Monthly Archives: January 2007

Would you like a tray with that?

I wonder who dreamed up the food tray, a simple device which allows patrons to carry more food than they could hold in their bare hands. Was it an independent inventor who identified a need in the market, constructed a prototype, and brought it to market? I doubt it.

My theory is that its was a restraunt owner who decided that rather than paying waitors he would get patrons to order their meals at a counter and then carry it back themselves – it was a simple innovation that allowed them to cut costs while at the same time providing a service to customers who didn’t have to wait to get their meals ordered.

So what does food trays have to do we me and my blog? Well – I am sitting here at Canberra Airport waiting to dial into a teleconference and I decided that a pot-of-tea would be nice. I ordered the tea at the counter and then stood waiting for it to arrive which it did after just a few minutes. The problem is that tea is a multi-part affair which involves a cup and saucer, a pot of hot water and a small jug of milk. They are irregular shapes so they can’t be stacked on top of each other so a tray is required – but there was no tray to be found.

The cafe here at Canberra Airport made the sensible choice to not provide table service at an busy (cough) international (cough cough) port but at the same time removed one of the innovations which makes it possible. Instead customers are expected to carry multiple hot drinks back to their table and in many cases they are forced to make multiple trips.

This is relevant to the phone call that I will be making shortly because I will be discussing the configuration of a new (and hopefully innovative service offering that Readify will be launching in the future and I need to make sure that we have included all the trays that we need to ensure a happy customer experience.

Of course, a tray could be considered an add-on service and you could charge for it just like shopping centres charge a refundable fee for the use of trolleys – I certainly would have paid an extra dollar to not scold myself with the hot pot of tea.

Unhealthy work habits.

This is not going to be a rant about work/life balance. I don’t and never have had work/life balance and probably never will so I can’t talk intelligently about it.

I can however talk about unhealthy work habits, that is the things that we do at work, and the way we configure our work environments to make us less productive. I am one of the lucky few that has the opportunity to work from home, an office and the road without it impacting too much what I can and can’t do – but this means that I have three possible environments to configure. I am at home right now so I’ll talk about that in this post.

Configuring the Home Office

Working from home is a privilege and while I believe that most people will work this way in the future it certainly takes a lot of discipline. The first step is to set aside a space where you can work which includes a desk and a chair. It doesn’t need to be a large space, in fact my office is in our spare bedroom which also contains a bunch of cardboard boxes that haven’t been unpacked, but I have established a perimeter of control which I try to keep relatively free of clutter.

Looking at my desk right now there is:

  • Cactus plant (needs water).
  • Box for tax invoices/receipts.
  • Bella’s piggy banks – not sure why they are here.
  • Water bottle (cactus now has water).
  • Car keys, swipe cards.
  • Mobile phone, home phone.
  • Laptop and associated cables.
  • External hard drive and associated cables.
  • Lego brick.
  • Four books.
  • Tablet PC and associated cables.
  • Power strip.
  • Organisation trays (in/out).
  • Lightbulb and two 9-volt batteries.
  • Asthma puffer spacer.
  • Coffee Cup #1
  • Coffee Cup #2
  • Passport
  • Asthma puffer.
  • USB memory stick.
  • Biro (pen).

Out of all the things above, I’ve highlighted in red the things that I could probably stand to lose off my desk (doing it now, much better). That is pretty much the physical environment taken care of and in reality as a mobile professional you should be able to pack most of what is left up into your laptop bag.

The next thing that needs to be done is clearing house on your Inbox. Don’t spend all day reading e-mail – close it down, this goes for your personal accounts (Gmail, Hotmail etc). When you do read e-mail aim to get your Inbox to zero and keep it there, sometimes you might need to file some things into seperate folders to action later but don’t forget about them.

My Inbox currently has two e-mails in there that I am absolutely going to delete without reading. One is a check-in notification from TFS and the other is probably some inane conversation on a mailing list. I’m busy – delete delete. Zero messages in the Inbox. Next I am going to open up the To-Do Bar in Outlook and check to see if I can close any of the tasks.

Nope. Closing down e-mail and getting to work.

Fujitsu LifeBook T4210, Vista and Bluetooth

Since upgrading my LifeBook T4210 Tablet PC to Windows Vista I’ve been unable to establish a connection to the Internet out through my mobile phone over Bluetooth. This afternoon I decided to go hunting for the new version of the Toshiba Bluetooth Stack software which is required to enable Bluetooth.

This page seems to list all the Bluetooth related announcements at Toshiba which points to this page which offers Vista versions of the stack for download. I pulled down 5.10.01 and simply installed it without any hassles. Not being able to access the Internet easily has been a real pain over the last two and a half months but I am looking forward to being more mobile.

I did have access via my Dell D820 because it doesn’t use a Toshy stack, but it was a pain pulling that out each time I wanted to use it – the Tablet PC form factor is much better for coffee shops and public transport. Of course I was always able to access e-mail via the phone itself but the surfing experience wasn’t as good even on a 640×480 screen.


Tips for Travelling with Children

I was reading Christopher Elliott’s travel related blog and came across this post about a family that was asked to get off an AirTrans flight after a child refused to calm down. I can understand being asked to get off a flight if a child won’t calm down, purely from a safety point of view but the thing that alarmed me was some of the reactions of other readers suggesting that parents shouldn’t travel with their children.

I’m disgusted with that attitude. Travelling with children can be hard and most parents don’t do it unless they have to, especially over long distances but our world is changing and families are distributed all over the country, and indeed all over the world.

An understanding attitude can help a lot, when I end up down the back of a plane with the families (for some reasons families seem to end up down the back of the plane on flights in Australia) I try to exchange an understanding smile with the parents. I like to think that this helps put the parent at ease so they can focus more on their kids and less on what people around them are thinking.

Nicola and I have travelled with Bella a few times, although Nicola more than myself. In fact when Bella was about four weeks old we flew from Melbourne to Brisbane. She was perfectly behaved but if she decided to scream the whole way there wouldn’t have been much that we could do about it. Anyway, after observing the steps that Nic takes before taking Bella on a plane I offer these tips:

  1. Pack a bag; if you travel with kids you know how much stuff there is to take with you, but take the time to pack a bag full of stuff that is 100% for the child – even better, get the child to pack it. Be sure to include things that can be done on the plane like sticker books and colouring in pencils, and little snacks.
  2. Build the trip up; get kids excited about going on the plane and talk about the things that will happen once they get on board including putting on seat belts and pushing back from the gate and take off. If there is a logical sequence of events the kids are more likely to want to put their seat belt on so that they can get to the push back and take off bit.
  3. Set the rules in advance; don’t make the rules up on the spot. Talk about what is expected of them on the plane including listening what the flight host/hostess wants and doing it. Make it clear that even Mummy and Daddy don’t have any choice in that. In fact if you do it right your kids might actually be telling you to sit down and buckle in 🙂
  4. Make flying fun; one thing that seemed to work really well with Bella is talking about the bumps of turbulence and landing – now maybe she is just a thrill seeker but we role-played her on our knees. It makes it easier that flying into Canberra is a bumpy ride.

I’m no expert but this stuff seems to work.


Technorati tags: ,


This post is not about the latest Hansel Minutes podcast. But it is about a certain way of announcing URLs that has always confused me – until now. When Scott reads out a URL (for example, for a sponsor) he says “online at www….”. For some reason my brain has always processed this as “on-thy-net”, now, obviously that is completely insane but I noticed that Scott does it and so does Carl Franklin.

Must be an accent thing . . .

I totally get where Dr. Neil is coming from.

Like _totally_. I’m catching up on about two weeks worth of blog posts and I came across this one by Dr. Neil about understanding the value of your knowledge. I too get a lot of requests in e-mail and via comments in my blog and usually, if I have a piece of code handy that I have already written I will share it – but I do draw the line at writing (and in some cases designing) code for other people.

Anyway – reading Dr. Neil’s post reminded me of this.

I guess because I am the employee of a consulting firm I don’t actually have to be the mercenary, but sometimes I would like to be.

The first Canberra VSTS User Group was a great success!

On Wednesday morning the first Canberra VSTS User Group meeting was held at the Microsoft offices in Barton. It was a great success and Andrew Lynes and Andrew Coates have already blogged about it.

The good news is that Sean decided to wear pants . . .

P.S. The user group should have a web-site in the next couple of days.

Technorati tags: , ,