Tuesday 20 November 2012

Survey Report: How not to conduct or sell a survey

Surveys to purvey
Almost two weeks ago, an ex-colleague of mine asked that I fill in a survey to give an opinion about him, his work habits and subjectively assess what areas I felt he could improve on.
I was co-opted into this enterprise from within LinkedIn, the professional social networking site. I believe this survey had been integrated into LinkedIn because it immediately roped me into asking my ex-colleagues to assess me.
There is no doubt that self-assessment surveys trade on our curiosity and if someone thinks there is a monetary prospect in this most subjective element of measuring ourselves against others, it would be exploited.
Better tools
To be honest, I have preferred the concept of the Keirsey Temperament Sorter which has now become a commercial venture but evidently very useful in gauging where I am at emotionally and temperamentally as I project myself in all my interactions.
Survey Report is a different kind of beast, unlike the recommendations you find in LinkedIn or even the new endorsement feature, it apparently follows the Holland Codes Assessment allowing others to offer an opinion of your work personality listed as Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising or Conventional.
My survey returns
Of the over 400 connections I have on LinkedIn, I selected 35 contacts and asked for their opinions about my work personality and since then I have been nagged by Survey Report with emails bordering on spam.
Apparently, Survey Report has conducted 6.2 million surveys and received 1.3 million responses. That is a 21% return on the effort, whilst in my case; I got 28 responses of my 35 requests, which looks like a thumping 80% result.
The propeller-head in charge of research has let me know that I am well liked by my ex-colleagues, I am not too impressed with this view which is reductive at best if not lazy. If they want me to shell out $95 a year to listen to people boost my ego, I need a better proposition than being patted on the head.
Not impressed
It is in view of this that I wrote the letter below to the person in charge at first as an advisory and with the hope that the person with see beyond the critique of the product they are selling to the point that the constructive elements of what I had to say will be taken on board.
When I got the response to my letter, I could almost say that the response was a canned response and no attention was paid to any of what I had to say. Indeed, it would be nice to see the other 23 responses but I have to be sold that proposition convincingly and I hoped they will be curious to know how I determined my dataset to yield an 80% response.
In my view, the survey is flawed and I think LinkedIn can produce a better vehicle for assessments that people will readily use. If I were to be candid, Survey Report is an excess to requirements for assessment and a business proposition in a form that does not have a viable future.
That title I alluded to in my survey that I did not mention but was already formed in my mind was ‘How not to conduct or sell a survey.’
The letter
Thank you for informing me about my report. It is interesting that I carefully chose 35 of my contacts though I have over 400 connections and got 28 responses which from my reckoning is a 80% hit for a 400% result as you say people only get around 7 responses.
Obviously, you have done your surveys and have your statistics; my situation might not be altogether unusual.
Am I curious to know what my colleagues think about me? Indeed I am. Am I willing to pay the $95/year subscription to see the other 23 responses? I have not been persuaded of the cost-benefit of the selection-response assessment view has just been reductively suggested as my colleagues just liking me.
I know I am liked in general, if LinkedIn had a recommendation system that was more point-and-click as your survey, with the direct prompting that accompanied your survey, I probably will get up to 50% of my connections to respond - it is just more than "like".
The endorsement system which LinkedIn introduced just over a month ago has had connections I have not even interacted with for years click and endorse without prompting.
LinkedIn only has to refine this and add this to their premium offering to get people interested and that would be a better proposition to me.
In fact, in surveys as yours, I believe the better draw will be to provide a summary of the data-set with the lure of a more detailed analysis on payment. Of what I seen of the 5, the honest truth is I have not been sold on the rest.
In terms, it looks like a good survey which is lacking in the essential pricing-to-market persuasion that it is patently flawed. I wondered if I had doubled my data-set and still received an 80% hit whether I will be curious to see what 51 others have said for the same price.
This advice is free, methinks, ideas, projections, expectations and drawing-board have to meet again, conversely, all I have said might just be irrelevant.
In closing, this looks like the framework for an interesting blog, I have to think about the title to give it.
I am a curious person but not at any cost and I am sure a majority of those who filled my survey will have a similar view in terms of their self-assuredness.

Monday 27 August 2012

Old Printers Never Die: Obtaining an HP LaserJet 4L Printer Driver for 64-bit Windows 7

Printing desires
My career in information technology does not have office doors or opening hours when I visit friends or relations. There is usually one little problem that requires a good looking at and sometimes I will think up an elaborate solution just because fundamentally I believe using computing tools should be a pleasure to the user at work and at home.
Recently, my cousin just wanted to print to an old printer she was never able to get to work with her laptop – what she wanted was a simple solution and decided to have a look.
Her idea was to connect the printer to her laptop whenever she wanted to print anything but that presented a number of inconveniences I felt should be eliminated.
It’s old but not to be sold
First of all the printer was a HP LaserJet 4L printer, it think a second generation one because it a non-detachable USB cable that went into that back of a not easily accessible old desktop running Microsoft Windows Vista.
Immediately, I thought I could share the printer and that would mean everyone would be able to use the printer over the wireless network.
I have always hated Windows Vista security and the idea of each person having to log on to the system to print was just extraneous, they all belonged to the same IP subnet but each computer was in a different standalone workgroup – all functions of inconsistent installation methods offered by Microsoft.
I shared the printer and then removed password protected sharing which meant any printers and the Public folder were open for usage to those on the network.
Where is the driver?
I started with my cousin’s laptop which was running 64-bit Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate Edition, it saw the printer but could not download the driver from Microsoft Update. Hewlett Packard said the driver was contained in the installation of Windows but there was nothing I could do to get the driver.
I modified the properties of the printer to allow the Microsoft Windows Vista to render the print jobs for all clients and tried again to no avail. Then I got the printer to work from other laptops running 32-bit Windows 7 of various editions – the installation just downloaded the driver from the Windows Vista system.
Now, if Hewlett Packard was saying the printer driver was within the Microsoft Windows version and consequently obtainable from Microsoft Update but during installation it bombed out searching for the driver automatically, somehow, there had to be a way to obtain the printer driver because Hewlett Packard was just not providing one.
What was even more surprising was none of the forums I contacted had any clearly thought through solutions, it all seemed like some trial-and-error activity eventually solved the problem and that was just not enough for me, I had to understand the how and the why.
The most persuasive solution offered was Microsoft has my printer driver, so I decided to search for the printer driver on the Microsoft website.
That is how I came upon the Microsoft Update Catalog, it expects you to be running Microsoft Internet Explorer or a browser with IE Extensions else in my case running Google Chrome thanked me for visiting before asking me to upgrade my Internet Explorer installation.
At the Microsoft Update Catalog, you are presented with a text search box into which you can type in your search terms, I was specific – HP LaserJet 4L – and that offered a number of choices two of which were for PostScript drivers – those were not the ones I needed.
Getting the driver
The description of each driver is clear enough, with a button to Add [1] the driver require, as indicated in the graphic and once the drivers required are added, click on View Basket [2] to see the added driver(s) with the option to download.

Clicking on the Download [1] button on the graphic below presents a dialog box asking for where to save your downloaded file(s) and the downloaded file is a Microsoft Cabinet file with a .CAB extension.

You can either extract the files into a folder but right-clicking on the file and choosing where to extract the files and then install the drivers from that folder using the dialog that appears after Windows Update fails to find the files needed or use the Windows Package Manager (PKGMGR.EXE) from an elevated privileges command prompt with the command line:
pkgmgr /ip /m:<path><file name>.cab /quiet
This integrates the driver into the system so when the driver is being searched for by the wizard, it will automatically be found and installed.
In conclusion
The long and short of this treatise is, if the manufacturer of any of your old devices suggests the driver you require is available within the operating system or from Microsoft Windows Update but the drivers cannot be automatically found and downloaded – go to the Microsoft Update Catalog and get the driver you need.
Your old devices need not be replaced because of the frustration of not being able to find the right driver or because the forums that should provide clear directions just assume too much of enquirers and their knowledge of these things.

Saturday 25 August 2012

Social Media: The Fall Guy

Social media – the fall guy
Over the last couple of months, social media and by that I mean the use of Facebook, Twitter and Blogs has taken a bad rap in Nigeria.
From politicians uncomfortable the ease of access, freedom of expression, unrelenting scrutiny with the attendant abuse that would put Mosaic curses in the shade through its use by swindlers, kidnappers and murderers for incomprehensible ends.
The same social media has been exploited for political advantage too, for engaging the youth in the political process, for aspects of good and sometimes bad propaganda, for crowd-funding, crowd-sourcing and the dissemination of ideas.
The problem is use
However, it is the tragic case of Cynthia Osokogu that brings to the fore elements of usage that we need to very aware of. The young lady apparently met two men while interacting on Facebook, began a business transaction with them that involved her travelling to Lagos where she was picked up, drugged, raped, beaten up, murdered and then dumped in a mortuary where her family finally discovered her.
Fundamentally, the problem here is not social media, or Facebook in particular, Facebook just served as a medium of communication that could have been achieved by other means though maybe not with the same ease.
The problem with the use and I emphasise the word use of Facebook is people have by reason of the ease of interaction lowered the thresholds of trust they have such that they probably do not go through more stringent steps of ascertaining and verification of activities they get involved in.
Before social media they existed
Before any of the social media we have today, swindlers, confidence tricksters, kidnappers and murderers existed just as there were people to be taken advantage of through foolishness, ignorance, naivety or vulnerability.
We so easily let our guard down hoping that the social media vehicle we are using will take up the slack and do the vetting for us but there is no substitute for doing the basic things of not meeting strangers outside your comfort zone, informing people of what you are up to, documenting whatever you are involved in and taking a friend with you if need be for your safety.
When I am going to meet strangers, I always leave a sheet of paper on my table with all the contact details along with a backup element that can be found if there is a need for that.
Some basic analogies
The analogies to use are simple – you do not because you have bought a new knife use it recklessly, you are probably going to be more careful with its use lest you cut yourself. Likewise, the ease of communication offered by social media should have your suspicious and alert mechanisms at their most primed to ensure you are not sucked into a vulnerable situation from which you cannot extract yourself.
In the same vein, you do not because you have a fast car put your foot down on the accelerator and go over a cliff with glee, with a fast car comes better brakes and better control – if those controls are used wisely, you are in a safer vehicle for it protections rather than for its speed. Likewise, the ease with which you can share information should inform the carefulness involved in keeping some of that information back
Common-sense with social media
I have always worked on a simple principle – If in DOUBT, keep it OUT – there is just no need to dump all that information out there just as you do not have your home as thoroughfare for the public to walk through at will without restraint.
We are naturally careful about our private information, it should not be different from our adoption of social media and like our mothers used to say when were kids – Don’t take sweets from strangers – the same principle should apply to anywhere we interact with strangers – we do not know them well enough to trust them and God only knows what they have in mind for us.
Conversely, we should try to believe the best of everyone whilst retaining a modicum of suspicion, it does not have to border on paranoia, but a healthy dose of paranoia is not bad or the principle of personal safety and the possible elimination of dangerous situations.
The real problem
Without making little of the tragedy that befell Cynthia Osokogu, social media is not the problem, it has never been the problem, it the use of or the lack of knowledge of the common-sense uses of social media that is the problem and that is where people need the most education that it should not lower the needs to ascertain, determine, verify and be careful about the people we interact with and it cannot carry the burdens of trust and trustworthiness that come from being streetwise, smart and discerning of character, aims and intentions.
We once had letters, then telephones, then telegrams, then telex, then facsimile machines, then mobile phones and now the smorgasbord of easy communication untethered and free – we are however still human and have not metamorphosed into cyborgs – it means those very basic human characteristics still matter and years from now newer modes of communication will be created and hopefully human-beings will know not to abandon their gut instincts for the thrill of technology.
To Cynthia Osokogu – Rest in peace – no know can begin to think of the harrowing experiences you went through as those men took your life and to your family my heartfelt condolences.

Monday 2 July 2012

Adapting Myself for Work

Have I lost it?
“So, they are going to give you a kick in the butt to get a job,” he said in jest but the seriousness and the deep meaning of that statement left me wondering days after what I might have been doing wrong.
Have I since become work-shy, half-driven but hardly determined and basically lazy over time such that I have not been trying hard enough to find a job?
I suppose that will be a question that will haunt me for long enough as I review how I have literally lost everything just because there was no job to keep all that I once had.
Changing perspectives
What once looked like strategy is no more sound, but I believe we go through a constant process of reinventing ourselves in the hope that we remain relevant, useful and fulfilling in everything we embark on.
It has looked like I have to now de-emphasise the technical aspects of my expertise since there has not been enough practice in that area and give more emphasis to the my experience in general a wealth of experience that had me tackle some interesting questions I faced when chatting to a start-up recruitment agent.
Adapting to circumstances
She talked first about my age noting that many people in start-ups are quite young. I immediately responded that Larry Page & Sergey Brin of Google brought on Eric Schmidt, and whilst Mark Zuckerberg is the face of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg was brought in – in terms, start-ups need the gentle hands and head of “adult supervision.”
Then she said I looked very formal – someone does have to keep up the standards but at the same time business people when interacting with start-ups like to meet up with people who are naturally business-like.
To the one of my never having worked in a start-up before, having worked in 3 countries and about 8 different industries, my flexibility and adaptability makes me best suited for a start-up environment which is usually composed of people with ideas they are convinced have a market.
The process of reinvention should however continue until the right fit and opportunity match to create a semblance of work satisfaction. Whether I need a kick in the butt to get that job is something I am probably prepared to explore too.
Thank you.

Saturday 16 June 2012

Not A Different Person

The same person, always
I have always found myself saying, “I am not an Internet-Schizophrenic,” that, has a tendency to mean many things to many people.
This phrase was coined when I used to be active on Internet Relay Chat forums, something that predated instant messaging systems that we use today.
I don’t know if I can say that I am an Internet veteran, but I first had my Internet connection in 1994 when I subscribed to CompuServe (Absorbed by AoL) and it’s rather stodgy interface and the voyage of discovery began in terms of information for technical things I did and then for meeting people all around the globe as well as arranging clandestine encounters that could be dubious at best.
Let us be our own responsible adults
Sadly, CompuServe failed to adapt quickly to changes that came with having simple email addresses instead of numbers or granting unfiltered access to the developing phenomenon of the World Wide Web and other exciting things, I was soon using a local provider who I had to approach and tell that as an adult, I expect to be able to access all information on websites and Usenet forums – I could do my own filtering, I do not want to be nannied.
I could see him go red in the face when for what restrictions he had imposed expecting customers to be embarrassed to ask for them to be lifted; I had no qualms about letting him know that he had exceeded the bounds of his responsibilities and egressed into areas of expression and liberty. As he stammered into coherence, he lifted the restrictions and I sent him a thank you note.
The same happened when the over-zealous gatekeepers to the Internet at a large oil firm blocked access to DejaNews (Became Google Groups) which at that time was the best search engine for Usenet news groups just because someone thought it could also access porn sites.
I made the case for having that restriction lifted by saying as many cities as one would dare to visit for their notoriety could have Red-Light Districts, but apart from the curious and the determined people generally have other things to do without having to go there. I lived in Amsterdam for 12 years and probably hardly walked those streets 10 times and only as a tour guide.
Be truthful, always
We innately have filtering mechanisms that are part of the make-up of our personality and that is what tempers our curiosity, manages our extroverted or introverted tendencies in terms of how honest we are in what nominally is an anonymous world of interaction.
Therefore, in every place that I project myself for professional, social or even emotional purposes, you will find an honest, truthful account or what is shared, which is not to mean one does not have certain inhibitions, one should, but what you choose to share and remember you have control of what you decide to share; must never be a misrepresentation of who you are, you might be ambiguous or non-committal but never untruthful.
That is why, “I am not an Internet-Schizophrenic.”

Tuesday 24 April 2012

How I managed my CCNA Certification

Walking tall
It has been quite a while that I have had the pleasure of a spring in my step, a sense of achievement that has come from hard work where doubt and uncertainty has swirled around like they were going to consume me.
In the midst of this is determination and resolve, I have decided to just continue doing what I know best and eventually things will come good.
Course for courses
When I took off to India in December for courses, it was to reacquaint myself with developments, some quite new as well as obtain new knowledge that might well presage a different career path.
It was really a last-minute decision to tack the Cisco Certified Network Associate curriculum to my activities where Koenig Solutions had planned on delivering the complete material in 6 working days and expect me to master the content in order to pass the certifying test. [I have noticed that the curriculum has now been extended to 9 days.]
There are many who just about scraped through doing the main CCNA composite test after practicing test questions and other sometimes suspect material. In my case, I felt I needed practice, study and more understanding of the topics such that no matter how difficult the question, I will know what to do to answer the questions correctly.
My scheme
So, I planned on splitting the CCNA test into its component parts, the ICND1 test leading to the CCENT which provides an entry level qualification and the ICND2 which completes the CCNA certification requirement.
Along with the Cisco Official Exam Certification Guides (ICND1 & ICND2), I had the use of both the TrainSignal CCNA CBT Course and the CBT Nuggets ICND1 & ICND2 CBT Courses. I gravitated towards the CBT Nuggets offering, the structure and delivery of the material was better suited to my study habits and the trainer’s demeanour was just right.
I also found that it was better to load the videos which were in AVI or WMV format into a media player playlist than having to click through each course, one could use the media player features to control the pace and bookmark sections through the course.
Now, I must commend my trainer at Koenig Solutions for have the prodigious ability to recall every single aspect of the CCNA curriculum without referring to the books and we did have a few spats on the content, but it was entirely worthwhile.
Tough, rough but done
I will be the first to say both the tests were probably the most difficult that I have taken; my management of time was not perfect by any means. On the second test, I remember looking at the clock with 12 questions to go and 10 minutes left. Did I not silently pray that the remaining questions be basic multiple-choice questions rather than simulations requiring extensive configuration or troubleshooting?
My prayers were answered as I was left with 100 seconds when I ended the examination and waited almost interminably for the score, the screen that said Pass.
Yes, it is done and I am told after this first hurdle, you can chart where you want to go next and none of this would have been possible without the help of friends who paid for the tests and encouraged me when I appeared to flag or despair.
Thank you – on to the next challenge.

Thursday 19 April 2012

Social Engagement: The menace of texting distractions

The distraction of mobile communication
I will be the first to say that to my observation mobile phones have become a major social distraction that users of such devices are somewhat oblivious of.
Too many times, I have watched people on a phone call or sending a text message walk ahead of me but never in a straight line, though they think they are fully aware of their surroundings, they may not walk into pillars and rarely into people just because others are more aware and take consideration of others.
I have found myself barking at cyclists to put their phones away when riding in Amsterdam because at the speeds they are moving they rarely are able to anticipate sudden changes in their pathways either in terms of on-coming traffic or those who intend to overtake them – you can just tell from about 20 metres who is not looking ahead of themselves.
Control and consideration
When it comes to driving cars the hubris of those who take calls without consideration to stop and attend to that distraction cannot find expression, we now have instances of people who have lost their lives in accidents for engaging in such stupidity.
I will contend that sending text messages is definitely more distracting than just being on a phone conversation but both are serious distractions that endanger all in the proximity of the offender.
When I was in India, I thought I had seen the worst abuse of phone usage when in control of a vehicle because the culprit was reversing his car round a bend on a busy road whilst on his mobile phone – I stood my head in wonderment and resigned perplexity as I wondered aloud how that behavior was ever possible.
This is just beyond the pale
However, one must never eliminate the prospect of surprise on the matters of social interaction that entails complete distraction endangering life as those concerned despite their experience so soon forget their core responsibilities and duties.
A flight that was about to land did not have its landing gear down because the pilot was busy in the social interaction of texting. Now, I thought we were at least in Europe told to switch off all transmitting devices during flights because they might interfere with flight avionics. There is no particular engineering science that supports this claim but in the remotest cases there might well be some interference.
I am however glad that we do not have to endure the propinquity of business types permanently on their mobile phones throughout the flight striking deals and feeling so self-important as if any of us care if there are making billions or begging for farthings – the time of the flight is just one of those last bastions of peace away from everyday distractions that we face elsewhere.
No sanction is high enough
To then read that the pilot was texting at the one of the most critical times of a flight that was in descent, with all the alarms at full volume and yet they left it so late that the approach had to be aborted at 392 feet (119.48m) is the height of criminal irresponsibility that should have sanctions as serious as both captain with 13,000 flying hours and 1st Officer with 4,000 flying hours lose their licenses.
I think this illustrates in stark terms the barely averted disaster that could have had a 220-passenger aircraft plunge into the ground due to what many think is inconsequential and what they think they can comfortably do multitasking motion either ambulatory or in control of a vehicle with being partly pre-occupied with a phone.
It goes without saying that you should stop to use a mobile phone and basically if you are in control of an aircraft you must never have your mobile phone on except where communication systems on the plane necessary for its safe operation have failed when communicating in relation to the primary task of operating the aircraft.

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Social Media: Lose your liberty for the abuse of your freedom

Consequence arrives swiftly
The jailing of Liam Stacey today for 56 days for acts a judge condemned as "vile and abhorrent" brings into focus the consequences of the abuse of social media tools.
Mr Stacey, a 21-year old biology student had taken the opportunity to be nasty and unsympathetic when Patrice Muamba, a football player unfortunately suffered a cardiac arrest whilst playing some 10 days ago.
When called out for his comments, he became more unstrained in racist and atrocious abuse that people who read his comments contacted the police to act on his expressed views.
With freedom some responsibility
There is a place where people might have forcefully defended the freedom of speech and that in itself is a right but such freedoms must be used responsibly and with consideration – that is what differentiates between those who are considerate and those who are unreasonable or even worse.
A person when told they are wrong should be able to recognise that fact, accept fault and do well to make amends through apology and restitution. To stubbornly hold one’s ground in defiance even if you are not answerable to anyone and though have acted in utterly bad taste might well be delusional and foolish.
No excuses
In the case of Mr Stacey, he had revelled during the day and gotten apparently drunk in celebration of the victory of the Welsh rugby team, but drunkenness is no excuse for bad behaviour or the lack of restraint. Those who drink and drive can expect to face dire consequences when nabbed by the long arm of the law and in this case, those who drink and type stupidly will find themselves brought to book well beyond their expectations.
It might well have been a moment of foolishness, exacerbated by drunken stupidity and emboldened by a sense of anonymity provided by the Internet which naively allows for impunity and thereby no inkling of consequence, we know better now.
Express for distress
Mr Stacey has been made an example of and a precedent has been set; you cannot be ensconced behind a computer in some non-descript place fulminating in contrary and vile vituperations expecting nothing to result as your future begins to take a turn well beyond your control.
Once you sit at a keyboard and begin to type to the viewing and reading of a public, you automatically and implicitly assume responsibility for your publications be they on fast moving theatres of discourse as Twitter, Facebook or on blogs.
You cannot set out to abuse, offend and vilify for a thrill at the expense of others, even if there are few that might see your jokes, there might be many more that have just cause and purpose to seek redress for offence.
Seeking polite society again
We can for all reasons and manner of expression have the broadest range of views but they must be expressed with consideration, politeness [this is me being old-fashioned when rudeness with expletives comes easily to many], decency, with respect, in fairness, within a sense of discernment of the public mood and with some restraint even if the view is somewhat valid and true.
We all have the ability to be disagreeable, nasty and cantankerous but we can choose to just disagree, whilst being nice and sometimes restrain the urge to say anything.
That this issue has been so swiftly dealt with is instructive to matters of racial abuse and other reprehensible behaviour especially when it comes to football with players and the fans alike where the authorities seem to tardy in dealing with reports of offence and abuse – they need to be more responsive.
Your freedom or your liberty?
One can feel quite sorry for Liam Stacey but the bigger lesson to the many that learn of his ordeal should be, what you write matters; if you are vile, you are crossing a line and should immediately reflect, review, recant and repent, in any case you are not guaranteed anonymity whilst your excuses might not hold water as to your state of mind or the abuse of your computer.
If you cannot police your social media activities, the police will be on your door step and your freedom of expression just hours before might well be the loss of your freedom for days, weeks, months or even years – the harshness of the sentence might be determined by the absence of heart in the sentence that put you in trouble in the first place.
Don’t take undue liberty with your freedom of expression, else the law will be at liberty to curtail your freedom and restrict your liberty at the pleasure of constituted authority.

Tuesday 13 March 2012

My Droid - Restoring the sounds to wake up to

Missing sounds of Bach
My Droid life has it excitements of annoyance and discovery but there is never a dull moment.
I cannot remember why I encountered my most recent problem; I had been missing calls for about a month or so because I was not hearing the phone ring.
My ringtone is an MP3 [Music-encoded] file by Johann Sebastian Bach, a church cantata Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, shortened to Wachet auf which in English is Sleepers Wake or in full Wake up, the voice calls to us.
There have been times I have seen the screen on my phone light up but with a non-distinct and unfamiliar sound signifying a call was coming in.
Unravelling the problem
At first I thought it was a bug that I considered getting a volume booster but other features like the dock-mode that allowed me playback my classical collection, the bible or other messages seemed to work fine, I was a bit baffled.
Over the last few months there have some changes to my phone like when I was in India and I used an Indian SIM, that seemed to mess up the workings of SPB Shell 3D, a user interface I had used with my previous Windows Mobile phone that I thought I could not do without.
HTC eventually worked on their HTC Sense user interface that improved its performance after an upgrade that I was no more bothered about the 3rd party application.
Then last month I upgraded my microSD card and I think that was when my ringtone was reset to a default I was unfamiliar with.
Solving the problem
I did not realise how bad it was until this morning when two calls were missed with the phone literally beside me and I was notified of voicemails left by the callers. Then I had had enough and scoured the web for ideas as to why I was not hearing my phone ring.
When I checked the Sound options under the Settings menu, I realised my ringtone was not in the list, so I searched for my original ringtone, set it as the new ringtone and it played back just as I would have expected.
Soon after a call came in and well, I heard my phone ring - Problem solved.
Something to keep in mind
The lesson learnt? Anytime you make any major changes or installations to your mobile phone check that the significant notifications have not been reset.
Primarily, if you expect an audible alert for incoming calls, messages, emails and any other indicators, check those settings and ensure they have not been changed.
Also check that your user interface has not been modified and the frequently accessed applications have not been impaired or corrupted.
In the end, it saves the annoyance of missed calls especially where you are expecting responses for interviews and job applications in a rather turbulent employment-seeking environment.

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Windows 8 Customer Preview - Not on your old laptop

Not fully cooked
Every once in a while I go the whole hog to test Beta software, this is software that has not yet been released as completed but at a stage where the manufacturer is confident enough to give the wider public a run of the product and obtain feedback that will allow issues, problems, bugs and other unforeseen scenarios to be ironed out.
Last week, Microsoft released the equivalent of a Beta for their next version of Microsoft Windows which they have with marketing aplomb called Windows 8Customer Preview.
Normally, people would think for such a new operating system, there will be such stringent requirements to run it but Microsoft seemed to lower the bar.
Hope at first
Now, Microsoft does suggest that we can install this on the same hardware that powers Windows 7, but is unlikely that many like me will be ready to jettison our main Windows 7 systems or laptops for software that is in flux.
However, if perchance one of our trusty but old workhorses can be brought back from the brink of obsolescence that would be wonderful.
So I looked through the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) to see if my workhorse qualifies and this is what Microsoft says I need at the minimum.
Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster – I have a Pentium M running at 1.7 GHz
RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit) – Planning to run 32-bit, I have 2 GB
Hard disk space: 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit) – 80GB hard disk with 29GB free, planned a wipe, then install.
Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device or higher – Supports this minimum.
It was my 7 year old laptop generically built by Compal, for many vendors who rebrand it for their line of products.
Backup always
As I am quite fastidious, I did not backup my laptop, I took an image of the disk using an old copy of Symantec Ghost running from my customised BartPE [A pre-installation environment that is a cut-down version of Microsoft Windows XP allow you to perform tasks like accessing your hard disk without the problems of open files.] boot CD streaming it over the network to another server. Backups are critically essential; my main systems get backed up every day.
This laptop however is mainly only used for Skype calls but for this situation, it was only right to take a disk image, just in case.
And so fast
Having obtained the ISO image, I burnt the image to DVD using IMGBurn a really neat and free tool and booted up my laptop with the DVD.
I could not get beyond the initial screen it was a Windows Recovery Environment screen suggesting “Your PC needs to be repaired”; it was an unexpected error with the error code 0xc0000260.
My PC had already passed the assessment test for installing Windows 7, so I thought; it was registering an indeterminate error.
Getting beyond that
I then found out I could run the Setup from within Windows XP Professional if I had Service Pack 3, you can determine that with pressing Window key + R to bring up the Run dialog box and type in WINVER – this will reveal what version of Windows you are running.
So, rebooting my laptop to Windows XP, I inserted the DVD and ran setup, over the next 90 minutes, I had the installation go through and complete. When my laptop restarted, I got that Windows Recovery Environment Error again.
This time I had to search for what Error Code: 0xC0000260 meant when installing Windows 8 Customer Preview.
The long and short of the tale is the code has changed from the version before the Customer Preview where according to comments Windows 8 did install without issues but now certain other checks are being made that makes the installation and start-up fall over at the Windows Recovery Environment.
Solutions and alternatives
The skinny on the matter is this.
Others had issues with installing it on their virtual machines, notably, VMWare and VirtualBox and the suggestion was to enable PAE/NX settings for the Virtual Machine or for hardware enable the PAE feature in BIOS – those features however are not offered on the Pentium M processor on my laptop, you can determine what kind of processor you have with CPU-Z.

In the end, we are waiting to see if Microsoft will offer a way to put new wine in old wine skins allowing us to revive our trusty old laptops with this new-fangled operating system.
Meanwhile, I restored the Ghost disk image back to my laptop and installed Windows 8 Customer Preview on a Virtual Machine created on Hyper-V on one of my other systems, a bit disappointed in the fact that I could not get my laptop a new lease of life but at least I get to experience the look-and-feel of Windows 8 – Quite so different, I’ll say.

Thursday 1 March 2012

My Professional Life: A Synopsis

My professional Information Technology life
It started in 1988, which is when I got my first job supporting Information technology installations that included hardware maintenance and repairs as well as the installation/support of software and the resolution of problems that arise from such deployments.
I trained as an Electrical/Electronics Engineer, learnt to program in Basic, ForTRAN 77 and Pascal but it was not long before I realised that most of the hardware components even where they could be fixed our customers preferred to replace faulty systems and have their systems functional in the shortest possible time so they could get on with their work.
This became the excitement of my whole career, looking for working, functional, cost-effective and enduring solutions to problems my customers have.
Addressing thorny problems
Most of my working life has had me in consultancy positions crafting methods and processes of getting disparate systems and applications to work together, the first of which in those days was mail-merging a Dbase III address database into a formal letter in Wordstar, working with Lotus 1-2-3 and Harvard Graphics for presentations, then being an expert for a legal publishing company working for Xerox Ventura Publisher, Dbase III, WordPerfect, CorelDraw and many other utilities.
When I worked for a further education college, I laid out the plan to migrate from the then expensive support structure and archaic network operating system of RM Machines to more open and cost-effective third-party systems running on Novell Netware 3.11 and more contemporaneous Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office software on the clients.
Server Support & Software Distribution
After that project, I ran Novell Netware environments for an actuarial firm and then for an insurance firm offering remote support to over 20 sites in the United Kingdom and abroad. By then, I was already Novell Netware Certified and was ready for my new assignment at an oil company where I deployed the first software distribution process using Microsoft SMS 1.1.
From 1996, I have designed, built, supported and trained people and teams in Microsoft SMS 1.1/1.2/2.0/2003 and Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 in the finance, insurance, computer services, aviation, banking and electronic consumer goods industries.
Changing the organisation
Software Deployment for me has not just been a tool, it has been a method that extends to the improvement of the interaction that users in an enterprise have with the systems that can make them more productive in their work life.
The basic concept that has governed the work I do is optimising and perfecting the user experience such that what the user needs is available in a timely and affordable manner, meaning that the support frameworks have to be streamlined, the solutions have to be easy and the ideas have to be repeatable with respect to device, usage and access.
That is what makes my work fun and challenging, I always look forward to opportunities that are receptive of progressive change and it is my job to ensure that the process of change is as seamless and pain-free as possible.
This blog will serve as forum to offer ideas, bring together opinions and highlight different aspects of my career.

Friday 17 February 2012

Social Media Engagement: Attributes observed playing games

Another observation
Obviously, it isunscientific of based a whole set of presumptions on an experience that hashardly lasted 24 hours, but one will be hard-pressed not to draw conclusionsalready.
As I returned homeyesterday from a lovely rendezvous with my growing circle of friends made fromsocial media activities that included the rather usual lunch that had a finelady exhibit her mastery of Nigerian cuisine, she not being remotely African, Ireminisced about the many people I have met in person through blogging,tweeting and on Facebook.
Scrabble in motion
The train journeyback to Amsterdam was uneventful until at one of the stops a passenger boardedand as he was fiddling with his phone as everyone who has a smartphone doesnowadays, out of the corner of my eye I saw he was playing a game that lookedlike Scrabble.
A few days ago, Idid a search on the Android Marketplace for Scrabble and I ended up with a wordpuzzle – WordGame – which had some addictive qualities working against the clock butnothing like the tradition game.
Rather than be apeeping Tom, I asked the man if the game was Scrabble, it wasn’t but it was a Scrabbleclone of sorts called Wordfeud.
Handling the little things
He said he wasplaying multiple games using different dictionaries with friends all aroundthat world and I thought, when I get home, I will try it out.
Wordfeud isavailable for use with mainly European languages on the iPhone, Android andWindows 7.5+ platforms with the programmers having the good sense to differentiatebetween English (US) and English (International) – they deserve the Nobel PeacePrize for just that alone.
There is a premiumversion that removes all advertisements whilst introducing other features. Theboard and game is intuitive enough and each language has a different alphabetset with weights and frequencies differing according to the selected language.
A really good imitation
It was not longbefore I saw the dissimilarities between Wordfeud and Scrabble, the scoring onthe board is different with the premium squares allowing for more interestingplay, the ratings on the latters also differ – it is amazing how much trivialinformation one can recall from years of playing traditional Scrabble.
It offers the basicmoves as play, swap or miss with the shuffle function that allows forrearranging the letters to form new words but no penalties for wrong words, youare alerted and allowed to reply your turn. There are helpers like WordfeudHelper and Word Fraud, yes, you can get help without your opponent knowing –such dishonesty, alarming indeed.
Tardy responsiveness
However, the reasonfor this blog is to highlight an interesting trait I have found which I dobelieve is a pervasive social media problem.
Apart from Skypecalls, most interactive engagement systems are asynchronous, very much likeemail, you send a message and you cannot pre-determine when a response will bereceived. In a phone call, there is usually an unstated length of a pausebefore either party enquires of the other is still in that conversation – thatis usually not available for Instant Messaging, Twitter, Facebook or games thatare played online.
For this purpose,Wordfeud has given each player 72 hours to respond in play before that playerautomatically forfeits the game.
Appreciating the situation
My question is whystart a game you will not conclude and why is there is no sense of commitmentto complete a game you have started, albeit with strangers?
In 8 games that Ihave started since yesterday, only one has been completed, 2 resigned before 10tiles had hit the board and one gave up before placing anything.
The other four havebeen in play for as much as 17 hours, one of which is quite near conclusion. Ihave decided I will rather be beaten than resign the game and I will mostdefinitely avoid a default.
Wordfeud hasoptions to alert, remind and prompt when it is my turn and I have switched allthose options on.
The interestingthing is in a short chat session with one of the tardy, she; yes, she has afemale username said she was still in the game but was simultaneously playingmultiple games – in other words, I had to be patient.
I would not know ifthe trick is to win but drawing out the game interminably, I am however gladthat Wordfeud does not allow you to resign if it is not your turn.
Playing vulture
If anything,besides the addictive qualities Wordfeud might bring to bear, it allows peopleto divide their attention in such a way that they are not committed, attentiveor engaged to the chagrin of some.
It could also bethat the players will rather default than resign or hope that the game isforgotten especially when they are performing badly in the game so as to snatchvictory from the jaws of defeat – not with me.
This vulture is apatient bird and regardless of the social media construct, I will ensure I amcourteous and responsive to all players that have been randomly selected –niceness should be pervasive, regardless of level of acquaintance, though, I dorecognise in certain forums, some people just seek to expose your evils.