Unconditionally contactable – no thanks.

This content is 17 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

This last week has been manic – hence the lack of blog posts… taking a day’s annual leave on Monday and then spending half of it catching up on my administration didn’t bode well, then there were two nights when I was up until 1am trying to write an infrastructure design document and the usual mix of travel, conflicting meeting requirements and trying to get some “real work” done.

“But Mark”, I hear you ask,”surely you use some of the technologies that I see you write about to improve productivity?”

The answer is that I do – I’m using Microsoft Office Communication Server 2007, the Office Communicator client 2007 and Live Meeting 2007 a fair bit – as well as our corporate conferencing service. Soon I’ll be linking all of that in to my voice mail to make use of Exchange Server 2007’s unified messaging capabilities. It’s a really good solution (especially when Communicator reads my calendar or Live Meeting status and sets my presence accordingly). But the technology is no panacea: sometimes something doesn’t work – I spent quite a bit of time this week waiting on a Live Meeting call as Microsoft struggled to get the audio working (they later postponed that particular meeting as even they couldn’t fix it); and other times there is no substitute for getting together in a room – like my main meeting on Friday which necessitated 4 hours travel (which could have been better spent doing something else) but resulted in the production of a migration strategy for a key customer’s messaging infrastructure – something which we had failed to do several times over the phone (and which I doubt even advances in video conferencing would have helped with).

As someone who struggles at times with information overload, and who was described by a friend and ex-colleague as “[sometimes] exhibiting workaholic tendencies”, I need to help myself to become more productive. As I already have a pile of books by the bedside, it’s probably time for an audiobook or two on Getting Things Done (or at least to check out 43 Folders from time to time).

As for unified communications (UC), Dave Bailey wrote an interesting comment for IT Week on the difficulties of getting away from it all – it was only a few days previously that, as I was busily IMing one contact, another team member started e-mailing me on the same subject and I had Outlook “toast” popping up as fast as I could type. Then I spent half of Friday afternoon this week reducing the size of my mailbox so that I could get below the system limits and send mail again (there is one simple answer – the delete key… but that’s not exactly productive either). As my colleague pointed out, it seems that UC really stands for “unconditionally contactable”. No thanks.

iPod Touch… or unlocked iPhone?

This content is 17 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Yesterday afternoon, Garry walked into the office and asked, “so, have you seen the new iPod then?”. I hadn’t and, after waiting and waiting, then finally getting a 5.5G iPod with video just a few months back I promptly stuck my fingers in my ears and said something like “na-na-na-na I can’t hear you” until he finished telling me about it. Later, when I was feeling a bit more rational, I checked it out and, apart from only having 16GB of storage (I’m presently struggling with 30GB) it’s looking pretty sweet – almost everything I’d asked for and more.

In his interview alongside Bill Gates at D5, Steve Jobs said that Apple was working on something special and he was not kidding. There is now an iPod for everyone, from the tiny (and low-cost) Shuffle, to a Nano with Video, the iPod Classic (now with 160GB on board… I had already been considering a hard disk upgrade for my 30GB), the Touch and the iPhone. Then there is Apple’s iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store tie-up with Starbucks (which is not limited to the iPod and iPhone, although it does appear to be limited to United States metropolitan areas for the time being with no mention of a global rollout any time soon).

But the more I think about it, the less I want the iPod Touch. It may be (almost) everything I wanted and I did previously dismiss the iPhone (the people at The Register were happy to hand theirs back) but now it appears to have been hacked and the price has dropped to $399 (which should translate to around £200 here in the UK, except it won’t, because we have extortionate 17.5% sales taxes and US products never sell here at anything like the exchange rate comparison price) – based on the pricing of other Apple products, I’d expect to see the iPhone sell in Europe at around €399 or £275. I won’t buy an iPhone with an O2 contract when it finally reaches these shores but if I was to unlock one and use my Vodafone SIM… (or just buy one in France, where Apple will be legally obliged to unlock it for me) now that would be good.

Not sure that it would go down too well in the office though…

Nikon finally releases a full-frame DSLR

This content is 17 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

NikonWhen I switched my photography to a digital format I had too much invested in Nikon lenses to change manufacturers; however I do know that many professionals using DSLRs today have Canon equipment to make the most of a full-frame image sensor (and I bought my best Nikkor lens from a pro who made the switch to Canon). For years, Nikon has told us that their DX format is all we need (and the focal lengths of our lenses have grown by around 150% as a result) but this has a cost in the higher signal to noise ratio. It seems that, finally, Nikon has recognised this with their new “FX” format D3 (which can also use DX lenses, although it shuts down part of the image sensor to do so). At the wrong side of £3000 it’s too much for me but I like the sound of features like a self-cleaning sensor, dual CF-card slots, LiveView and virtual horizon adjustment. I also like the sound of a 12 megapixel sensor, 51 point autofocus, 3″ LCD and larger viewfinder (something I can only experience by shooting some rolls of film in my old F90x) although I’d like to see low ISO settings too (when shooting landscapes I find ISO 200 too restrictive and would like the option for slow-speeds in the ISO 25-100 range) and the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III already meets (or even exceeds) most of the D3 specifications (admittedly with a £6000 price tag). I had hoped that a prosumer FX format model would follow the D3 but it seems not – the new D300 is DX only. Regardless, I’d better get saving to replace my D70, which is still a fantastic camera but not quite in the same league – maybe by the time my piggy bank is full there will be a prosumer model with an FX sensor.

Rob Galbraith has a full review of the D3 at digital photography insights.

Recipe for (a few minutes of) peace and quiet on a Saturday morning…

This content is 17 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Picture the situation… it’s early in the morning, you’re in a hotel room en route to a holiday destination, were travelling until late at night, had a bad night’s sleep and your 3 year-old son wakes up his 1 year-old brother, in the process forcing the whole family to start their day.

Here’s a recipe that I recommend:

  1. MaplinTake one iPod with Video, loaded with Thomas the Tank Engine (or other suitable Childrens’ TV) MP4s, one Apple iPod AV cable and a phono to SCART adapter from Maplin.
  2. Plug the iPod into the hotel room TV using the cable (and adapter, if necessary), turn on the television and select the AV channel.
  3. Play selected MP4s from the iPod to the children whilst consuming a suitable caffeinated beverage in an attempt to regain some sense of normality.
  4. Start your day in a slightly better mood.

I knew there was a reason I’d spent so much time getting my iPod working with the TV a week or so back! I believe that my wife’s exact word was “inspired”.

(Just before someone calls the social services, I should point out that my children get lots of one on one attention and babysitting by TV is only used in extreme circumstances!)