Friday, 21 December 2007

Merry Christmas

I've been quiet busy in the latter months and the amount of blogs clearly shows this. I'm back at university for my forth and final year. The work load certainly shows it's my final year but I'm just about coping under the pressure. The year consists of four main units and also my individual project. The project is weighted so it's equivalent to two more units, so it's large. The project its self is a model railway controller which is detailed at I'm learning some exciting stuff and strangely it's the first time in a while I have really enjoyed computing. This may sound odd being someone who promotes technology on a daily basis but after a while things become a bit samey. After you have got through the hype and marketing of any new technology you find that it's the same old thing repackaged and this becomes very disappointing when I see it time and time again. So with the project I am learning a new skill set and it's very interesting. Firstly I'm fiddling around with electronics, something that due to my brothers, who both studied it at university, I have always been interested in but never actually studied myself, not even at GCSE. There's bit of a learning curve here, and unlike software, one mistake and you create irreversible smoke. Secondary I am programming embedded firmware to be loaded onto microcontrollers. Unlike desktop computers, these microchips have limited resources so it has improved my skills as a programmer and has made me be not so wasteful. So far everything is going well. The summer just gone I spent prototyping and testing the platform I built to see if it could do everything I wanted it to do. Hopefully no major problem will occur but I have been developing software products for long enough to realise that something is bound to happen, I can only wait and see.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Why I do what I do

I am often asked why I enjoy what I do, to be honest most of what I do is frustrating, tedious and very repetitive. Lets face it anyone can do what I do, but then with leaning and experience I can do anyone else's job too. Using technology you defiantly have to be patient and I find as technology gets quicker people expect faster results which results in low tolerance towards slow responses. The fact that you can't do things in a flip of a switch puts a lot of people specially the older generation off using any type of technology. High tolerance is of course what I have, I have watched many progress bars in my time and unfortunately its something I have had to get use to. Ok, so I am not painting a very nice picture of what I do but there is an event that happens now and again that keeps me going, I call it “The Eureka Moment”. It mainly happens in Software Engineering but can also happen in most fields of IT. In Software, programming and design go hand in hand together as by the time you have finished the design you would have already started the programming as there is no strict line between the two. The low level design of a program takes a lot of thinking through, and I literally mean sitting and thinking how something is going to work. Paper and pen doesn't really help as you often experience white paper syndrome where you don't know where to start. Once you have solved how the jigsaw puzzle of your new software will fit together you have reached the eureka moment. It's such a great feeling and better more as thinking can be done anywhere, the moment can also happen anywhere, in the shower, on the bus or just before you go to bed. The reason I call it the eureka moment is because strangely enough it's normally unexpected, simply everything fits together which is ideal in software as normally one thing relies on another to work. Not everyone can visualise something in there mind so I believe that this is a key attribute of a good Software Engineer, lucky I have that skill.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Take you foot off the pedals and enjoy the ride

We are in a time of creativity at the moment; every so often the technology industry goes through this. Prior to this we have had years of development of new technologies that while potentially useful few organisations have adopted. This could be because they didn't think it was the next big thing, when it has become, or simply they haven't had time to integrate it into their business of 'commonly used technologies'. Either way businesses are now up to speed and technologies such as C Sharp that appeared in 2001, are now being commonly used. Flash is a good example of a technology that was frowned upon a few years ago as it was a plug-in and may not be installed or enabled on a user's computer. Now it's used everywhere to stream video, quite different to what is was used for five years ago. We now have the power, the bandwidth and the tools to do pretty much what we like (for now) it's now up to the creative community to think up the next big thing, hopefully not yet another social networking website.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Back to the command line?

With the recent launch of Windows Vista I naturally have to investigate the new operating system. Not only does this mean playing around with the new features but also researching what the industry leaders are saying about it. One feature that struck me is the search function that seems to be popping up in all Microsoft software these days. These search boxes doesn't do what I originally thought; send you to the MSN internet search, No, if there is a list like on MSN messenger typing something in the search box filters the list with relevant results. This feature is also on the Vista start menu (No longer called that as there is no start button). Typing a program name for example displays the link to that program and also any folders that maybe associated with that search. This is a great feature and all the reviews of vista I have read have highlighted this but I have one small issue with it, isn't it just a command line? Type "word", press enter and MS Word loads… I guess this a nice well of pleasing the Unix console mob as well as the rest of us.

Thursday, 1 March 2007

Is the world turning geeky?

The world has changed a lot since I started this game. We now receive hundreds of channels via our TV, the walkman has been upgraded to the ipod and we now find out about the world within seconds via the internet. Just a few examples of change, of course, but has it all been good? Prices of electrical goods have come down dramatically and everything seems to becoming ever so more glossy. With this gadgets have become disposable and spending £100 on a ‘toy' no longer takes lots of thought. The integration of technology in everybody's day to day life has resulted in a tech savvy world, but the question is has the stereotypes of techies also been integrated into society. People are more happy to txt than pick up the phone, and interact more with their xbox than their fellow friends. The expectation 10 years that everyone would be interacting with computers far more hasn't strictly become true. Yes we interact with computers but not in the form of a PC. Mobiles, MP3 Players, Navigation systems and TV digi boxes are most people's form of interaction however the principles are the same. The majority of the time technology is an antisocial form of recreation and entertainment, with a 1 to 1 ratio to the peace of kit being used. I can not say whether this is going to become a problem for tomorrow's world or whether it will create a very switched on world. We can only wait and see…

Friday, 26 January 2007

IPTV gets closer but watchdog stunts its growth

For about 2 years now the BBC has been developing and trailing the BBC integrated Media Player (iMP). Using peer to peer technologies the BBC will eventually offer its UK viewers the ability to download for free BBC shows to their computer for a limited time. The UK TV regulator has issued a report this week that recommends the 'limited time' to be reduced from 13 weeks to 14 days. The reason they give is it will have a "negative effect" on commercial rivals. Of course it will, but these services are extras to the commercial rivals and why shouldn't I be able to download BBC content that I have already paid for via my licence fee. It seems to me that it's another case where a regulator it stating it's in the “public interest” but really it's supporting a profit making-shareholder company. I can see the only reason why I would want to support such an organisation is if I was a shareholder. Channel 4 has already launched its equivalent called 4OD but charges around 99p for content. With my limited life on this planet I am starting to wonder whether monopolies are a good thing rather than bad. From what I have seen privatisation and general regulation just causes confusion and barriers for both consumers and the organisations concerned. This may be different for other countries and I have heard of large supermarket chains taking advantage of their power, but with a country as small as the UK, companies know how valuable their brand image is and that one slip up could cause a big loss in profits. The BBC does have an unfair advantage as it gets a steady income from the licence fee payer. However as everyone who watches TV is effetely a shareholder of the BBC how can it be in our interest that we should worry about commercial rivals? Now of course I can see how the competition is a good thing as it pushes the BBC to produce better content so in that respect I agree. But when you are talking about extra services however I believe the regulator has over stepped the line. I will be watching with great interest on this subject and I expect the BBC will compromise. Programs saved to my Sky+ PVR are normally deleted within the week of recording them so I doubt most people will want to save programs to their computer for 13 weeks anyway.

Friday, 5 January 2007

Happy New Year

BridTEC wishes you a happy 2007. It's a big year for BridTEC as we celebrate 10 Years of being “at the heart of technology” i.e. 10 Years with a web presents under the former Grahamsoft brand. The launch coincided with my first year at secondary school which at the time had one network room featuring Acorn computers. Then and now the technology was dated but with the internet generally not available in schools at the time we weren't missing out on anything. The Acorns provided us with all the software we needed for our education and in some cases where better than the PC based equivalent. A few years later the school was under pressure to upgrade but with a small budget buying 30 to 60 new PCs was out the question. Instead the school invested in a smart fill-in solution which was Citrix Metaframe. I am going to spare you from the details but basically it gave the school the ability to run a Windows terminal on the existing Acorn desktops. What was even better was that a Windows terminal could also run on old PCs that would normally be thrown out. The school purchased a number of cheap old PCs and all the classrooms where kitted out with them. This was a great solution which started my interest in computer networks and I later went on to teach myself Windows 2000/3 Server.