Friday, November 30, 2012

Contract Life

As a contractor I can recall a time when I worked in a team where my salary was 5 times that of my coworker.  

Can this ever be right or justified?

In a favourable scenario the contractor:

  • Brings special skills and expertise not present within the hiring company
  • Is able to work extended hours
  • Does not bullshit
  • Focuses on getting the job done
  • Is Geographically mobile
  • Does not burden his management or coworkers
  • Does not intimidate management or coworkers
  • Comes to do the job, for a fixed specific and short time period, then exits

The contractor is trading the risk of unemployment between contracts for the high salary when he/she is working.  And when employed will work differently to that of his permanent coworkers.

So,  when does the system break down?

- If in the above list you tick all the boxes but you are a permanent employee, then perhaps you should consider contracting

- Conversely if you have been working for one employer (say) for over 5 years, then your employer should be hiring you as a permanent not a contractor.

This all comes to pass on a day when I hear that 2 fellow contractors will shortly be leaving, something that they only found out recently. I'll be very sorry to see them go but  this comes with the territory

And perhaps why our blog page has some trivial javascript to constantly remind me every day not to be too complacent

Marcus you are fired in:

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The future's not set

When I was just a kid  my mother, who was a talented singer often sang to me  Que Sera Sera, a tune I remember from Hitcock's film The Man Who Knew too much with Doris Day.  It contains lines from a simpler and more naive generation

Whatever will be will be
The future's not ours to see
Whatever will be will be

Luckily we now live in the 20th century where science, technology and reason leads us to confirm the assertion

  • That we can make a difference
  • That our lives are under our control, not from an unseeing, all knowing, imaginary friend whose benevolence seems to be rather arbitrary

I would rather subscribe to the John Conner, Terminator 2 school of belief:

The future's not set. There's no fate but what we make for ourselves

Que Sera Sera

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Googly verses Apple

We are out of inventory. Please check back soon :-(

This is the message you get if you try to order a Nexus 4 smartphone in England  [Obviously if you try this from Switzerland you will find that NO hardware can be ordered.  Surely it can't be that a self interested Telcomms cartel has conspired to block Google now?]

So back to the UK:   Yes, I have checked the website about twice a day, and so in the last 2 weeks that is over 20 times. Yes, SOLD OUT!

So it comes to the bottom line

Google Nexus 4 smartphone.. brilliant,   239 GBP

Google Nexus 10, including 2560x1600 screen, 319 GBP

Google Chromebook,  SSD version,  brilliant, 230 GBP

And the apple competition:  (UK pricing in GBP GB Pounds again including 20% Value Added Tax VAT)

Apple iPhone 5 , 16GB,  529 GBP

Apple iPad3, 16GB,  399 GBP

So in my current tests:

  • Apple devices can run iTunes allowing seamless integration with your iPod
  • Android look and feel lags Apple
  • But Android is close to almost being not just 'as good' but 'superior'
  • If you are looking to switch to Android, check that your must-have applications are available from the Google Play store.  You will be (positively) surprised.
  • At Google prices it is clear that you are getting excellent value for money.  Meanwhile for Apple ... hmmm

Overall, Google can claim the moral high ground but suffer from a manufacturing and supply chain that it quite pathetic when compared to Apple. Google ships a few thousand Nexus 4 handsets, then pauses for breath.  Meanwhile Apple ships 5 million !

So Google Santa, please make good this situation, well before Christmas.

Kitty Sanctuary

To those in the know it has recently been a significant wedding anniversary for Marcus and Agata.

By way of an initial surprise  to me; Agata took me on a mystery cycle tour.   We arrived at the Grangette refuge to a Kitty sanctuary!

The owner has converted their 3 floor house which is free to enter.   Each floor has most rooms devoted to kitty accommodation.  There are a few rooms with stickers saying things like "Bedroom, don't enter".  Other than that you can wander around at your pleasure.

To avoid escape all the external balconies are covered in mesh so that kitties can roam at will and go for a wander as is necessary.

 Marcus starts up a kitty purring machine

 Yes, please follow me

 More purring machines are started

 Agata joins in

 This is a nice place for a little rest

Maybe a stroll in the garden?

We had a fantastic, kitty stroking afternoon at the refuge and donations to keep this establishment going can be made here

I can hardly believe that within 8Km of our home has been hiding this great establishment and we never knew about it.  Congratulations to Agata for organising this surprise as part of our anniversary celebration.

Refuge Grangette, La Croix sur Lutry

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Power of Analysis

Analysis is a wonderful thing.  With the helpful Internet at your disposal you can make your own informed decisions with some sound analysis.

[Note to Media Marketers: Yes you are redundant]

And so when I saw the above advertisement at ALDI I was initially salivating at the chance to obtain a bargain!  Some analysis later:

  • The Swiss price is 149 CHF, but the unit was sold 12 months ago, with a larger hard disk for less than this.   Swiss discriminatory pricing strikes again?
  • Medion, the ALDI electronics brand is never state of the art, but this device being sold first Nov 2011, is even more behind
  • I found the firmware is based on the Zyxel 210 leading to the discovery of the Zyxel NSA 310 which is available for a similar price - the Aldi unit not so competitive then
  • On the Plus side the Aldi is well documented
  • Microcontroller dissects it
  • It can be hacked into a cheap Linux server: Gentoo chroot

So what did we learn?

  • The price and technology is not uber competitive as first thought
  • Other 1 Bay NAS are available with much better software
  • It could make a nice hacking project if you want a low power, underpowered (CPU) Linux server

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sunday, 11 Nov Ironman couple

Don't GO

This is what Club La Santa seems to saying to us as we reflect on the morning of

Day 11

Sunday,  November 11,  Ironman Camp, Lanzarote

To recap, Agata and Marcus finished the baby Ironman 70.3 in good times for us.  No scratches, bruises, accidents or really any stiffness.  Just a great time.  And this goes for the race and the time spent on the preparation week.

To finish then Agata headed for the Olympic sized pool and Marcus headed for the running track.  After about 15Km of running I headed back to our apartment for that last snack and packing to go.

 A final meeting at the Juice bar for some fond goodbye's

 A last detour before driving to the airport

 The airport queue was a little worrying, but we made it.

 The SBB train back from Geneva to Lausanne was a shocking 20 minutes late.  But we were on such a high we barely noticed.

Shock horror, Marcus discovers a slightly sore toe.  Not bad as the only injury of the week.

Yazoo - Don't GO in HD

Friday, November 23, 2012

Saturday 10 Nov Ironman Race Lanzarote

Day 10

Back to events of Saturday, November 10 and the Lanzarote Ironman 70.3

It is finally time to stop preparing and actually race!

Marcus Race report:

The pro's started late and then without warning we were told to start ... a bit of a surprise to most people.   The 1.9Km course was quite full of people.   I swam quite leisurely since there would be a long way to go on the bike!   At one point I was get hit on the head regularly by a guy who insisted on swimming next to me, other than that no issues.

On exit from the swim I desperately wanted to pee so when I saw some toilets I took the opportunity.  A minute or two lost, but well spent!

It was windy!  But I had a great 90Km bike.  The best moments were overtaking at least 50 people on the Tabayeso steep hill.

Water planning went great:  I used 1 litre upto the 60Km point and then took on a last 500ml of Coke for the last 30Km.

Low Point: Coming out Teguise I turned right and looked back to see a sign pointing in the other direction.  So I stopped  (from about 30Km.h) turned round and asked the marshall.  Yes I was going the right way.  Ho hum.

Very happy with the run.  Good energy although it was rather hot.

To save transition time I ran in my cycling trousers, not ideal but the cycling top turned out great.  Since I was overheating on laps 2 and 3 I realised that I could stuff ice cubes in the back cycle pockets.  This cooled me down and I use this as fluid for the race.  Just top-tastic!

And then in about 6 hours total it was all over.

Agata Bike and Run timings (click to zoom in)

Agata's Bike timings

Agata's run

View coming into track/stadium

Post race Ice Cream tent.  I spent a lot of time here :-)

 Kennet the famous organiser of the Ironman

Cathy on her last lap


Amanda's last lap


 Richard and Andy


Agata comes in for the finish

Almost there!

Agata finishes, very happy!

 Cathy finishes


Cathy and Agata

 Waiting for the husband


Marcus Ironman 70.3 race report video

Now that is over I think it is time for some dinner, and this time with wine!


 Marcus thinks, is it time for another glass of wine?

Team table

Men with large cameras table

Jane and Daz

Richard Hobson best in class

The Medals!

Click to zoom in on our timings

Our first Ironman 70.3

We are delighted to have finished, in good times for our first attempt, with smiles, no injuries, no bumps, scrapes, bruises or even sore bits.  Fan-flippin-tastic !

Now jump to our Last Day 11