Archive for April, 2009|Monthly archive page

Project Management Cartoon

I saw a version of this years ago, but it’s been updated – can’t remember where I got this from, I would appreciate anyone who has the appropriate reference.  As usual click to enlarge.

project-management1

PRINCE2 2009

It should come as no surprise to anyone in the Project Management Community that PRINCE2 is overdue for a refresh.  This will be called PRINCE2 2009, and a launch date of the 16th June has been confirmed.  It will be a little while after this that books are published etc., but this is the launch date.

Less than a month back I went to the Project Challenge Show, and found out a little more information about this from a talk given by Andy Murray.  I’ve been keeping an eye on his blog for a while, and indeed used some of his earlier thoughts on the process in my lectures this year, when I knew change was in the air.

I’ve attached to this posting my original scrawlings taken from the talk  here – not exactly the most user friendly read really.

So this morning, I’ve taken these notes and created a mind map of my notes – this can be seen below (click to embiggen).

prince2-2009-talk

I used mind42 for the map, and exported as a .png file.  This sort of exercise really lends itself to mind-mapping.

There’s a couple of things worth mentioning, the idea that Product Based Planning (including Product Breakdown Structur and Product Flow Diagram) is a ‘marmite’ technique (love it or hate it), certainly resonated with me.  At first I couldn’t see the point of turning an adjective (assemble wardrobe) into a noun (assembled wardrobe).  It seemed a fussy and pedantic process.  But when you start to think about the whole ethos of PRINCE2 being on deliverable (sorry delivered!) product then it makes sense.

The new philosophy of processes/themes/principles and environment (against the current view of Processes/Components/Technqiues) will also benefit PRINCE2, and it’s adoption within businesses.  Whilst I’m still a little vague on the details, the recognition of the environment which PRINCE2 operates in (be it business, not-for-profit or public sector) can only be a good thing.  I’ll look forward to reading this.

And why has it taken me three weeks to write these notes up?  No excuse, apart from the fact that I’ve not been using the Autofocus system for to-do lists which I’ve been singing the praises of.  One morning in and I’ve already done more than I would usually.

eee and Windows XP

As you will know, my laptot came installed with Windows XP.  Despite several upgrades (512 mb –> 2 gb memory, extra 8 gb SSD, bluetooth dongle), I’ve still been experiencing performance problems.

The first tweaks were simple, using the performance tab under ‘My Computer’ properties I adjusted the screen display for maximum performance.  I lose some of the ‘bling’ of Windows XP, but it’s a small price to pay.

The other changes had a big impact on the available space on the SSD, the size of the System cache.  XP recommended 3 gb now that I’ve got 2 gb of memory – that’s a hefty chunk of my 8 gb internal SSD.  But this has made the sinle largest performance improvement to my system.

But this caused problems, leaving me around only half a gb of memory on my internal disc (c:\).  I’ve therefore had a purge of software.  I’ve removed alll of the Windows components, and also all of the Windows Live components – I appreciate that they are well written applications (including Windows Live Writer, which is a real shame as I did like thiss little program.

So, with radical purging, I made some space… only for the automatic updates from Microsoft to come along and whack another half a gb onto the system.

Performance at the moment is ‘OK’, but I think I’m going to have to look at alternatives to XP, even if this off an SSD or pen drive.  Ho hum, I’ll keep this posting open in case anyone stumbles across and has any hints and tips to help me run  XP on an eee pc701sd.

In other news, I’ve had a great day of work doing family things, and keeping all house moving ideas out of my head, back to the marking fray tomorrow, with my red pen blazing.

Where I write…

I’m very fortunate, as I have an unlimited number of places where I can ‘write’ – be it emails, word ‘stuff’, or my creative writing.  What this means however is that I rarely have a set place or technique.

Most of the evenings when I’m here on my own I retreat to my study.  It’s fine up there, but I can hardly call it distraction free.  Big Mac has so much music and videos stored on it that it’s possible, even likely that I can find hundreds of other things to do.

My MacBook is still my ‘go anywhere in the house’ laptop, and despite my recent purchase, I use it a lot for writing, saving files either on a pen drive, or onto Dropbox.  I’m still wary of hard disc failure after my problems a year ago, and there’s also a security issue, I don’t want personal stuff on a machine which may be lost or stolen.  As I type this I’m watching Joe 90 – classic!

But one thing which remains constant across these machines is my use of Scrivener for all my creative and ‘serious’ writing.  I’ve recommended this to friends who have embraced the product more than I have – I like both the full screen mode and the way that it’s easy to structure an extended piece of work.  The piece I’m currently working on is 4,000 words long, 8 – 10 pages maybe if I was using a traditional word processor, but I’m not aware of that when writing, which I feel is how it could be.  I know that the new version of iWork, ’09, has a full page view too, and I’m still toying with the idea of investing in it, but clearly not just for this.

So, whilst being a little pompous, where I write isn’t a physical place, rather it’s the screen and software which I’m faced with.

Happy Easter

I’ve had a pleasant Easter Present (apart from the bottle of Bell’s bought for me by my much beloved – as I’ve not eaten chocolate since 1991 due to migraines).

The university which I externally examine for have asked me to look after another course – their Foundation and Undergraduate equivalent of ‘our’ Business Information Technology (BIT) course.

As well as the extra ca$h which always comes in useful around the time of my holiday credit card bill, this sort of things always exposes me to a more diverse range of courses.  This is particularly important this year, as I’ve not got my Open University teaching to keep me in check.

I’ve a few days off work, and must spend some more time on my creative writing – I’m near the end of the course, and despite other distractions I can’t throw the last six months away. So on Sunday or Monday it’s no sleep until I’ve written the sequel (of sorts) to this story.

Playing with Windows Live Writer

And not a bad programme either!

I can’t do things like this very easily with the standard WordPress editor

me

(Me, circa 1974).

It’s got a great preview mode too, and pulls in all the stuff I need.  I’m sure there’s mac-only equivalents, but I am impressed with the ease of use of this piece of free software from the Microsoft stable.

BBC Radio 7 – Schedule change

Yes, I know this is another completely off-topic posting, but when you’re limited about what you can talk about at work, and I’ve not bought a new gadget for days, then I think it’s justified.

I love BBC Radio 7.  Even more than Radio 4, which is saying something.  The mix of drama, comedy and the almost timeless nature of its output (there’s no news headlines to disturb the flow, as the whole channel is pre-recorded) allows for a great sense of timelessness when listening to the programme.  I’ve lost count of the number of times when I’ve gone to bed listening to a gentle comedy, only to hear the same programme at 3am the next morning.

But from this week, there’s been a majoy shake-up of the schedule, which has only gone to improve the experience.  Previously, there was three hours of childrens programming from 2pm – 5pm each afternoon.  I guess the idea was to get kids listening whilst on the school run.  Unfortunately there uptake of digital radios in cars has been much slower than anyone anticipated, so that marked never appeared.  Three hours in the afternoon is also a large time to dedicate to a realtively small audience.

Recognising this, they have moved the main CBeebies on Radio 7 slot to 5am – 8am, much more sensible as most listeners to this would use the ‘listen again’ service, hence it doesn’t really matter at all when it’s originally broadcasted.  This frees up the afternoon slot for more ‘adult’ comedy and drama.  If you add to this the extra hour of comedy in the morning, you’re left with much more radio when I can listen to it.

Except that for most of these times I’m in the car!

Of course there’s a solution – PURE Highway In-Car DAB Radio With FM Transmitter – Black – but with mixed reviews, and an already gadget-laden car.  Still, I admire BBC Radio 7 for doing this, and look forward to exploring their new schedules.

Living the firefox life

I spend a huge amount of my life staring at Firefox, the open source web browser.  I use just two add-ins, Foxmarks (now rebranded Xmarks), and Gmal notifier.

My RSS feeds follow me where I am via the bookmarks bar, and restricting my RSS to this line also acts as a form of self-control.  Lifehack has just dropped off the list, but Rob Miles’ blog remains, as does BBC local news and of course The Register.

As I type I have three windows open, this, my plagiarism checking website, and my online calendar.  Firefox just works, and as I now work across four machines (work PC, Big Mac, Macbook, and my new Asus eee), having the same interface across these machines must make me more productive.

But then comes along Microsoft, and for many of its client-server type applications, it’s necessary to use Internet Explorer.  I first came across this years ago when using Outlook Web Access – inline name checking and search functions, as well as ‘push’ new email notification came onlywith the Internet Explorer ‘client’.  So I adapted my working methods, and continued to use FireFox.

But recently, we have started to use Sharepoint.  Sharepoint can do a lot more than simple document management I know, but at the moment that is all that it is being used for within our new Faculty.  I’m sure it’s use will grow.

But most of the functionality of Sharepoint is only available in Internet Explorer.  Fine at work, and on my Windows PC’s, I can use IE when needed to (I also need it to access the university Intranet, through some strange permissions problem which I’ve never got to the bottom of).

But in my (almost) mac-exclusive environment at home, I’m a bit stuck, unless I use the rather inelegant firing up of my parallels virtual machine and run Internet Explorer as a Window.  It’s ‘do-able’, and my 4Gb Big Mac copes with this, but my MacBook is maxed out with 2Gb of memory, it works but it takes a while.

So, should Microsoft make more of an effort to try and make its server software talk better with non-microsoft clients, in this case browsers?  There’s an argument for both views, but I know at the moment I’m feeling disadvantaged.  I’m not anti-microsoft, honest.  I’ve seen two examples in the last week where different people with different levels of IT have looked at new machines, but because they were both running Windows they were able to use them with a level of familiarity which was great to watch.  It’s just a shame that I now have to have two browsers running, maintaining the security and bookmarks of each of them (I tried xmarks across IE and Firefox, and it took me an hour to get my bookmarks back in decent order).

I’ve just had a word with a colleague, who reckons that the IE8 beta is the way to go, so I’ll kick the install of that off as soon as I’ve finished this posting.  Maybe this will persuade me that the hassle of two browsers is worth it, though at the moment I don’t really have a choice for more and more of my work-based documentation.