Friday, December 27, 2013

And relax

We've had a lovely Christmas, and I hope you all have too (or if you're not celebrating Christmas, I hope you've had a lovely week!)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Windows Hate

I'm undoubtedly late to this party after being steered clear of Windows 8 by ... well, pretty much every single person I've spoken to who has had the pleasure of using it. However, now I've moved close to my brother we've decided to set up some backup hardware (rsyncing between houses) and for some reason that's still opaque to me he's decided to set up Windows 8 on the microserver that's intended to be his disaster recovery machine.

Oh my days, what a terrible piece of software windows 8 is. Metro is effectively useless, and realising this they've obviously decided to remove every useful piece of the desktop mode to force you back to metro. I'm incredibly lucky to have multiple machines in this house - if the Windows 8 machine was the only one I'll be damned if I could find out how to launch a browser, just so I could google "how the hell do I do anything on this piece of crap operating system".

I'm intending to control it via RDC, which we managed to set up on my mac a few days ago. The mac part of that process was "download and install the app". The windows part of the process appeared to be "expect things to work - oh no, of course not, reboot the machine - yes - no, yes, no, well, maybe, just plug a monitor in, right, great, and now a keyboard, fantastic ok NOW you can remote control me". Utterly defeating the point. After a bit more random configuration, we got the remote desktop working.

Except, of course, the default power settings while the PC is plugged in are "go to damn sleep". Where do I change that setting? Easy!
Boot the machine.
Now log in to Metro.
Find the settings icon.
Open up Control Panel (this kicks the machine into Desktop mode, obviously)
Navigate the control panel to "power settings".
click a button which effectively translates to "show me the damn buttons"
click "managed"
click "show me the damn buttons"
navigate the tree to "hibernate"
click "show me the damn buttons"
enter a setting of "zero minutes" into the box
voila, you've now stopped the machine from going to sleep. simples! The fact this took me 10 minutes of digging around (and I usually know what I'm doing) just boggles my mind.

The whole experience is an abomination. Nothing makes any sense. I don't want to interact with a designed-for-touch UI on a desktop machine. Even the guys at the office who have touch monitors don't want to use Metro. The desktop, they have managed to remove the single thing that makes windows 7 so quick to use - the start button. I've been using OSX for the last couple of years, and that has plenty of niggles but I can use it at least. Whatever ships with recent Ubuntu - that's usable. Windows 7 - that's usable. Windows 8 - I have no goddamn clue. It appears that if I want to do anything more complex than launch a browser or look at whatever stupid feeds have been set up for me, I have to learn some crazy arcana just to be able to invoke my programs.

The menu bars are hidden unless I poke at some specific screen corner (which is obviously great fun while trying to find that feature over a remote desktop where the desktop is in a window and the mouse isn't clamped to the display). When you try and alter settings, you're presented with reams of flat text on flat colours - there's absolutely no affordance as to what is a clickable element, what is informational - it's just idiotic.

Thank god I moved over to the Apple ecosystem. There, I said it. I feel like stabbing myself in the eyes but with tens of billions invested in R&D and tens of thousands of purportedly very smart engineers, Microsoft have managed to make an operating system I can't operate. Well done all!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Recognition smiles

Three months old in a few days, and we're starting to get regular smiles and gurgle-chuckles. It's awesome. There's something fantastically connective about a recognition smile - putting my face in front of his face and seeing him beam. Love it.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A year in the life of

Today would be Elijah's first birthday. It's a beautiful day outside, so we're taking Gabe and our new arrival, Isaac, out for lunch at one of our favourite places, the Devil's Dyke pub up on the south downs. This is a pretty strange day - we're certainly not celebrating, but we are remembering.

We're both incredibly happy to have Isaac out and healthy and with us. He was born four weeks early (a week earlier than the planned c-section) and he is still tiny, but he's alive, breathing and putting on weight. He's got a touch of jaundice and we're back and forth with hospital visits. Of course, the NHS being the service it is, we can't go to the hospital up the road (the one we moved house to be beside) - oh no. We have to go back to the place where Eli was born and died. They want us to go in today. That's not going to happen.

Reading up on jaundice, it looks like the most likely candidate is breast milk jaundice. We've pretty much ruled out hemolytic problems, any kind of infection, liver disfunction and lack of milk supply. One thing that's never been mentioned to us is to stop breast feeding for a couple of days and try formula instead, to see if the bilirubin levels drop. Given the breastfeeding nazi-ism that is prevalent in every bit of research I've read, I can understand why, but it's pretty ridiculous anyway, so we're going to switch to formula for a day and see whether Isaac's colour changes. Nic will be continuing to express so the milk will be there to go back to in a couple of days.

I hope we can get through the next two days without anything catastrophic happening - here's hoping. It would be lovely to get back to some kind of normal life. Gabe and Isaac deserve that more than anything else.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's day

To my kids - all three - I love you all. Eli, I miss you. Nemo, I'm looking forward to meeting you. Gabe, my little man, I will dance with you whenever you ask ;)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Agro forestry

Gabe, my firstborn, is nearly 3 and a half years old.

He started playing Minecraft (Pocket Edition) about two months ago.

He is now competent enough at interacting with the game that he can place mud and stone (with guidance, in a local multiplayer game) such that he can create a level ground. He knows how to mine (using a pickaxe). He knows how to shovel dirt (with a shovel). He knows how to chop down trees (utilising an axe).

He knows how to construct these tools. He's beginning to understand the resource chain. He is starting to apply his limited arithmetic knowledge to resource management. He's recently learned how to plant saplings and how to smelt ores.

He knows what iron and coal look like in the ground.

In short, he's becoming a competent player of what some would say is the best existing sandbox simulation of forestry, animal husbandry and crafted tool use.

I have no idea whether this is normal for a kid of his age, but it totally floors me that he's capable of doing things like making his own set of shears and hunting down a sheep to fleece. Today, he demanded that I help him find some iron ore, which he then took, smelted into ingots and made himself a pair of boots and a shiny helmet. He was very proud of his new helmet, and I was very proud of him.

He's still scared silly of zombies and creepers, and while he brandishes a sword his KDR is pretty abysmal. Still, he's trying.

When I was a child (and a young adult), a game like Minecraft would have been absolutely mindblowing. Sure, I played plenty of gather-buy-trade-craft games in my youth, but I'm pretty sure at 3 years old I was just about coming to terms with Legos, let alone figuring out sustainable resource production techniques. He doesn't know it yet but he's learning some fundamental lessons about how the world works, and what's more he loves it. The first thing he says when I see him in the evening is "Daddy, can we play Minecraft now?"

One thing that really scares me (more than my child becoming a video game addict, natch) is the sheer velocity imposed by the game rules upon every interaction chain. Day and night cycles roll around every 15 minutes or so. Trees grow in under an hour. Sheep spawn as lambs and become full size within a few cycles. Pickaxes wear out with a few minutes of use. The real world has a much longer sustainability loop (and no respawns). I wonder if the expectation of quick gratification will have a tangible impact on his temperament and boredom threshold.

If you have kids, and they play games - what's your rule for imposing time constraints on play? Have you seen an impact on real world interactions, for better or worse? Do you believe, as I do, that there's value to be had in kids being exposed to these kind of interactions?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Opportunity cost

Sup. I've not written anything here since last year. I intended to put up at least a post a week, but then Eli happened and our lives got flip turned upside down.

I'd love to say we're "getting over it" or "moving past it" or "getting back to normal". All of these are things that people have told me, in happy tones, have been evident in my demeanor in the last six months. Truth is, life ain't like that. We're carrying on with life, trying to make sure Gabe is happy and healthy. We've become experts at not talking about the most important thing in our life. On that note, this is the last I'll talk about it, at least for a while - evidence suggests no-one wants to hear a sad story.

I originally set up this blog with the intent of mixing my work and my personal life, which seems idiotic in retrospect, especially after setting up Boss Alien and trying to learn how to run a business - it's rare these two things mix. I've been wanting to put up some content for a while now, but it's been hard to write around what's been happening to us - think of this as a stake in the ground where I declare my commitment to putting on a textual mask and trying to ignore everything I can't talk about and describe things that I can.

So, what else is new? Weather's nice. We moved out of Brighton for some head space, and it's been revelatory, not just in helping us find ourselves but also in informing us of what we want out of life - where we want to be, where we want to live. I thought I'd miss Brighton more than I do. I thought I'd be more bothered by the commute, but some days I even enjoy it.

Deciding where to live isn't a trivial process. Though I've moved over 30 times in my life, moving house and contemplating buying a house are not one and the same. It's become obvious to us that making decisions that rely on unspoken assumptions on how your life will play out become much more complex when you make those assumptions explicit, open for question and debate. If this happens, are you sure you want to be living here? What about if that happens? When, not if?

We will hopefully have a new addition to our family in a couple of months. I'm trying to move from scared witless to excited, and as the day gets closer it's becoming more real to me. Fingers crossed we get to raise this one. I have a habit of keeping something wooden close at all times now, so I can touch it. I don't hold much truck with religion, but damned if I haven't become back yard superstitious when the chips are down.

I wanted at least some of the content of this blog to be relevant to my family in the later years, so here's a little gem just for you, my family - I love you with all my heart. Start with the important stuff, that's what I say.