Category Archives: mobility

Smashing the Clock, and the Falling Dollar.

Smashing the clock” It’s nice to see that businesses are starting to see the benefits in morale, just by giving people more control over their time/mobility. True costs and measurements of productivity has to include employee retention, an non-subjective metrics on work performed. This also gets into, outside of the rapid communication needed for training, negotiation …ongoing management shouldn’t require communication more than a few times a day, as this fosters the continual forest fire.

The shrinking of domestic air travel, and the expansion of international. All the more reason if you are travelling, and can earn in Euros, to start thinking of exporting yourself or services, to take advantage of the increasing demand as the dollar weakens.

Here is an source linked to from a friend, that might be interesting if you are into currency trading.

Just say no to (becoming) middle management.

New Rich friends don’t let New Rich desiring friends become middle managers ūüėČ It’s nice to see that the new workforce are recognizing the true costs as well:

http://www.usatoday.com/money/workplace/2007-08-12-no-manage_N.htm?csp=34

Middle management is a vital aspect to most corporations existance, perhaps even as vital as food..which is less metaphorical than I’d like. Middle managers are the grist between the upper management + sales + marketing rock and the engineering + creative millstone. They are burdened with all the accountability, yet minimal control and knowledge. This is an unworkable situation as getting to the moon only armed with ducktape. The soul-crushing damage is easy to spot in startup companies as they grow, and in creative type agencies where projects lifecycles mimic corporations on fast forward. Looked at over time the company org chart looks like a stream, where the water near the edges is almost standing still, and the rapids churning out people in the middle. In some projects companies, I’ve seen them turnover through 3 project managers, and or completely burn out people in less than a year!¬† I realize that work environments can have predator/prey like aspects, but turning excited passionate people committed to making brilliant projects to stressed defensive working insane hours on salary is right up there with clubbing baby seals on my list of fun-time activities to watch or participate in.

To compound problems working is an addition easy to get hooked to, the unlimited hits of a full inbox saying “your important!”, they are so busy working they don’t have time to realize the true costs, until they stumble and gain perspective. Then pehaps they’d decide they’d rather bicycle across the world, and not come back.

The allure of better salary, importance and upgrades seem like glistening gold, but are all typically misleading. Salary at first blush seems a great deal, until they actually find out what the per hour rate is. $70K/70hrs a week is $20 pre-tax. Add in the hidden costs of premature aging, lack of sleep, phone calls, stress, lack of holidays, the true cost might be even in the negative ūüėČ

Upgrade paths are also misleading, there are very few middle managers I’ve met who actually make it higher in the food chain (without jumping ship), or who are actually happier once they get there, this is especially true for engineers and creative types who love building things asked to build and create better people as a good manager should like doing first.

Pocketing the office, travelling for real, and virtualizing everything else…

Part of the fun about gaining independence is being able to mix travel and work and play in increasingly flexible proportions, who says you have to work from 9-5 at a specific address?¬†¬† But with the good comes the law of entropy: Stuff breaks!¬† The more you move, the more things collide… get lost, broken or stolen.¬† The more you have the more stuff can go wrong.¬† If this happens to be your beloved ipod, smartphone, or laptop with all your data this can put a serious damper in your …month, or quarter if it all happens at once.¬† Thankfully, working in the information age we don’t have the same misery as if everything was lost in a fire, earthquake or flood, thanks to the ability of bits to be duplicated, and a global network of cheap data storage, and easy backup.

Synch Happens

This trend started for me about 2 years ago I had 3 PC’s (a notebook, a desktop and a tablet PC), about 7 harddrives, then I did a cost analysis and found that I was spending a fair amount of time just maintaining them (somehow upgrades are never simple as they seem), getting them all internet access, the endless software updates (not just windows), and a surprising one for me: a lionshare getting software to synch back and forth, remembering what has changed, what was on which drive on which machine etc. This is the hidden price of mobility: Synch happens. There are many tools for synchronizing files between machines, some even built into windows, all of them have significant overhead.

Since I do my own IT work I have been out looking for ways to reduce the time I spend maintaining my machines and reduce synching. The answer is pretty simple ruthlessly eliminate devices based on what you are using them for, and reevaluate the true costs of things. I had a desktop I was using as a file server and a movie watching and home automation. Almost all of these are barely used, the 3 machine gigabit network was cool but still was a synch. The movies I could just as easily watch from my laptop, in the end I really just wanted my data.

The desktop with 5 of the 7 drives, filling it’s tower and many cords inflated it’s importance. Since it was an organic growth I never bothered to reinvestigate it’s true worth,¬† though the cognitive one was easy to spot: 5 drives ranging from 120 to 400GB is a lot to manage! one was temp the other installs, backups of the notebook and laptop drives, the other projects the other 2 music, photo albums that eventually grew so large they couldn’t fit on just one. One one hand a 200GB drive seems like a lot of data, and at the time you bought it for say $200 it was.¬† But the constant drain of minutes trying to shuffle files to fit on mostly filled drives and remember where things are adds up quickly which if your hourly rate is even $15 adds up to it’s worth quickly….a NEW 200GB drive is about $45. Sadly you can’t just add new drives indefinately, you run out of room (new case $130) and the powersupply can’t handle it ($100-300).¬† Compare this to a¬† Hitachi 1TB External drive can be had for around $300 which in my case could fit ALL of the drives in one, and eliminate one PC and related upgrades in the process. It’s book sized small enough to fit easily into a bag…if one dared.

The ends goal for me is one laptop and one PDA/smartphone and something to draw on.¬† Since I realized a few years ago that laptops mobility outweigh the cost benefits of assembling a desktop I went to a laptop as my primary machine, and haven’t regretted the decision.¬† As a student in college saving $20-$200 dollars was a big deal and assembling a PC from scratch made sense.¬† Countless hours of beating against hardware incompatibilities has taught me other wise. Upgrade paths are never as great as they are cracked up to be, as you are battling Moore’s law. A Dual processor won’t be faster than a single processor 2-3 years later, and the various memory, harddrive, power interfaces shift enough that it may as well be a new machine. Opening the case up things start breaking.

So now I have an Dell Latitude I got off ebay for about $1K, the docking station ($40) which allows for a PCI expansion slot, in which I put a nvidia multimonitor card ($50) bringing it up to 4 20″ monitors…the set also cost about $1200 from TigerDirect.com Christmas of 2006. It’s pretty much the best of both worlds for me, portability and massive workspace when home. I have a few high end audio cards (that are also mobile). So I’m not really missing much.¬† If I played games I think that consoles and renting the cartridges are still probably the best way to go.

Go West Young Man

Since I have basically just this laptop,¬† I’m about to go on the road for a full month visiting Chicago and Hawaii with my girlfriend. I’ve been working on¬† reducing this single point of failure.¬†¬† The 1TB drive has worked out well, and getting everything backed up to the web as I aim to take as little gear with me. Between Amazon’s S3 and globat.net’s cheap hosting it’s very easy to backup pretty much everything I ever have done digitally in multiple places, strongly encrypted, for well under $200 a year. Given the massive amount of digital photos, work, (around 900GB) I’ve done this is cheap insurance.

I’ve had the unfortunate ‘benefit’ of having a few harddrives and a laptop fail in the last few years, which thanks to backups¬† no important data was lost, but buying a new machine requires reinstalling everything, which allowed me to measure the time it takes to get back up to speed from ground zero.¬† Around¬† 2 weeks! takes to get all the development tools utilities downloaded, licensesd and setup properly.¬† Backups generally don’t what you want as all the hardware has changed, and or the new machine has a faster bigger harddrive, it’s not as easy to just drop in and go.

 Virtualization
As such I’m starting to virtualize my machines, meaning running all applications in a virtual PC, which with processors including native virtualization commands is only 4% overhead from the normal machine in many cases. Compared to the week I spend getting setup, the inevitability of having something fail again, having the ability to backup is an easy sell. In some cases the same virtual machine images I’m working on will be the same I upload to Amazon to create highly scalable innovative web apps, or send to others to work on.

This is far different from traditional backups, as the VM image is platform independent, it can be run on Linux, OSX, XP, Vista on different hardware configurations as easily as moving a spreadhsheet file from machine to machine.  To boot almost any operating system can be virtualized, which is great for those of us doing cross platform development and testing.

The latest version of VMWare “ACE’ can run the virtual machine images directly off a thumbdrive, and Flash drives are big and cheap enough for most development needs I’m doing. So in my case if my machine were to die, get stolen or blowup in my travels I could get the complicated development environment running within minutes on any new machine/OS.¬†¬† So it’s even possible to take all the entire machine with you in your pocket and leave the PC behind if you know your not going to work on the road and have access to a PC/Mac wherever you are going.

Smallest 2GB flash drive I’ve found
http://www.edgetechcorp.com/digital-media/sd-card-flash-drive.asp $60

Smallest 4GB flash drive (I’ve found)
http://www.sony.net/Products/Media/Microvault/usm-h.html
around $60   http://kaanza.com/Shopping/ProductDetail.asp?Productid=400337

or standard sized 4GB if you want an integrated  finger reader for $130
http://www.edgetechcorp.com/usb-flash-drives/biometric-flash-drive.asp

Smallest USB reciever on a notebook mouse.
http://www.everythingusb.com/logitech_vx_nano_notebook_mouse_13017.html
Also checkout the shrinking of the wireless reciever at the bottom:
http://www.logitech.com/index.cfm/mice_pointers/mice/devices/3271&cl=us,en