Posted by Alec The Geek on 27 January 2010
I posted recently about using the TaskCoach list manager to support the Pomodoro Technique for actually doing work. Of course Pomodoro does not address the issue of task identification and organisation — so I promised a post on using TaskCoach and Getting Things Done (GTD) as GTD and Pomodoro complement each other nicely.
- Install TaskCoach
- Create Taskcoach categories that reflect the various GTD categories, i.e
- Next Action ( I call it “.Next Action” so it sorts to the top of the list)
- Under Next Action create sub categories to represent your contexts. e.g.
- “.Next Action/Errand”
- “.Next Action/Web”
- “.Next Action/Laptop”
- “.Next Action/Telephone” etc…
- Create a sub category called “.Next Action/_Agenda” (use underscore so that it sorts at the end of the next action list, alternatively make Agenda a top level category). Under that create categories for the people in your life e.g.
- “.Next Action/_Agenda/Wife”
- “.Next Action/_Agenda/Boss”
- “.Next Action/_Agenda/SalesGuyOnCurrenProject” etc
- Optionally make “.Next Action” mutually exclusive on sub categories (suggested by the mailing list)
- Create the same people centric categories under Waiting
- In preferences select the following
- “Use Tabbed Interface..” off (you need to see context and task list at once)
- “Allow for tasking notes” on (optional but useful)
- Edit the “.Next Action” category and make it a different colour (NB Not red as that will hide overdue tasks)
- Optionally make
- Optionally add additional columns to the task view (suggested by the TaskCoach mailing list). It can be useful to add a column for category so that tasks can be sorted by category or context.
- Create top level tasks for your current projects. Create actions as subtasks under projects (You can drag and drop tasks between or into projects)
- Add new actions to the list in the normal fashion, so the task list becomes an inbox as well
- Add due and start dates as required
- Deferred actions
- Delegated actions
- Tasks with a real due date
- Review tasks in the task list (daily) by
- Selecting “Tree of tasks/List of tasks” as you progress to see context (or not)
- Assigning the correct Next Action context to tasks during review. NB Only one NA category should be used
- Moving new actions to the correct projects
- Removing Next Action category from completed tasks
- Using the other categories as appropriate
- Now click on the “.Next Action” category and only next actions are displayed. Selecting a specific sub category (and de-selecting the higher “.Next Action”) will further filter by context
Posted in GTD, LinkedIn, Open Source Software, TaskCoach | 6 Comments »
Posted by Alec The Geek on 21 January 2010
Alec the Geek Handy Hack:Improving Laptop Security
I have always liked having my laptop BIOS boot password on
After my last post Dave Hall made some excellent points on the shortcomings of BIOS passwords (which in this instance did not not bother me too much) and also made a reference to disk encryption. I’ve thought about the idea of disk encryption for some time(if you run Windows or OS/X I’m not sure what options you have) but I’ve always been concerned about arousing the suspicion of the TSA when travelling to the US; plus I never has the correct install DVD with me when I was re-installing my Ubuntu GNU/Linux system.
By a strange coincidence a few days after Dave’s comment I managed to corrupt my hard disk partition and decided to implement disk encryption as part of the re-install. So whilst waiting to verify my backups I downloaded the Ubuntu 9.04 Alternative ISO. When installing Ubuntu it’s a simple matter of selecting yes to disk encryption and entering a pass phrase.
After the installation was complete Ubunto now prompts me for my pass phrase at boot time, so I switched off the BIOS password.
N.B. Implementing this has required me to make a policy decision that I will freely disclose my pass phrase to any legal request from law enforcement authorities wherever I may be.
I’m delighted to say that I have noticed NO performance penalty after implementing this.
Posted in LinkedIn, Linux, Software Setup, Work Practices | 3 Comments »
Posted by Alec The Geek on 18 January 2010
I recently sat down to update my ‘Value Proposition’. This is important for three reasons:
- It articulates the reasons that people should pay you money to come in and help them
- It helps you develop you elevator pitch (everyone has to answer the question ‘What do you do’ in less than 20 seconds)
- It should drive over 90% of your business activity (allow yourself 10% wiggle room)
To make sure that I stay honest I’m posting my value proposition with more detailed backup. I’d be delighted to have people poke it hard so don’t be shy in the comments.
Alec delivers improvements to software development and application lifecycle processes that are:
- Business focused
with the objectives of being
As someone who cannot stand cant I’d better back these words up with some detail and justification:
We all deliver value to our customers by helping in three ways
- Managing the business better: e.g. financials, understanding risks, compliance,….
- Executing better: e.g. doing it faster, changing products quicker, improving quality and core business processes,…
- Reducing costs: e.g. doing more with less, reducing rework, improving or removing non-core business processes,…
In a software based delivery business unit this is no different. In my experience many software environments frequently fail for apparently simple reasons
- There is no clear understanding of what is happening. Progress, outstanding issues, root causes and areas for improvement are often guessed at
- Many tools and the processes they deliver are over complicated. This leads to resistance and substantially reduced value
- Lightweight documented process cam help contributors of various skill levels deliver consistently without having to re-thing the process every time
That value and improvement needs to be delivered consistantly and continaully, long after the implementation is complete. Bu focusing on our final objectives from day one we can ensure this happens.
That is how Voga helps to deliver value to customers.
Posted in LinkedIn, Work Practices | 5 Comments »
Posted by Alec The Geek on 13 January 2010
If you’re like me then the one of the first things you do after installing Cygwin is to issue the command
mount -c / so that mounts appear directly under / instead of
/cygdrive. However the recent upgrade to Cygwin DLL means that this change is no longer persistent. In order to make it permanent you need to edit the file
/etc/fstab and add a line
none / cygdrive binary,posix=0,user 0 0
Further details on the Cygwin site
Posted in Cygwin | 5 Comments »
Posted by Alec The Geek on 10 January 2010
N.B. This is an early draft of something I am currently writing. Please feel to comment and give feedback. The full ebook will be published in the next few weeks and I will follow with another blog so you can download it if interested.
How you can implement processes to improve quality, reduce stress and lower costs
A lot of application development teams, and to a lesser extent operational IT teams, have either no or limited process. They depend on a combination of individual expertise, informal conventions and team habits (some good and some bad); and being prepared to put with all the problems of poor quality and unpredictability. It does not have to be like that and this ebook presents some ‘low hanging fruit’ you can pick to make your teams more productive – the approach is simple and practical.
This document is written for smaller teams who spend their time doing a combination of maintenance and new feature requests on an existing application. This actually covers the majority of software teams because, much as we all want to work on green-field projects and deliver Rel 1.0, most of our work is done on existing systems.
This ebook lists seven keys process areas (PA) that you need to think about: Metrics, Planning, Release, Testing, Issue1 management, Version control and Communication. These represent broad headings across the Software Lifecycle than contain the low hanging fruit we can pick early and I chose them because we can (almost) focus in each PA individually. After some initial informal success teams can look to expand their improvement initiatives and use more formal and complex methods – which is beyond what can be covered in this short document. The resources section lists places that you should look for more information and different perspectives.
There is no magic to software process improvement – it’s a question of: common sense; team and personal discipline; patience; attention to detail; and a strong desire by everyone to improve the current situation. Also what works will require you to experiment and use judgement (obtained by experience) to decide what will work in your projects. There is no ‘one size fits all’.
Agile Processes : The tools and techniques presented here are written primarily for the benefit of more traditional teams. If you call yourself an agile team, but have no process then I recommend you engage a reputable agile coach; or take a step back into more traditional software lifecycle, improve your processes (using this ebook and other resources) and then step forward again.
Posted in Application Lifecycle Management, LinkedIn, Software Configuration Management, Software Development, Work Practices | 1 Comment »
Posted by Alec The Geek on 8 January 2010
I noticed this when using Cygwin Perl, however I suspect the issue exists with any Perl distro on Windows.
The problem occurred when I had set the HOME environment variable to point to a network share. When I ran the CPAN utility it placed all the CPAN files on the network. As a result some modules would not install (I have no idea why) and it ran very very slowly.
The solution I adopted was to to move my home directory to the local PC drive which then made CPAN use the local drive as well. Changing
/usr/lib/perl5/5.10/CPAN/Config.pm would probably have been simpler, but I was happy to use the local disk for everything.
Posted in Cygwin, Perl | Comments Off
Posted by Alec The Geek on 7 January 2010
I have no idea if this will work for everyone, but this is how I became a UNIX (and later Linux) geek:
- Read “The UNIX Programming Environment“, Ch 1-5 at least. An excellent introduction to the philosophy of UNIX as well as the basics of using it as a user and later a programmer.
- Get a copy of “UNIX Power Tools” as a desktop reference; however you aim to read it all.
- Make sure you have a network connected UNIX/Linux system on which you can lavish loving care and practice your new skills
- Keep reading books, manuals, articles, blogs, forums etc etc.
Posted in Education, Linux | 1 Comment »
Posted by Alec The Geek on 7 January 2010
I just added the following tip to the Vim Tips wiki
To make Vim the editor for all text file types, as defined by MS Windows, try from the Windows command prompt:
ftype txtfile="C:\Program Files\Vim\vim72\gvim.exe" --remote-tab-silent "%1"
Posted in Windows | Comments Off
Posted by Alec The Geek on 5 January 2010
To save people having to reinvent the wheel here are a) a Windows batch file and b) Cygwin shell script to run the Saxon XSLT processor
rem Run Saxon
c:\Progra~1\java\jre6\bin\java.exe -jar c:\Progra~1\Saxon9.2\saxon9he.jar %*
# Run Saxon
/Progra~1/java/jre6/bin/java.exe -jar c:\\Progra~1\\Saxon9.2\\saxon9he.jar "$@"
On UNIX or Linux
# Run Saxon
/usr/bin/java -jar /usr/local/saxonhe/saxon9he.jar "$@"
You’ll obvioulsy need to modify the paths to suite the locations where you have things installed
Posted in Cygwin, Windows | Comments Off