At heart I am a pioneer. Now admittedly I haven’t actually pioneered anything you have probably heard of but I am always starting a new project or setting out on a new idea. I just can’t help it. What you have to understand about pioneers is that we’re not trying to get away from a bad past or even necessarily unsatisfied with the present. It’s just we always feel the future can be better if we’re prepared to explore it.
I am hoping that Scotland will vote for independence this week. Not because I understand the economic arguments, in fact I have no idea if in the short term independence is economically good for Scotland or the rest of the UK.
It’s also not because I am trying to get rid of Scotland from the UK. I love Scotland and enjoy the rivalry the Scots and the English have as one union yet two nations. No, I want Scotland to vote for independence because it will force a political and governmental shake up of the UK that we so desperately need.
That might seem a little selfish hoping Scotland vote yes so that the rest of the UK gets to change. However I do genuinely feel that with independence Scotland will itself have a huge opportunity to forge out a new modern nation free of the baggage of hundreds of years of entrenched politics.
The NO campaign has become desperate over the last few days and started making any offer it thinks it needs to get a no vote. These offers do mean the UK will never be the same again regardless of which way Scotland votes. The trouble is the people making these offers have no way of ensuring these measures will ever actually get implemented. In reality any attempt to implement these rushed out ideas will just get completely bogged down in arguments over what they actually mean and our currently ineffective governmental system creating years of bitterness and arguments.
A yes vote gives us no choice but to examine every aspect of UK life including national government, local government, pensions, taxes, energy , defence and the NHS. The process of independence for Scotland will provide both Scotland and the rest of the UK an opportunity for change, that in my opinion, is more important than any short term ramifications independence might bring to either side.
As I sat down with around ten other people last Tuesday to watch the Apple announcement I had every intention of ordering an iPhone 6 as soon as they were available for pre-order almost no matter what was said at the event. I usually take every other iPhone ,(I currently have an iPhone 5 that was ordered as soon as pre-orders opened back in September 2012) so I had just accepted it was time to plunge my hand deep into my wallet and shell out what really is an enormous amount of money for a phone.
After watching the iPhone 6 announcement my expectations hadn’t changed. As far as I was concerned the 6 looked like a pretty good phone and come Friday Apple would once again be filling it’s coffers with my money.
When Friday arrived however, I found myself unable to press the button. I wanted to. In fact I really wanted to, but I just couldn’t.
I was stuck. I couldn’t decide which one to buy.
For every iPhone release to date the only real choice was colour. After that you simply bought the most storage you could afford. Now with the 6 and the 6 plus you have two similar, yet different devices. I just couldn’t decide which would work best for me.
In theory the 6 is probably the right choice as it will fit into my pocket easier. However I couldn’t throw off the thought that if somehow I could work out a good way to carry the 6 plus, it might actually be big enough that I would no longer need a tablet device as well. I only really use a tablet for email, web browsing and reading. If the 6 plus is big enough to comfortably read on then I won’t need a tablet. And if I don’t need a tablet I can afford to buy the biggest 128GB iPhone 6 plus.
My plan is now to wait until the devices are actually in store. I hope when I can actually hold one in my hand I will be able to decide what will work best for me.
I do find it interesting that by giving me choice Apple have actually made the iPhone 6 harder for me to buy. I am sure this dilemma won’t actually effect their sales one little bit, but you do have to ask, for companies who don’t have the pulling power of Apple does offering choice actually hurt their sales?
Back in May I spent a weekend in the woods of Surrey with a few friends on a Wild Retreat. I have been meaning to write a post on it ever since but just have not had time. Anyway I still don’t really have the time to write a long post so here are a few words with some photos to bulk it out.
The idea of a wild retreat is to allow you to spend a weekend living very simply in the woods without modern conveniences or luxuries. It’s not a survival weekend. You don’t hunt your food or track wild animals you simply spend time relaxing, cooking over the fire, partaking in a few activities and allowing yourself to live life at a far slower pace than usual.
We arrived at the site late Friday afternoon. We left the cars near the road and set off on a short 10 minute walk into the woods with all our stuff for the weekend. The area where we were to be based was all set up for us and looked far more comfortable than any of us were expecting.
When we arrived at the site we had about 2 hours of light left so got straight down to sorting out the sleeping arrangements. We each had a choice of a hammock and tarp or to have a tent. We all chose the hammock option and were shown the four knots we would need to make the whole thing work then sent into the woods to find a sleeping place.
I found a area I really liked and got my hammock set up without to much fuss only to realise that the trees I had chosen were actually a little to close together to stretch the tarp to its fullest. However rather than take it all down I improvised a little and turned the end of the tarp into a wind break for one end of my sleeping area.
Once we had all got our sleeping arrangements sorted we gathered around the fire while the evening meal was cooked.
The first night in the hammock was pretty cold and I ended up putting on every item of clothing I had taken with me but the hammock was actually very comfortable. There was some pretty loud snoring going on in those woods which would have frightened off any wildlife foolish enough to wander into the area. We also found we were within earshot of a monastery where the monks had decided they should each ring the monastery bell as they went to pray at 3am.
One of the key things with living in the woods is to make sure you always have fire. Starting a fire can be quite hard work and it’s far easier to make sure the fire you have does not go out rather than having to start again. This means regular trips away from the site to find fire wood and making sure the wood pile stays stocked.
Once wood had been collected it was time to boil the kettle. At home that means flipping the switch. In the woods that meant getting some dry kindling and using a stick from the fire to light the fire in the bottom on of a kelly kettle. All sounds easy but there was a bit of a knack to it and many an hour was spent over the weekend trying to master it.
With the kettle on it was time for breakfast, getting all the stuff from the the make shift kitchen.
we cooked eggs and toast on the fire
before sitting round the table for a very leisurely breakfast.
With breakfast out of the way we spent some time just chilling out before undertaking the first activity of the day. Over the weekend there were several activities and basically you just chose which ever one you wanted during each activity session. For my first session I chose archery.
After a couple of hours of shooting arrows it was back to the camp area for slow paced lunch and then into activity session two where I tried some geocaching. There were quite a few geocaches near our site and we spent quite a few hours out and about around the countryside. It just so happened that we also passed a few pubs on route and felt it would be very rude to walk by without frequenting them.
At the end of the afternoon we all found our way back to camp and just spent time hanging out.
before cooking a sausage stew supper over the fire. With supper out the way a few hours were spent telling stories of our day and how manly each of us had been before we retired to our hammocks shattered from spending a day outside instead of in the office.
Far more sleep was had with the second night in the hammock as I started by putting all my clothes on to keep warm and used ear plugs to protect myself from the monks and the snoring.
Sunday started by once again lighting the kettles and then partaking of a light breakfast
before spending the morning doing some bush craft. Basically we used knives to make mallets and pegs.
We also learnt how to make fire when no matches or lighter were available.
At the end of the morning we ate lunch together before breaking down camp and heading back to the cars for the three hour drive home. Every one of us was in agreement that the weekend had been a great experience and a fun time. We had all enjoyed taking life at a slower pace, learning to do new things and getting to know each other better.
On returning home into the loving arms of our wives the first question was “but what about toilets?”. Well that was easy as it’s not particularly difficult to find a tree when you are in the woods. However in the interest of camp hygiene the Wild Retreat team had built a new composting toilet of which I have the honour of being able to claim to be the very first person to use it.
The strange thing about a composting toilet is you cannot pee in it. It must not get to wet or it won’t compost. It became a bit of a joke that the only place in the camp you were not allowed to pee was in the toilet.
Ok so the first thing I did on day 2 with the stand up desk was rebuild it. At my seated desk I have always had my monitor off to one side. I now realize that I also always sit at my desk at an angle so I am actually looking straight at the monitor and thus avoid neck strain.
Yesterday I found I was standing at my desk at an angle in order to look directly at the monitor. This actually worked pretty well and wouldn’t be a problem other than when I introuduce a treadmill to the set up standing at an angle will become difficult if not downright dangerous. So I have moved a few things around to get the monitor in front of me. I have also introduced a set of drawers for storage at a height they are easily usable while standing.
The introuduction of the draws has also meant I can now move my laptop back into view. For my standard set up I place my work onto the 30” monitor and use the laptop screen for email, Twitter, Basecamp etc.
For my second day at the desk I have stood for about 7.5 hours. My legs ache a little and I find I am most comfortable if I keep moving my legs. This is a good sign that potentially using a treadmill may actually be more comfortable then just standing.
I still mainly work using a 2008 unibody aluminium 13” Macbook. It’s getting a bit old but it has the 2.4GHz processor, 8GB of RAM and on the whole still works really well for what I do most of the time. About a year ago I replaced the 250GB HD in it for a 256GB SSD from Crucial. This improved the machines performance and convinced me my little baby still had plenty of life left in it.
The main problem with a 256GB SSD is that it is only 256GB. For the last 9 months I have also been using a 2.5” external HD to store all non essential stuff as the main SSD is rather full. Carrying an external drive with you is never great and I have been meaning to do something about this for a while but never got around to it.
Last week the Superdrive in my wifes Macbook failed. After getting some rediculous quote from the Apple store to replace it I decided that I very rarely use the superdrive in my Macbook and it might be a good idea to take it out , put it in my wifes machine and put a second HD into mine.
So I ordered a Seagate 750GB 2.5 inch SATA-II Momentus Hard Drive - 7200RPM 16MB Cache - ST9750420AS and an HDCaddy to hold it in the superdrive bay.
Fitting the whole thing was pretty easy and I could have probably worked it all out myself but it’s always better to get advice from someone who has done it before so I followed a YouTube video called Macbook 13” Unibody Disassembly Repair - Superdrive CD Drive Removal from [Powerbook Medic](http://www.powerbookmedic.com/ “Link to Powerbook Medic)
So now my 4 year old MacBook has 1TB of internal storage and is running fine. I will probably repleace it in the next year but I am waiting to see what Apple does with the next round of MacBook Pros. Internal storage is important to me. The last 9 months using an external drive has been a real pain so if the next incarnation of the MacBook Pros end up moving to just SSD I might find myself bying a current generation 15” model in order to keep my storage inside the machine.
Over the last few months many of my peers in the Mac & iOS developer community have been trying to overcome some of the health issues they have to face by sitting at a desk all day by experimenting with stand up desks and treadmill desks. After a little reserch I have decided to join the experiment.
I think I would like to ultmimatley be using a treadmill desk as that will also help me with weight loss as well as general health and well being. However treadmill desks are not cheap (£3000+) and even building one yourself is a reasonable financial commitment. In order to make sure I dont waste my money I am going to start by trying to stand up to work and see how I get on. In order to do this I need a standing desk. Standing desks can be bought for around £400-£600. Again rather than just chuck money at something I might only stick at for a week I decided today to build a temporary standing desk and see how I do.
For the first fews weeks I am determined to use a standing desk that I have knocked together out of stuff I already have rather than going out and spending money. It is however important that the result is not compromised as that might not allow me to have a proper standing desk experience and therfore invalidate the experiment. As far as I can tell the most important (and maybe the only real) requirement of a standing desk is that it must be the right height to be comfortable. The suggested start place it to have a desk at about elbow height. It is also recomended that you have a place you can sit down to work when standing becomes to much. Proper standing desks have a motor that raises and lowers the desk to allow this. I currently have an L shaped desk and intend to develop one part as a standing desk and the other as a sitting desk to fullfill this requirement.
After an hour of scraping around the office for a few things and trying them out the desk has been built.
The main item used to raise the height of the desk is a small Ikea coffee table that was in the company meeting room. When placed on the exsiting desk it has brought the height up to exactly elbow height. The coffee table alone isn’t big enough as a desk so I needed to find something else to put my main monitor on. The monitor is a 30” Apple cinema display and quite heavy so it needs to go on something reasonably robust. In the end after serveral attempts I managed to create the perfect height stand using a cardboard box (filled with old books for strength) with a small flight case on top. (The flight case contains bits and bobs we use for NSConference so is not in constrant use).
My laptop and the connecting cables, power supply etc all sit under the coffee table. My paper junk has all been piled up (until I sort it) to the left of the coffee table. The area on the right of the L shape desk has been left clear to sit at when I get tired of standing. When I sit I will just use my laptop screen rather then the cinema display as returning to a bigger monitor will be part of the incentive to stand again.
I have now been working at the standing desk for about 4 hours. My legs ache a little and I feel physically more tired than I would normally do. Interestingly however, mentally I feel better than I normall would at 4:30 in the afternoon. Four hours is by no means enough time to come to any conclusions however I am happy that I have found my first half day less painful and probelmatic than I was expecting.