Thoughts on a home office

One in an occasional series about working from home.


As a part of our move, we acquired an additional 9×12 storage area that we’re converting into a home office. It’s a windowless room that used to be the janitor’s closet. We’ll put in some carpeting this week and add decorative items on the walls to make the place feel brighter and bigger.
I have a couple of ideas on how to get this space connected to our home network upstairs. (WiFi won’t penetrate the walls, but powerline IP may work. Plan B would require a separate cable drop. I need to talk with some network people to see if there are security risks in either scheme.
So, in a few weeks, we should have a nice workspace.

via Incidental Comics

Standing desks are all the rage these days. They’re supposed to help you lose weight and add years to your life. I wonder if this would be an even better solution:

via Vintage Ads

A Clean, Well Lighted Condo

Development teams have used the rather odd expression “eat our own dog food” to describe how they use their own products as they build them. In this case, after writing about LED lighting systems for more than a year, I bring some of my work knowledge home.

Read more at All LED Lighting A Clean, Well Lighted Condo

TuneIn Radio: adding features until it breaks

There was a nifty mobile app that let me find and play radio stations from around the world. Some of the stations are terrestrial stations that stream their broadcasts on the Internet, while others are Internet-only. The app was called TuneIn. The developers released a new version this week and they broke it.
Let me say at the outset that I had no quarrel with TuneIn radio. I’ve been a paying customer for a couple of years, used it on my Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and desktop systems. I have a bunch of stations saved as favorites, mostly world news, but some music, and one very special Goon Show channel. The developers have fixed bugs in the time that I’ve used the app, smoothing out the playback, and making it of the apps that I use several times a day. It might have been nice to allow me the option to reorder my list of favorites, such that I could have my favorite favorites on the top, but that was a minor issue.
Here’s what they did. They redesigned it, as Nicole Lee from Engadget wrote, to be a social network for radio. I can now follow other TuneIn users to find out what they listen to. Through some kind of social magic, I can supposedly find music that is more to my liking, find new stations that are something like the stations I’ve been listening to, only better somehow.
In the words of the Tom Hanks character in Big, I don’t get it. I liked what the app did. The developers thought that I had a problem finding things that I liked. I didn’t.
Along the way, they made it harder for me to do what I used to do: listen to radio stations. Here’s how they broke it.
Here’s a partial view of my favorite stations.

If I tap on Goon Show Radio, I’m brought to s second screen.

Now, I have to tap the Play button to have the station start. Previously, I’d been brought to the player and the station would start playing.

When I tap Play, I’m brought to the player screen. I’m not sure where to go from here. Tapping the checkmark removes this station from my list of favorites. Why that should be prominently featured as an option, I have no idea. Non-intuitively, tapping the X closes this screen and brings me back to the station page.

In other words, an extra step has been added each time I want to when I use the app, to listen to a radio station. 
There’s a whole bunch of other stuff, including solicitations to connect to my Twitter, Facebook, and Google accounts. I’ve done none of that. I didn’t have a problem for which connections to my social media accounts is a solution. 

Zawinski’s Law told us in the 90s that every program expands until it can read mail. The twenty-teen version of the law says that every app must become social and die trying.

Addendum
I installed the new TuneIn on my iPad to see what a fresh installation looks like when compared to the upgrade. I forgot my password and so clicked on the Forgot Password link. That was five hours ago. If I try again, I’m told that a reset request is already underway.

Those who forget history are doomed to be mocked

TechCrunch has a review of new app for doctors. The app, characterized as “Instagram for Doctors”  is called Figure 1.
The original, and many would regard as definitive, Figure 1 was written by Stan Rabinowitz at DEC. Here’s link to the uncredited version of the Software Problem Report (SPR).
We’ll the patients decide if the irony of the new app’s name is intended or not.

Categories DEC

The kind of support we’ve come to expect from HP, with Heartbleed bonus points

So, I’m trying to scan a couple of photos to my Mac. My HP 8600 provides a webpage that shows me the features on my multifunction printer/scanner/fax.

When I click on Start Scan, I’m brought to this page with this message

You cannot use this function because it has been disabled. For more information, contact your network administrator or the person who set up the printer.

The ever-helpful user guide offers this guidance:

If you are unable to open Webscan in the EWS, it might be turned off by
your network administrator. For more information, contact your network
administrator or the person who set up your network.

Nowhere in the manual does it tell the afflicted network administrator of this home-office setup what said administrator should do to remedy this situation.
Bonus
After a bit of searching via Google, I learned that the network administrator must go to the Administrator settings page and enable Webscan.
Double-Bonus
To get to the Administrator settings, you must open a secure page that is not secure. They even tell you that this will happen.

If you click on OK and if you’ve turned on certificate checking, as you should, you’ll see this message:

Using the Google Chrome browser, if you use https everywhere, as you should, you’ll get this message:

This site's security certificate is not trusted!

This is not quite reassuring in the days after Heartbleed. HP has issued a bulletin regarding Heartbleed’s effects on some of its printer products, but nothing yet about the HP 8600.

The kind of support we’ve come to expect from Microsoft

So, as a part of an upcoming project, I go looking for information about supported version of Internet Explorer. I find the Microsoft Product Lifecycle Search page. Aside from a few products, mostly IE on the Mac, that have been discontinued, we are presented with this gem:

Releases known as Components follow the Support Lifecycle of their parent Major Product.

Much hunting later, I learn that IE8, although not the latest version, will be supported along with the rest of Windows 7, until 2020.
The same search tool shows that mainstream support for Vista and its components ended on two years ago (4/10/2012). Extended support will keep it around for another few years. This means no new features, but bug fixes will show up on patch Tuesdays for a while more.

If I was starting a blog now, what would I write about?

I started this blog 10 years ago today.  It was, more or less, a chronicle of my time after my job at IBM went away. It included my search for next jobs, notes from an illness, and large heaps of randomness about life, weather, work, friendship, and technology.
The closing bracket to that part of my life happened last week when we put our house up for sale. We’ve lived in this house for 32 years and will be moving to a condo a couple miles away in the center of town. I’ll be posting various notes about the move as the days and weeks go on.
Many people and cultures are able to use date-based milestones for important purposes. When Catholic families gather for a memorial Mass, it reaffirms their connections with the loved one and with each other. This week, we have Passover and Easter. Although the dates are determined by a combination of calculus and astronomy, the effect is the same – unity with people over time.
This milestone isn’t that. This is just a date 10 years later. We get what we need in the way that we need it.
So, if I was to start a new blog, what would it be? Well, for starters, it’s really difficult to think about just one blog. In 2004, Blogger was the major service for creating and disseminating blogs. There were other services and tools, some of which we explored in the late 90s. Now, though, it’s the city of Babel. In addition to writing occasionally here, I post stuff on Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, a bit on Medium, a Learning and Technology blog via MailChimp, and, of course, Facebook. I also blog professionally, mostly at All LED Lighting, where my friend, Keith Dawson, is editor-in-chief.
Where I write has a large influence in what and how I write. The audiences are different and the kinds of engagement are quite different. Ten or even five years ago, it worked well to integrate personal, technical, and political content into a single blog.

My summertime project is to figure this out. Not only am I trying to decide about what to write where, but, implicitly trying to set a course for this next chapter of life. Most big personal projects, like date-based milestones, turn out to be less insightful than we’d wish. Our most memorable inflection points result from showing up and paying attention.
This morning I read a blog post about project management tools. The key message for me is that the true measure of any decision-making process is how well it helps you stop doing the wrong thing. If we continue to experiment with work and life, we’ll find a few great and a lot of bad ideas. Simple, eh?