Archive for April, 2005

G(oogle E)rr(or)

Friday, April 22nd, 2005


Is this a sign that I should give in, log off and go to bed?  OK, so it’s the first time this has happened in ages but I’d still like to read my mail.  Inspite of such occurences, the service is well-featured and it’s hard to beat the price.


Establishing Basecamp

Friday, April 22nd, 2005

My work life has suddenly transformed from a fairly quiet, ordered environment to one of rapid change, adaptation and transformation.  Whilst my own implementation of GTD[1] has allowed me to react appropriately and manage my own work activities, my company’s aged groupware and almost non-exsistent developer resources have been of little help in getting the project up and running. Luckily, through my incessant geekish trawling of various online resources, I was aware of a possible answer to such problems and had a solution to hand.

If, as I did this week, you have a need for a tool to help with either individual or collaborative project or task management but don’t need or want the overhead of MS Project or other leviathan software, I would encourage you have a look at the hosted solution offered by Basecamp.

Copyright ©1999-2005 37signals

Imagine a powerful To Do list that is linked to a project team roster and contact manager which has a message board function and a timeline tool not to mention extranet potential thrown in and you’ll be about 70% of the way towards Basecamp. It is is very scaleable, offering everything from a free one-project-only package to a $99 per month corporate extranet solution.  As you would expect in an ‘offsite’ web-based solution, there is secure 128-bit SSL data encryption, a SFTP option for file sharing (using your own server) and a nice touch is that the packages are scaled around the number of projects you wish to run, not the number of users.  With an eye to the widest possible market, Basecamp works with IE 6 or later on the PC, Firefox on Mac, PC, Linux, and Safari on Mac.  The well laid out UI is configurable in terms of colour and can be altered with hex codes to match your project logo, which can also be uploaded and displayed.

Rather than fancy Gantt charts and dependency diagrams that few folks can decypher, the focus of Basecamp is communication – clearly setting out what needs to be done in each area, along with when and who it should be done by.  Collaboration is enabled with the provision of the message board function, which includes email notification (though negotiation with corporate sysads might be needed to breech aggressive firewalls) and team members can keep up to date via RSS feeds, saving the need for being permanently logged into the user-defined portal URL.  The possibilities for Basecamp are pretty wide open as it can be used for low grade stuff like residents associations, clubs and writer’s groups through to enabling startups and small businesses to run and manage a customer-facing extranet with no IT expertise required[2]

In the short time I have been using it as a project manager, I have found that it has simplified the staging of a crucial project and allowed our team to envisage what we need to accomplish, who will own the actions and how we’ll go about it.  Support for Basecamp is pretty good too, with extensive Help and FAQ pages and a support blog that details user tips, tricks, how-tos and hacks.

In closing, it is maybe worth mentioning that user interface again because it is eminently usable and positively encourages the user to update, communicate and leverage the information housed within.  Sounds a little far-fetched?  Well, it’s well past 8 o’clock on a Friday evening after a long hard week and I’m still using it and writing about it; not something many Microsoft Project users would be willing, let alone happy to admit, eh?

[1] Using Life Balance, a T3, a Hipster PDA and Doug Johnston’s D*I*Y Planner for those interested in productivity and life hacks.

[2] A basic knowledge of FTP and access to server space is needed if you wish to exploit the file sharing capability.

Paula Radcliffe ran down our road today

Sunday, April 17th, 2005


She ran so fast…


…that she was heading for home…


…before we knew it.


The Reith Lectures on your iPod or PDA

Friday, April 15th, 2005

If you are interested in science and technology and support the ideals of good public radio, you may be interested to know that the BBC is MP3s and transcripts of the famous Reith lectures.  If you’re not familiar with these always enlightening and sometimes controversial broadcasts, the history and pedigree of these lectures is explained hereThis year’s Reith Lecturer is the distinguished engineer, Lord Broers, who is President of the Royal Academy of Engineering and Chairman of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee.

This year’s series is called The Triumph Of Technology and the component lectures, the first two of which are available now, are:

Lecture 1: Technology will Determine the Future of the Human Race
Lecture 2: Collaboration
Lecture 3: Innovation and Management
Lecture 4: Nanotechnology and Nanoscience
Lecture 5: Risk and Responsibility

The remaining three will be released tomorrow, next Wednesday and the following Saturday.  Having listened to the first lecture and the Q&A session that followed, I can say that it is a thought provoking and necessary debate.

my lo-fi ears are listening to ITT Tech Chat – Time Management/Kevin H. Devin

The green-eyed monster

Friday, April 15th, 2005

My daily commute has been great enlivened recently by the addition of the superb and justly lauded Bike Or Die to the clutch of time-filling games on my T3.  Whilst the physics engine and devilishly difficult courses make for addictive trials bike gameplay, the graphics have a charming retro feel.

Bike or die

Until this afternoon that is, when a much younger geek dropped into the seat next to me, whipped out his pristine imported-from-Japan PSP and fired up Ridge Racer.  It took all of 5 seconds for PSP envy to set in and I spent the rest of the journey watching graphics like those below.




Make Poverty History

Saturday, April 9th, 2005


“This parking meter earns more in an hour than 70% of the world’s population does in a day”

It’s late on Saturday afternoon and it suddenly occured to me that I haven’t written a thing here for six days.  As is usual when I go on the missing list, my mind and focus has been elsewhere.  However, the stuff I have been concerned with is meaningless and inconsequential when you consider the following fact:

30,000 children a day die as a direct result of living in extreme poverty.

Yet because the vast majority of these deaths do not occur in our own countries, it is so much easier to ignore this than do something about it.  However, imagine that you opened your favourite newspaper or website and saw the headline:

Drunk drivers and car thieves kill a child every 3 seconds on our roads.

Let’s be honest, we’d be horrified, keeping our kids at home and demanding that someone do something to stop the carnage, wouldn’t we?  Which begs the question: why, when the governments and financial institutions of the developed world have the means to prevent these deaths, are we not demanding that they bring an end to poverty?

Well, folks are and you can too.  In the next five minutes, you could join the hundreds of charities, campaigns, trade unions, faith groups and celebrities, not to mention millions of folks worldwide who are campaigning to make poverty history by cancelling crippling debts and promoting trade justice across the globe.

If you are in the UK, you can do the following without even leaving your PC:

If you are more inclined towards direct action and can spare a night, you can attend an overnight vigil outside Parliament and Downing Street next Friday.

If you are elsewhere in the world, you can get involved and take steps in your own country to make poverty history.

Whatever you do, please don’t do nothing – because another 100 children have died in the time it has taken you to read this.


Ricky owes me lunch

Tuesday, April 5th, 2005
Ricky owes me lunch

… because I’ve just bought him this.

Peace and quiet

Sunday, April 3rd, 2005


On Friday, I took a day off work to ferry three of the sprogs to Norwich for a photo session.  Whilst SWMBO acted as chaperone, the eldest and I took advantage of the spring sunshine and walked through the town to visit it’s cathedral.  The building, with it’s soaring vaulted ceilings and numerous chapels, is simply magnificent. 


In particular, walking the cloisters, it took very little to imagine myself doing the same in medieval times, listening to the bells strike the hour and lifting my gaze to take in the beautifully crafted ceiling bosses like the one below.


For those interested in the interior and the amazing stained glass West window, the BBC have a webcam inside the cathedral.

my lo-fi ears are listening to Fugitive Motel/Elbow

Palm panic

Friday, April 1st, 2005


There are some who would claim this would be me…

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