremony was a mix of cultures: the candles, followed by a ribbon-cutting; a slice of cake that had Winnie-the-Pooh icing, for some reason, with a vegetable samosa on the side.
Just to underline the cultural divide, the paper cake plates were “Swasta” brand, and came in a packet with little swastikas on them, a symbol of good luck here. The last century, as horrible as it has been, is a mere blip in the history of the world: the earth-shaking, culture-defining wars were largely shrugged off here, despite the British Empire. Bangalore is in the process of reverting its name to the historical Bengaluru; the Raj has passed on, as we all will, in time.
I work at an IT company with multiple divisions that are subject to ongoing reorganisations and reshuffles. They also, apparently, in competition with each other. This year the effective result is that the people in the division I belong to are being given a bonus half the value of that given to the people in other divisions. Poor financial results are to blame.
Never mind that my division, through the work we do, subsidises the other divisions. We provide support to customers even when there is no lucrative contract involved, sold or prospective. That translates to better sales that appear on the bottom lines of the other divisions, not ours.
The bonus will be hitting my bank account just before Christmas, and while I don’t know the exact amount yet, I have a rough idea, and it’s already accounted for. Travel costs for my upcoming trip are a large part of it, along with the phone I bought last month and a couple of other things.
At least I’m not in debt: the reason I’m thinking about money this evening is the following page on b3ta.com: debt pr0n. Various people tell their stories about debt problems, and while most are humorous – it’s that kind of site – there is still something horrifying about the blasé attitude shown by some towards huge debts. I counted at least three who ran up huge student debts and absconded, to Spain or Australia.
On a more serious note the news, here in Ireland and in the UK, carries regular warnings on the levels of debt people are getting in to: this story from BBC News is one example. It’s even becoming a political issue, with the Conservative Party encouraging fiscal responsibility by telling people to “ignore the tosser in you“.
I’m in the best financial shape I’ve ever been in, which makes it doubly ludicrous that I’m a long way from being able to afford a permanent residence in Ireland, at least not in a place that I could actually travel to or from. More debt I’m in no hurry to take on.
I have a roof over my head at the moment; whether I do in a few hours time is a question of a different order. The weather forecast here, tonight, predicts storm force winds of up to 80 mph. Should be quite a blast.
Well, I’m glad that one’s over. Annoyances at work, a nasty cold and, just to put the cherry on top, I even took a tumble on to concrete on Wednesday, which explains why I have scratches on my hands and face, and haven’t shaved for days. (Ouch.)
The fall was one of those nasty confluences of little things that can spoil your whole day: I’d just set out for work, still woozy from the cold, wearing shoes with hundreds of miles on them that have worn unevenly, trying to get the music in my new headphones to play reliably. Mix that with bulging, cracked concrete near a building site, and you can guess the rest: the Earth sucks. I wasn’t badly hurt, but I could tell the day was over before it began, so I went straight back home, called in sick and stopped trying to be a “good little worker”.
The week had some compensations: I ordered a new phone on Monday, was told it would be here from the UK in two days, and it arrived on Tuesday. It’s a HTC S620 Smartphone, replacing the phone I lost and the 3-year-old iPaq that flaked out on me. The purchase was the result of some serious thought into just what I need such personal electronics for. It does the essential things I want: it’s a phone, of course, with internet access through either GPRS or WiFi: I can set up “push email” if I want to, though I’m in no particular hurry to do that, since email can generally wait till I’m ready.
I had a little concern about how it would perform as a electronic book reader – something I’m appreciating more and more – but Mobipocket came to the rescue there, and the screen is incredibly readable in all light conditions I’ve seen so far. It’s a media player, of course, since I added a 512MB MicroSD card (for €16 extra) and a Bluetooth stereo headset for another €40. Finding games is a little trying, with older packages not working, but I have Sudoku and Poker going, as well as some Space Invaders. There’s even DOOM for it, though so far it performs poorly.
It’s not been all plain sailing: I’m still trying to get GPRS set up, and audio problems were distracting me when I took the tumble: I had too many applications open, so the phone was struggling to process the high bit-rate MP3s I like. The headphones can cut out at times, but keeping the phone on the same side as the headphone’s Bluetooth receiver helps a lot – my body was getting in the way of the signal. The lack of a word processor is odd, though I didn’t notice since I’m using Microsoft OneNote Mobile, with the notes synchronized to the Tablet PC alongside the usual Outlook data. The major remaining hole is Maths: I’ve only just found a usable scientific calculator, and there’s no spreadsheet program.
That’s a minor omission, considering I now have a single device that is smaller and lighter than my old phone or PDA were, and is more usable than either, thanks to the keyboard and screen.