Working Day which works like clockwork

31 Dec 2012


Today I’ve been thinking about time-management, working from home, and I’ve ended up outlining my standard working day.

This is very much a platonic ideal, or a working mean – the normal deviates from the standard in almost every way. Times are moveable, I don’t go to the gym every day (if only), I don’t always start (or stop) at the same time, weekends often turn into work days, I have more or less personal time than I put down, I’m out visiting clients. But this is a rough outline of how I’d like the day to go.

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Phil Agre: How to help someone use a computer

23 Dec 2012


Years and years ago, I used to work in user support. At some point I found the following article on an email list and I personally found so useful and so to the point that I had the printout laminated and stuck it to the wall next to the main support desk. That was years ago, and since then I’ve had many jobs, learnt many things, and I no longer have the advice on “how to help someone” stuck to the wall.

Earlier this year, I bought a Mac and had to learn to use it after 20+ years of working with a PC and Windows. This meant I had to unlearn the habits of a lifetime (copy is Cmd+C, not Ctrl+C) and it was a sharp reminder of what it’s like to be a beginner again, and made me think of the article on “how to help someone use a computer” after many years. I went and dug it up out of the depths of the internet. It’s still valid, it’s still good, it’s still useful. And if you ever have to help anyone else (friends, family, members of the public, passing strangers) use a computer then this should be required reading.

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CSS is a messy mess

28 Nov 2012

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CSS is supposed to make my life easier (and it has) but it’s still a broken counter-intuitive very messy mess. It does not solve all problems, and for the past few days (on and off) I have been going round the bend trying to build a comparatively simple HTML / CSS layout.

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Leamington Spa Jelly

27 Nov 2012

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Yesterday, I took part in my first Jelly session.

Jelly is free, informal co-working for freelancers and home workers. If you love working from home, but occasionally find yourself desperate for a change of scenery, or for just a little bit of social interaction, then you can take your laptop, meet some new people and work in a new space for a day. You have some of the benefits of working in an office (brainstorming, bonding over client horrors and someone else to make the tea) without actually having to go and work in an office.

Working at the Jelly
Jelly People

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Project Management as a treeswing

22 Nov 2012

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Talking to a customer t’other day and I mentioned the (infamous) tree swing cartoon. He had no idea what I was talking about.

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Future of Web Apps – London 2012

9 Nov 2012

A few weeks ago, I went to the Future of Web Apps 2012 in London. 2 days of talks, and general geekiness

Why Go?

Why should I go to conferences, especially when I have to pay for it myself?

I work for myself, and most days I work on my own. Events are a chance to meet other people in the same field, to talk, to get excited, to get enthused, and to learn how much I don’t know. I’ve come home and there are things I’m excited about, some contacts, lots of people to follow, things to read, learning to do … and yes, it is worth it.

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Mac OS: Can’t move .svn/tmp/entries to .svn/entries: Operation not permitted

5 Aug 2012

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I’ve recently had a completely new (to me) SVN problem. I’ve been trying to update my SVN working copy from the reposisty and I get this error:

Can’t move ‘.svn/tmp/entries’ to ‘.svn/entries’: Operation not permitted

I’ve tried running the svn cleanup, but no joy. Google is my friend… the fix is to run this command in terminal

cd workingdir
chflags -Rv nouchg .

chflags – Change File Flags command
-R recursive, -v Verbose (tells you which files changed)
nouchg means the file can be changed (immutable bit cleared)

The immutable bit was a new one to me, so I had to go and look that one up as well. When you can’t take the chance of a file getting accidentally munged, you can set the immutable bit. Not even root can delete a file with the immutable bit set, unless they clears the bit first (making accidental removal highly unlikely). Very sensible, and since I’m exactly the kind of person who might accidentally delete whole swaths of files while in root mode, I can really see the point of an immutable bit.

However, I couldn’t work out how or where the immutable bit was being set. More googling … this seems to be a common problem where some developers are using windows & others are using mac os x. Still not sure of the WHY but the context makes sense.

Names Changed to Protect the Guilty

3 Jul 2012

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This came to me via one of my clients – they were talking about problems they’d had with another web developer.

The site in question is a standard ecommerce site where users have to register as part of the checkout process, and login to get downloads, and special discounts. Problem started when the site owner got this email from one of their customers.

I want to report that your site is NOT secure.
I had forgotten my password. So I did a Google search to see if I can find the webpage on how to re-set it.
Guess what? Someone has hacked your site and obtained all the passwords and email addresses and posted them online.
Sure enough, I found my email … and my forgotten password.

Basically, some script kiddies had hacked the site and posted all email addresses and passwords online with lots of (in)appropriate “ha ha, we got you good!” messages

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The Life of a Software Engineer

22 Jun 2012

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Life of a software engineer

Every time. This happens every time.

I’ve been trying to find the source of this wonderful cartoon, but have just ended up with loads and loads of blogs where people go “me too!”

How to fail at user support (part 27)

29 Nov 2011


“In addition, we’ve found that some users have unknowingly created tags with spaces before or after the word, which then looks to them like two tags with the same name.  If you’re seeing two tags that look the same on your profile, try renaming the tags to eliminate hidden spaces.”


We don’t know how to use trim statements.  Instead of fixing our string handling to deal this issue (and we already know for a fact that it annoys our users), we’re going to get all defensive and blame our users for being idiots who can’t use a spacebar properly.