Working successfully from home

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We all dream of working from home. Well, maybe not everyone but I like to think most people do. What’s not appealing about starting your day at 10:00am in your pjs @ your home desk, taking a walk when you feel like it,  firing up the Xbox to kill a few zombies around 2:30pm, catching up on Dexter at 6:12pm and so on. Yes, I know. It sounds like vacation right? Nooootttttttt!

Working from home effectively can be very difficult if you don’t have a good amount of self discipline. It took me about 1-2 weeks to get it right and I assume it will vary for others. We all have our temptations and some people have more self control and discipline than others.  Here are a few things that should help you get started with your journey to an effective home office.

Know your value vs time

Unless you are a millionaire or expect a rain fall of cash from your parent, working from home needs to translate into revenue or something of value. Figure out what that value is so you know what you are loosing when you are not really working. An easier way to figure out the  monetary value of your time is to ask yourself what you are worth in the corporate world. If your rate is $48/ h, then that’s your value per hour. Anytime you find yourself doing something not considered work, remind yourself you are loosing that value which should give you the motivation you need to get back on track.

Get in a daily routine

Having a  productivity routine increases your disciplinary bar.  Productive routines are different for everyone so you will need to discover yours. Figure our what time slots within a day you are most productive and make sure your routine has you working during those slots.  Make sure you also get the rest your body needs to be fully productive when you are awake. Lets sprinkle a “couple” of short rewarding time slots that takes your mind of work but keeps you in a “go-to” productive  mode like brewing coffee in the morning, reading the new papers or your favorite blogs, checking your email/mailbox, taking a short walk/30 min workout etc. Put all these time slots together to form your routine and stick with it. You will be amazed how well having a routine works.

Dress the part

Working in your pj’s is fun but it also sets your mental mode to relaxed, which is not what you want when you are working. Yes, you want to be comfortable but you also don’t want to be too relaxed to the point of wanting to take a 2-3 hrs nap or sitting on the couch with your favorite bag of chips. In the name of productive routine, dress the part. Dress like you are going to work and your mind will stay in that mode till you are ready to mentally go home. That will help separate your work persona from your home persona and increase your productivity.

Inform potential external forces about your work routine

Having a productive routine is not enough if you have external forces try to blow it away. Identify those external forces and let them know of your routine so they don’t distract you. If you have kids, try to communicate that you need to get work done so you can have time to play with them when you don’t have to work. If you have friends that tend to call on you during your productive time slots to go hang out, let them know about your routine so they don’t distract you.

With the above steps and some luck, you should be able to work successfully from home and over come the urge to slack off. I’m also a member of a co-working space so when I want to work away from home, I have somewhere to go. That allows me to fulfill my office mate requirement. You don’t need it to successfully work from home but I find it very effective to connect with peers of the same mindset.

Credit: Featured  image by Shogo at Odosketch.com.

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We Have Lift Off! part 2

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Per part 1, I have still be working at EBC 2 days/week till…today. I’m excited to say today is my last and finally day at my corporate job. It is a happy and sad day for me.  Happy because its the day I’m being unleashed into the make-it-or-break-it world to see what I’m really made of and sad, because I wont be seeing the great many peers at EBC on a  daily bases anymore.  Thanks again, to all those who made this possible. See you on Monday @ my home office.

Evolution of how we consume music

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I’m a very big fun of music and when I say big, I’m not talking about having background music when drinking at the bar or listening to music in the car when you have nothing else to do but enjoy rows and rows of corn fields whisking by. I’m talking about have an intimate quality session with your music setup, soaking in a good hour or so of music. For people like me, discovering new artist/sounds is of great delight and it’s amazing how that discovery has evolved as the years go by.

Rewind to 1999, zoom in on the young me, and you will see me spending hours download musics from Napster, Kaza and the likes until these sources where place in shackles by the media piracy laws.  Then came the Ipod and Itunes which helped us discover and buy music for a reasonable price. That made a big impact on how people consumed music as they could just buy what they wanted while browsing a sea of music collection. I never owned an Ipod but did enjoy its huge collection of artists/music through Jennie’s account. I believe the rise of internet radios such as pandora, lastfm etc is what expanded my collection of artists and music alike. The discovery through internet radio was so good, at least for me, that I never found myself wanting. Then Spotify show up and added icing on to cake. With Spotify, I find myself discovering music with the help of friends and family linked to my account. I think Spotify is “currently” the most innovative ways for music lovers to discover and enjoy music and the best part, you wont be doing it along.

 

Credit: Featured  image by Pcataldi at Odosketch.

We Have Lift Off! part 1

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 14th of July,2011 was/and will be a very special day for me. NASA took it’s last near-orbit flight on 14th of July,2011 which was both a joyful and sad moment all together. NASA has absorbed the majority of space exploration expenses from the first shuttle lift off and just like how the government thought the internet was ready to live in our homes and businesses (after many years in research at government institutions including NASA & US military), the US government feels near space exploration is ready for private businesses to takeover. I will like to say cheers to NASA for all the work the have done for mankind and looking forward to their next chapter – deep space exploration. I know there are people out there who are not very happy about this but the processes has worked before – the internet; and there is no reason it believe it wont work again if done right.

14th of July,2011 also marked my first flight at a series of personal projects. It was my first day off my corporate job; part of a gradual transition process to getting started on my personal projects. It’s been a great ride in the corporate world, working for both big and small software companies. This is by no means my declaration of  a complete departure from corporate world. In fact, I am still an employee of Employee Benefit Corporation(EBC), with a sweat working schedule for which I’m very thankful. It’s really an exciting time for me because I get to try something new and personal.  Thanks to the lady of the house – Jennie, my family and my friends for their support. I will also like to thank EBC’s CIO, James Lyerly for all his support.

So what are my personal projects all about? Stay tuned.

Credit: Featured  image by hebertkozu at Odosketch.

Windows 7 beta Review

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I have been running win 7 build 7.0 beta for the past month and I think I’m ready to offer my opinion about this widely praised OS.

 

Pre Installing 

As at the time I was thinking of trying win 7, I was in need of a laptop because our old laptop was giving up on me. It was too slow and I couldn’t do pretty much anything with it. So I decide to retire our old laptop and migrate it into either the Fedora or Ubuntun world. Haven’t decided yet. With that decision made, I set out to buy a new laptop. I kept going between windows pc or Mac pc. Why? , well, I’m not an apple fun boy but I was interested in developing for the IPhone which meant having a Mac. But I could bring myself to justify the amount I would pay for a Mac in relation to how much time I will actually spend using it (which will only be during development for the Mac environment). Then there was the thought of running windows on the Mac using VMware fusion. I had heard some good stories about fusion.

After a couple of discussions with a few friends, I made the discussion to go for a 64bit windows laptop. I discarded the taught of buy a Mac and running windows virtually because, I mainly live in windows. Emulation seems to take away the optimum performance of any OS and I do push my laptops really hard. I could have gone for a dual booth on a Mac but by then, I had already fallen in love with Sony’s Vaio FW. It was perfect in every way. So in the end, I ended up with a 64bit Sony Vaio FW . See the specs below.

 

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Installation Experience

Installation was smooth as a baby’s ass. Wow, that different from what I have experienced so far. In any case, I think MS did a good job with installation improvements. My installation path was an upgrade from vista home to win 7 ultimate so I hope others with different upgrade or new installation path will go as smooth as mine. I can only hope since this is a beta.

 

UAC configuration

This is a lot easier since you can now choose your own configuration and not be bothered by unnecessary pop up’s. One up for the MS guys.

Device Discovery

This is by far my favorite since it looks like a lot of work has been done here. I was able to discover my Xbox, router, cellphone (through Bluetooth), wireless printer and more in just a few seconds. Win 7 really made it easy for me and I hope the  final version will even be better.

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Software Installation

I didn’t have any issues except for IE 7 and Microsoft Expression suite. IE 8 64bit works just fine and works really really fast. IE 7 will start but doesn’t allow any interaction with it. I don’t know if its because I did an upgrade from Vista home to window 7 Ultimate. The expression suite also installed with no issue but will error out when running blend or designer. Personally, I don’t care for designer since I do all my vector work in illustrator and export to xaml when I need to. I just needed Blend for the composition of my application. I will have to resort to my desktop for now till I have a solution around this.

 

UI Features

I was really hoping for some ground breaking but ….its better than it was before. The peek feature is my favorite were you can peek a window and go back to the one you were working on without switching between windows. The grouping of apps at the bottom also makes sense and works very well for me. A bit of style would make these features look great but style is what Microsoft lacks, not like Apple. With that said, the UI is functional and lets you do your work and that’s all one can really ask for.

 

Overall, I will switch to win 7 in a heart beat as its proven to be a lot better than my vista desktop. I think MS got it right this time and if they keep this up, they will have customers like me on their side. That doesn’t mean I giving up on Mac. I like the work of the Mac boys. The look to design first for inspiration. They look to groundbreaking but unfortunately, they are not business worthy at the moment. Not because you cannot run a business with a Mac, but finding all the different software you need to run a business can be more challenging in Mac world than in the windows world. Plus their pride in the “no-virus” selling point  scares the hell out of me because no OS is bullet proof and I have more confidence in the support and speed of the MS security team (since they have been dealing with this shit for a long time) than the 2-5 man security team at Apple.

Note: I really don’t the size of the security team hiding at the Cupertino-based company’s basement. I was mealy making a point.

 

Wish List

  1. Spellchecker feature built into the OS or as an add-on so all content applications can make use of it instead of rolling out their own
  2. Map feature should be build into or be an add-on to the OS for allow mapping needs to be met by any application that needs it
  3. Location based feature build into the OS
  4. An OS that knows its environment, that can adjust the light, sound(noise cancellation etc) properties depending on the surrounding.

These are the things I consider moving forward. Up until now, I still cannot believe that laptops and pc don’t come with prebuilt radio receives in them but they are present in the tiny mp3 players we buy.

What do you say dear reader. What are your thoughts.

Reducing Online Ad Noise

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THE ROUTING

I have my ritual every morning from the minute I get to work. I get my coffee; next; ask my colleague (he’s an early to rise kind of guy) if there are any issues that needs my attention ASAP. If none; I put my desk in order; spend the next 15 minutes checking emails and catching up with my favorite blogs etc; then to work.  I’m content with all this except for the last 15 min within which I have to check my emails.

 

THE DISLIKE

Because I have come to dislike internet Ad’s with a passion; both at yahoo and hotmail. They just take up space which otherwise can be used by the application. I have read a lot of complain in relation to yahoo and hotmail to get ride of the Ad’s and more but I know this won’t happen. Below is an image from hotmail but mind you, this applies to yahoo and other email client providers as well. Google does a better job at this by making the ad’s section very small and very smart by relating the ad’s to the content of your inbox. 
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THE BECAUSE

Ad’s are not going to go away any time soon.It wont because the advertising business is a cash making machine. USATODAY reported online ad revenue over $21Billion in 2007 and the interesting part is that internet ad’s account for less than 10% of all Ad’s. Meaning there are lots of room for improvement and money to be made by online solutions like yahoo (with yahoo mail, search , …) , Google (mail, search, apps etc), Facebook and more. I can understand why Ad’s are important to these companies because, after all, we don’t pay for the service they provide. We search and check our emails for free for the most part. Unless you have a premium account or something of that sort.  That’s how they make their profit.

 

THE SOLUTION

Gladly, I stumbled on a great Firefox extension called stylish and have to admit, its one of the best extensions around. It allows you to customize the look and feel for any site by saving your modifying style in stylish and it does the rest. The best part of stylish is that it has a huge support and contributing community which makes it easier to find styles for many sites. I wasn’t able to find a one for the new hotmail and live sites so I created one and contributed it to the stylish online community repository. Below is a screen shot after applying stylish. You can apply stylish to any site, any web email client. Now, I can enjoy my routing freely. Take stylish for a spine and you wont regret it.

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Get it Done, NOW !! {DIFN}

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It’s been hard trying to find time to blog. I have so much respect for people like Jeff Atwood, Matt Berseth, Scott Guthrie and Scott Hanselman. These guys have lots of responsibilities at work and at home and they some how manage to find time to blog. So I began to wonder what it takes to blog and blog "successfully.  From what I have come to learn, they are two types of developers. There are those who create “noise” by chatting , blogging, writing articles  etc and then, there are the “quiet” ones, those who are knowledgeable but either has no motivation to blog about it or just to see the need to. Belonging to any of these categories doesn’t make you better than the other. The only difference I have come to realized is  motivation.

Motivation is  what makes people like those I mentioned above, make time to blog amongst the million others things they do in their day to day activity. They feel some sense of responsibility to tell the world about their findings, their thoughts and their lives experiences. Jeff Atwood and his team at stackoverflow have even take the extra step to tap the hidden knowledge inside the “quiet” ones amongst us. I have tried to encourage my team at work to blog (including myself as you can tell I’m not too happy with my blogging habits) but most of them don’t think blogging makes any difference in anyone’s life.

So you must be wondering why I’m so unhappy with my blogging habits or why I’m not a successful blogger like the mentioned above if I have all this motivation. Well, because I’m lacking the DIFN. The “DO IT F**KING NOW” plan. Yes, that’s what I’m missing and that’s what most early bloggers lack. We procrastinate. We are not committed to “doing”. We don’t have a blogging plan for success.

I recently read a post by Joel Spolsky talking about DIFN in the form of  Fire and Motion

Once you get into flow it’s not too hard to keep going. Many of my days go like this: (1) get into work (2) check email, read the web, etc. (3) decide that I might as well have lunch before getting to work (4) get back from lunch (5) check email, read the web, etc. (6) finally decide that I’ve got to get started (7) check email, read the web, etc. (8) decide again that I really have to get started (9) launch the damn editor and (10) write code nonstop until I don’t realize that it’s already 7:30 pm.

Somewhere between step 8 and step 9 there seems to be a bug, because I can’t always make it across that chasm. For me, just getting started is the only hard thing. An object at rest tends to remain at rest.

I remembered this for a long time. I noticed how almost every kind of military strategy, from air force dogfights to large scale naval maneuvers, is based on the idea of Fire and Motion. It took me another fifteen years to realize that the principle of Fire and Motion is how you get things done in life. You have to move forward a little bit, every day. It doesn’t matter if your code is lame and buggy and nobody wants it. If you are moving forward, writing code and fixing bugs constantly, time is on your side. Watch out when your competition fires at you. Do they just want to force you to keep busy reacting to their volleys, so you can’t move forward?

 

Jeff Atwood also has a similar post from a different angle, titled  “How To Achieve Ultimate Blog Success In One Easy Step”. In his post, Jeff asserts that continues jabbing and regularly throwing haymakers is what makes it happen.

 

But success takes time– a lot of time. I’d say a year at minimum. That’s the element that weeds out so many impatient people. I wrote this blog for a year in utter obscurity, but I kept at it because I enjoyed it. I made a commitment to myself, under the banner of personal development, and I planned to meet that goal. My schedule was six posts per week, and I kept jabbing, kept shipping, kept firing. Not every post was that great, but I invested a reasonable effort in each one. Every time I wrote, I got a little better at writing. Every time I wrote, I learned a little more about the topic, how to research topics effectively, where the best sources of information were. Every time I wrote, I was slightly more plugged in to the rich software development community all around me. Every time I wrote, I’d get a morsel of feedback or comments that I kept rolling up into future posts. Every time I wrote, I tried to write something just the tiniest bit better than I did last time.

 

In all these different perspective lies DIFN as their foundation. The power to get your ass off the couch after work and spend an hour to blog about a great piece of code you wrote at work, or about some efficiency process you implemented and so on. Anything worth the world will add to the knowledge we all feed on. If you are one to think blogging is a hustle and worthless, I only have this to say to you. Try ignoring all blogs and articles in your result set for your web searches and let me know how you do. That’s when you will come to understand the importance of blogs (with useful content).

From this moment, I intend to keep jabbing everyday with good content and most of all, uphold DIFN.

I will be glad to hear what you think of DIFN.