Every once in a while there is a discovery. You install a tool so nice and simple that you keep wondering how you did things before you ever found it. That was the case with Launchy and me. I've gotten so quickly used to it that whenever I use a PC that's not my own I have the reflex to hit the keyboard combination that kick-starts the tool.
But what is it? It is a program launcher and file launcher for windows. You associate a keyboard shortcut to it (Alt + Space Bar in my case) which opens a dialog:
You start typing the name of what you want to launch, hit enter and voila! There it is. I personally hate the start button and desktop icons, so this is a real time saver for me. All I need to do is remember the name of what I want to start next.
As if this weren't enough you get to search google, and other sites, use the embedded calculator, check for the weather, all just by typing a few commands.
Have I mentioned it has a plug-in architecture as well that allows the tool to be extended?
Don't you want to give it a try?
Before I turned in one of the R50e's I decided to do some testing. I had the "feeling" that Ubuntu was superior to that other OS in many ways, yet I wanted to back my words with some real life data. The most impressive difference was obtained on power-up. I was smart enough to capture it on Video:
Both machines have the same exact specs, both have been used for the same time (to be fair I have tweaked the OS on the left quite a bit to optimize it). Ubuntu is already idle by the time the video ends; while the other PC takes 30 seconds more than what I've uploaded to idle the hard drive.
Then I went for a Battery endurance test. I left both PCs running, but the results where somewhat disappointing. Battery life (screen always on, machine unused) was 2:42:12 and 2:43:28 from left to right, but, quite honestly the difference can be attributed to battery condition.
I need to do a similar head to head with a ThinkPad that has more advanced power options to see if there is an improvement on either way. Quite honestly I thought Ubuntu was going to beat the hell out of te other one in this Item as well, since I had been able to work longer far from a power source with the Linux machine. I guess this was either me wanting it to be that way or (quite possibly) that Linux and programs running on it require less resources and that disk cache is faster and better thought (due to that Cache partition one sets up, remember?).
Final test was starting up notes and SameTime (our internal IM system). Ubuntu runs Notes 8 ever Eclipse; the other OS runs 7. Notes 8 and Sametime took 1:56.6 whereas notes 7 took 2:44.1. Time was measured from click on the icon to the moment when I was able to compose a new email.
The more I learn the more I'm convinced I need to use just one OS: Ubuntu.
December is usually full of events. Not only does calendar the year come to an end as part of the holidays (which are demanding per-se), but there are also a lot of meetings, get-togethers and parties. All of it in the more tiresome month: December. There's a psychology behind December that is quite odd. There's that feeling of survival, as in "we made it through another year", that other burnt-out sensation, and the lack of concentration that is very usual for the twelfth month. Personally there's another caveat that comes from living in the southern hemisphere: the coming of the summer and the proximity to vacation (or to look at it from a "glass half empty" perspective: the long time that has went through since the previous vacation). I don't work well with heat, I'm a winter person.
This year a Wedding is going to mark the beginning of the end-o-year marathon. This upcoming Friday Luciana and I are taking a bus to Necochea at 11pm, arriving there at 6AM. The wedding begins at 7PM and will probably extend well into 5 or 6AM on Sunday. By 11AM we'll be on a bus again arriving at 7PM.
I foresee a tiresome December. I already have some events I know I won't attend because of conflicting times…
Family-wise I'm going to spend my first Christmas in Buenos Aires in a long time. My brother's arriving from the US Dec. 25th, and we're looking into trying to get my mom to travel from Bariloche for the occasion. New Year will probably happen at my wife's hometown and maybe a week at Bariloche after that to spend some quality time with the family.
Of course all of this has to happen while juggling things at work; it wouldn't be fun otherwise
Mark tagged me for this Meme, in the spirit of keeping chains alive, here it goes.
I don't think I spend enough time being thankful. I'm lean more towards criticism and cynicism, because I'm always after improvement. Thus, I'm thankful for the opportunity to force me to think of this things I appreciate but give for granted.
- Family comes first. Starting from the small core of my wife and I. I have mentioned in the past how understanding Luciana is with me. Although many times she can't quite get why I make some choices, she still stands there by me in support. Then there's the larger family, my brothers and Mom, who are always a phone call apart and willing to help in case of need. This is a safety net that provides me with a lot of confidence.
- My job in the past months has provided me with the opportunity to push the envelope in ways I couldn't of picture a year ago. I'm involved in some great projects with some great people. I guess this is two thanks in one: I'm thankful to those who provided me with the chance to do this (you know who you are!) and I'm thankful for what I do and who I do it with.
- I appreciate my own curiosity. I believe that if I weren't always interested in learning more, in finding new and exiting thing, I wouldn't stand where I am today. Curiosity and intellectual hunger are great drivers of achievement.
- My friends, who are always there, even when I don't get enough chances to share a lot of time with them.
- If I didn't have migraines every now and then my health would be just perfect. I never even catch a flue, and I don't really take too much care of my own body, thus I get more than what I give in this regard.
- My upraising. Because even when there where some difficult times, I look back and feel happy about my past. I don't think I regret a single thing, because even the mistakes I made helped me in the long run.
- Life itself. Because we have a white canvas where we can draw, where we can create an leave our mark. Because we can make a difference even if it only touches those close to us, and that is huge.
I won't pass this; but rather leave it to whoever feels inspired to be thankful to write down its own list. What are you thankful for?
Recently I said I was eager for Distros. So I have spent a couple of weeks testing different Linux flavors on a ThinkPad R50e that I should of returned already. I installed Solaris, openSUSE and gentoo. Each had a couple of nice features; tweaks and lights to the gnome desktop, the way they handle repositories and installation.
Gentoo was, by far, the hardest piece of installation I've done in the last couple of years. I spent two afternoons looking at screens of this sort:
I'm quite certain that if my knowledge was far deeper than it currently is I could get a lot of optimizations specifically for the computer type I was installing to, but, for the time being I don't have the time or the patience to work out the dark arts of building a Kernel.
Solaris installed quite easily, but upon trying it for a couple of days it seemed a tad sluggish when compared to the sister ThinkPad running Ubuntu. I know I'll come back to Solaris to try some JSP and Java development some other time in my life. (Colour note: why "sister ThinkPad", you wonder. In Spanish "Computer" belongs to the feminine gender)
Finally came openSUSE. This was some sort of a comeback to me. Before Ubuntu and before Madriva I had SUSE enterprise installed for quite some time. One must agree that the Gnome looks very nice, the green background is slick and that the installer is flawless. Problems surfaced when I tried to configure the VPN dialer. Which was surprising, since installing my Belking – Atheros was quite easy using MadWifi drivers.
To be honest they started before that; upon right clicking the RPM package the system stalled. Twice. I found a workaround to that; so I went ahead and checked the dependencies. I needed to get IPsec running first and foremost. Up goes YaST, I search for IPsec, try to install and crush the system again.
I must be running out of patience… because I just killed the PC and went back to my trusty Ubuntu. I know such crashes have a way to be fixed (that unlike that other proprietary OS usually don't require a complete reinstall, just digging up the problem and fixing it through –quite certainly- a minor correction on a setting), but I just don't feel like it right now.
Now if I could only get rid of that other OS on my other two ThinkPads I'd be very happy on an Ubuntu-only environment.
I don't think I've mentioned a lot of details on my new position. Half of it works around social media; I have talked a lot about it lately. What I haven't posted much about is metrics; the second half.
Metrics are a dangerous thing. I find them particularly appealing and obsessing myself. In the world of marketing it is hard to accurately measure anything, and that became the common rule. Yet the world of web marketing is quite different in that regard.
Analytics can potentially touch every single aspect of a web infrastructure, from design to revenue; from campaigns to usability. That potential is hardly ever fully used, though. The degree of integration with a CMS or other methods of publishing web content seem to be the most important roadblock one has to face. Luckily the trend lately seems to be that most content management systems have started contemplating the importance metrics have, therefore providing some toots to work things out.
Another hard thing is that there is no single approach towards data capture. Even within the same Analytics vendor there are quite some different routes that can be taken. Finding the right set of implementation policies is a high-demand activity; it requires quite some trial and error and a lot of tweaking the best practices to fit a certain market or implementation's need.
Even when one takes into account this and other difficulties, the way metrics pays off is unparalleled. I'm quite sure someone has made the math on what the ROI is for every buck spent on metrics & analytics for different industries, but I'm not aware of such studies mself and I'd really like to figure out that much on my own experience. I guess I'll add yet another thing to me to-do list.
I can easily picture a scenario where metrics are the glue keeping a web-site together and working. The risky thing is to fall in a metric –driven policy. Metrics tell us what happens and what the trends are; yet they should not be an objective per-se, just the way to understand how things develop.
There is a slight nomenclature difference that can make a huge difference in the focus and results. Although "we want to increase click through" and "we want to make valuable content easier to find" might yield the same result in terms of the raw numbers, the implementation methods would differ for both statements.
A site can easily increase click through rate through various methods. Eye-catching banners and phrases, reformulating content disposition, even could work. The click through percentage figure would increase at the end of the day; but you might end up doing the exact opposite thing to what would be advisable. No single metric and very few metric mashups should ever be a target on their own. Metrics are analysis tools, they reflect what happens and can, to a certain extent, foresee what's to come, but they should almost never be at the driver's seat, but rather the navigator's. Metrics and Analytics help to understand reality and help making smart decisions.
This is not an attack to metrics and analytics, quite on the contrary. Having such things in mind should preserve the integrity of the M&A department. You can't possibly understand what's going on and identify areas for improvement without metrics, but changes should not happen to increase or decrease a figure, but rather a figure should change because it is part of a bigger, comprehensive aim.
I've been quite moderate on this blog. I have not posted rants against ISPs, mobile companies and other things to keep this place focused and peaceful. Also keeping a behavior shows respect to my blogroll and the company I work for.
From time to time events kill the "English Lord" that posts here and give way to the Viking in me. Let the villages burn.
I have posted before on the inflationary conditions in Argentina. I have also posted on how the government tweaks the figures. This has not changed, it has gotten worst.
One of the few things that can really upset me is being treated like an idiot. I might not be the smartest guy on the room, but I most certainly passed 3rd grade math. And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that when comparing the way my expenses go up and the figures the Government states aren't even on the same league. According to the government the expected increase on inflation is 9.8%; private analysts state it will be around 20%, my experience tells me they both fall short.
Some examples: Starting in December my rent will go up by 47%. No, I'm not moving to a larger flat or a fancier neighborhood; I'm staying at the same exact apartment. Need another example? For the past 7 months I've made the same monthly grocery store list (thanks to technology it is saved on my e-grocery account). Over that period it has increased 25%. 7 Months, out of 11 in the year.
So as if the inflation didn't already put enough stress into everybody's psyche, one has to cope with the lies. In our faces, every day, on every newspaper and every TV news program.
The side effects of the inflation are also quite scary. Argentina's current "boom" relies on the sole fact of a cheap currency opposed to the US dollar or the Euro. There haven't been any substantial investments in infrastructure, R&D or education for the country to be competitive for different reasons. As inflation increases, it puts pressure on salaries which detriment that unique competitive advantage. The risk resides on the government assuming that the only way out is to further depreciate the peso, which would, in turn yield more inflation.
I shall be pessimist; but I see no win in this situation. Either way it's going to be nasty, and I don't trust that those in charge (or soon to be in charge) are smart and bold enough to reverse the situation.
With some luck I'll be wrong and I'll have to eat my words. Let's hope that happens, my pride is not that big.
Tim's recent comment here got me thinking. And recent events prove him right.
We work on one of the fastest-paced industries, on the most rapidly evolving media (PC industry and the Web). It seems rather unavoidable to wear a lot of different hats and trying to keep several balls in the air. Not an easy task.
How is it possible that even when I go to bed at night and I keep thinking on the projects I'm working on, spend 16 hours online every day, and I'm haunted with the constant sensation that I'm leaving something important unattended I still feel fulfilled, exited and professionally happy?
The answer is easy: I love most of what I do, I enjoy working with the people I share my work with and I believe in the value of what I'm committed into. Killer combination. I work in an organization where I can go to anyone and speak openly if I have an opposing opinion (although we're usually well tuned and on the same page) whether the listener is my peer or my manager. This kind of thing can be hard on egos from time to time, but the outcome is usually the best possible combination of ideas.
The real danger resides in getting too deeply involved, at least for me. I want to chime into everything that passes in front of me. Everything has potential, every project looks appealing.
When to say no? Hard to answer; my personal approach is only to say no when I know I can't add anything of value. If I feel something is better off without me I'd say no; if I think that I can help adding value or channeling other people's ideas I'll take a dive.
This yields some frantic times. Fun and frantic. Guess I'm a Chaos lover (as well).
When you realize a vision. When you achieve a goal. When you get to the finish line. How do you take things to the next level?
Such is the question that harasses me lately. I wouldn't dare of dreaming I have completed all of my goals. I'm not even close to think anything of that sort, but as any good chess player can tell you, thinking some moves ahead is key for success.
The natural path my entwined brain takes is not to think on the goals as a tangible end to a means, but more as an evolution. What if the goal is to always take things to the next level, to the next step. This would somewhat represent a change in paradigm; it would mean a never-ending goal, which, much like the rainbow is always far and away, yet visible.
I don't intend to sound too much like "happiness is in the journey". This is not a self-help post and I am, most definitely, not into self-help. What I am trying to point out is that in industries such as computing, advertising, internet, where things shift very quickly, it makes more sense to think that a goal is to constantly change and improve, staying be in top of the game, rather than setting the rigid, dateable and acquirable goals accountants and finance officers love so much.
In an ever changing and whoosh-evolving industry you are at a continuous risk of getting to the start line too late. That's right, no typo, I wrote "the start line". By the time you plan, set, get permissions, engage, budgetize, analyze, prioritize, prove ROI and talk everyone into how your idea is the next great thing since sliced bread or the invention of the wheel, the competition, most probably, has a similar program up and running, collecting success and praise all around.
The greatest risk in this kind of mindsets is to fall into a whirlpool of action with no planning. The point I'm trying to make requires changing how we plan, not banning the whole idea of making plans.
This new way of making plans requires a great deal of flexibility in terms of tools, how-to, and people / teams involved. What remains rigid, and gains a place in the spotlight is the never-acquirable goal.
I've been trying to avoid the usage of examples in my posts lately, but I don't think I can quite communicate the idea without one. Here's the example then:
Picture this as a goal: Provide the best possible customer experience on a web page. Sounds rather general, almost like a cheap marketing pitch: "we provide the best web customer experience". Yet, the trick is into giving essence to the gaping void such phrases carry with them; to make everyone's performance and accountability tied to that statement. If someone detects the competition provides a best experience, that should be reflected on the KPIs. You get the point.
A "good web customer experience" can happen regardless of the tools and processes happening behind what the customer sees. Sure enough they can have a huge impact on the experience, but, if all goes well, the user never should care and would never notice. In this scenario the tools and processes are important only in terms of how they impact on the larger goal. The same happens with other aspects of what it takes to carry over an idea.
With that in mind some decisions should be a lot easier to take. If a tool or process does not deliver they should be put up to pace or replaced. This demonstrates another fact: the goal also becomes the measure stick that can help make decisions.
I have personally just scratched the surface on this. I need to put a lot more thought into this, but I sense it might change the way I face projects, deadlines and the way I make decisions.
I was there. I listened. I didn't blog about it. This was a conscious decision. I'm not a reporter, don't want to be one and, quite frankly, it's not in me at all. The Marketplace idea seemed something Automattic would like to disclose more "officially". Now that Matt has posted on it, I feel I can speak freely.
I regard the idea of implementing models to monetize a site or service that are not based upon omnipresent ads as a very smart move, at the right time. As bubble 2.0 keeps growing, chances are that those companies that are smart enough to broaden their income methods have a better chance to survive.
Would I buy a theme? Not really, but I'm not quite the average WordPress user. A great deal of my work life turns around blogs; not just writing, but planning, developing and maintaining them. But that is not the question.
The thing is: who wins with this sort of initiatives? (My guess is Automattic has more ideas like this one on the pipeline, and probably some other companies as well). Easy answer: everybody. Designers can make an extra buck. WordPress.com get's some cash. The user get's choices. Of course the implementation, ease of use and diversity of themes will determine the success, but as an abstract idea I can really see it working. It might not be "huge" but it'll work. And it is not ads, and that is, once again, a good thing.
The other brilliant part of it is making the themes GPL-licensed elsewhere. With a personal inclination towards Open Source I like this Idea and would love to see is turn into profits for WordPress. It would be one more piece of evidence that Open Source is viable as base for business models and not just "hippy-geek-thing" done by freetards.
The abstract observation out of all this is: Although technology deletes boundaries every single day, there is one that remains too hard to overcome: language.