Thursday, August 21, 2014

On natural lighting

Short post this - I just wanted to share something that I've noticed over the past three months that gets very little attention in the office workspace press, which is currently obsessing over whether to sit or stand whilst at work.

Natural light.

I've started getting in to the office earlier, and I have an east-facing window next to my desk. When I get in to the office, the first thing I used to do was turn on the lights. Now I don't and I sit at my desk for at least an hour with just the natural daylight coming in. And I can't tell you how jarring it is when someone from the 'west-side' (i.e. dark in the morning) comes in and turns the lights on.

Daylight is far easier on the eyes, and more relaxing and comfortable than standard office strip lights - and it's surprising how dark it can be outside whilst continuing to work. Give it a try.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Joining the Tour

YunoJuno is a very bicycle-friendly company. All three co-founders cycle to work, we've done London-Brighton and Oxford-Henley-via-the-Chilterns, and we're avid followers of Le Tour.

So much so, in fact, that this time last year Shib (our CEO) announced that in 2014 he was going to head to Paris for the final stage. Fast forward twelve months, and we've moved the office over to Paris for the week in order to make this happen. Airbnb sorted us out with a great apartment in the 7th, complete with discordant jazz clarinet coming from the neighbouring flat.

On the morning before the final we took to the VĂ©lib' (the original city bike share) and cycled much of the final lap - including the full length of the Champs Elysee (up and down) and a circuit around the Arc de Triomphe.

Since we had to do a fair bit of research to work out where to watch, I thought I'd share our experience...

First thing is when to arrive. The timetable for the stage (available online) is pretty accurate, and the first 'event' is the arrival of the 'caravan' - basically a bunch of honking, hooting, carnival floats that precede the peloton by a couple of hours. We figured we should get to our spot at about the same time they did (so anticipating a two hour wait for the action). This is about right - we found a spot on the river, within the lap (so we got to see the peloton eight times), and the crowds were pretty thin at this time.

Barely-there crowds a hour before the action
Shib wanted to be close to the action, so he took the river side of the road, whilst I stayed on top in the Tuileries gardens, with a view down on to the road.

And then we waited. And I fell asleep. And then it all kicked off.

We had a fantastic view - I've posted some of my pics on Flickr, and Shib has some spectacular roadside action shots - we had about £4k worth of camera equipment between us, and of course the best shots came from an iPhone.

The Yellow Jersey on his way to victory
And then it all ended. Being a little way from the end we weren't entirely sure it had happened - you lose count of the laps, and then suddenly you realise they're not coming round again. The medal ceremony is short and snappy, and an hour later the whole thing's disappeared. And throughout it all the crowds really never became a problem - someone came and stood by me and had a perfect view and he only turned up halfway through the race.

Altogether it's a great experience - definitely to be repeated.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The current state of TV

A couple of weeks ago I decided I needed to get up to speed with GoT, and set about watching series 1-3, so that I could catch up to the latest series as it played out live.

This was my experience.
  1. Sign up to NowTV, Sky's pay-as-you-go monthly streaming service, in order to access the old series.
  2. Watch half of series 1 using Chromecast from Android app - it's a great experience.
  3. Enjoy it so much I fork out for a NowTV box, so I don't even need to cast. Brilliant. This is future.
  4. Sky's licensing window with HBO expires - all episodes disappear from Sky. I am bereft.
  5. Cannot find old GoT on any other streaming service in the UK.
  6. Purchase US VPN to access HBO-Go.
  7. Discover that in the US, you have to sign up via your "TV Provider" - as I live in the UK, my "TV provider" is a metal stick on my roof. It doesn't support oauth.
  8. Send an SOS out on Twitter for solutions. Nothing comes back.
  9. Give in, and download series 2 via BitTorrent. I've already spent about £40 just to watch 6 episodes of first series, so figure I'm owed something.
  10. Wait about four days for torrent to download.
  11. Watch downloads using Videostream chrome app and Chromecast - it too is brilliant, but feel guilty about my crime.
  12. Guilt takes control, eventually finding series 3 available on Blinkbox, from Tesco. This is ironic, given that I spent two years building Tesco's first streaming service, before it was folded into Blinkbox.
  13. Buy series 3.
  14. Find out that BlinkBox's Android app doesn't support casting, so have to watch from laptop. There's a terrible lag casting from a Silverlight app running in chrome, so I switch to mirroring via AppleTV. The Silverlight app threatens to melt my laptop.
So far, I've watched (most of) three series of GoT, and along the way:
  • I've subscribed to two new services (NowTV and VPN).
  • I've bought one new set-top box (NowTV).
  • I've used a further two set-top boxes (Chromecast and AppleTV).
  • I've used two separate device (laptop and tablet)
  • I've downloaded two new apps (NowTV, Blinkbox, Videocast)
  • I've used two further apps (TunnelBlick, uTorrent)
  • I've broken various Terms of Service agreements
  • I may even have broken the law?
This the current state of TV.

It's a clusterf*ck.


Despite my best efforts, I wasn't fast enough - so although I have now finished series three, and series four is available via my NowTV subscription - the first three episodes have already expired. And because the series is still in progress, it's not available for streaming anywhere else.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

How did we end up with this?

I, along with several million other people, got caught up in both the LinkedIn and Adobe account hacks, and I've had "stop using 'password' as my password for every online account" in my to-do list for at least a year.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to do something about it. I activated two-factor auth on every account that supported it, clicked the 'generate temporary password for devices' link on Twitter, and then hit the nuclear button by downloading LastPass and beginning to upgrade my passwords (I don't really use 'password' as my password - I also use 'P@ssword', 'Passw0rd!' and 'pa55w0rd' - I'm always thinking, see).

It was a PITA changing old passwords, but I just about got around to changing the important things (accounts attached to credit cards, and core identity providers) when my new phone arrived (Moto-G, which is fantastic, btw, although I am comparing it to a 2.5 yr old HTC).

What a clusterf*k. Activating two-factor auth and various device checks means that I am constantly being asked to re-enter passwords, only this time I have no idea what those passwords are, as I've changed them from the ones I know to the brilliantly uncrackable long, complex, passwords generated by LastPass.

On the plus side I've discovered that Google Keep is a very efficient way of copying complicated passwords in plain text between devices. On the downside, lots of apps don't support 'Paste' on Android, so I have to write them down instead (hence a pocketful of Post-It notes). I think I'm now technically less secure, as I'm far more prone to social engineering hacks that I was before.

I really hope that those who hold our secrets (no, not the NSA) are working on solutions to the secure login conundrum, because no one outside of the tech industries would use a computer if it was as complicated as the situation I find myself in.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Marketing reality distortion - a case study.

It's a slow day at work (warming up for the Christmas party), so I thought I'd blog about Accenture instead. Actually, this is a rant about marketing departments, not Accenture per se, they just happen to have riled me this morning.

A friend of mine works at Accenture, and this morning retweeted an image from their current recruitment marketing campaign. It's a great pic (see below), and contains a very clear message. They're looking for Big Thinkers, the ambitious, those who aspire to a Better Future. The message itself is literally spelled out, "Future > Present", and visually it taps into something many men (possibly a tad too gender specific, but maybe I'm being over-sensitive) will immediately understand: I want to be an astronaut. That's my dream.

It's a seductive message - and for anyone remotely ambitious just starting out (it's aimed at people just starting their working lives) it makes Accenture look like somewhere you'd like to work. Maybe not quite as cool as Google (who do genuinely have a "Moonshot" division), but a good option nonetheless. So you click through.

And that's when the wheels come off. Apparently the recruitment budget was spent, in its entirety, on the campaign. Having nothing left they got the guy in Accounts' brother to knock up the campaign microsite. He's jazzed it up with a carousel of incredibly happy people in grey suits (and ties - really, who wears a tie these days) - but I'm pretty sure none of them are Felix Baumgartner or Commander Hadfield.

Pretty much everything on this page (font, use of white space, formatting, images) is bad. I imagine it's just the default Sharepoint "Add new microsite" template, but that's not really the point. This page, which is where things get real, also has a very clear message: we're accountants, or possibly management consultants, but either way you're going to spending a lot of your time in front of a spreadsheet, and it's not memorising launch code sequences. In addition, we really don't give a sh*t about design, the process of creation, attention to detail, refinement or finesse. We're robots. With spreadsheets. And sometimes we hand out awards to other spreadsheet-toting robots.

In reality I've known lots of people who've passed through the Accenture machine, and they're not all number-crunching automatons - they're generally intelligent, hard-working, interesting people, with a lot to say, on a lot of subjects.

This is a masterclass of old-school marketing-reality distortion, and rather than making Accenture an attractive place to work, it makes them look desperate ("we couldn't think what to do, so we just made it up"). There are lots of good reasons to work at Accenture - wanting to be an astronaut isn't one of them.