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30 April 2016

Flower Power Sprint

Working and having fun on Naxos again
The official sprint tshirt artwork

The team I'm working with on one of my projects has this tradition of meeting roughly 2x per year and working all together for about a week. We call that a "sprint" (despite that some software process terminologies call something different "a sprint", we're not bothered). The last one was last November in Galicia, Spain. This time we were on Naxos again (for the 3rd time now, April 6-16).

Our program consisted of 3 days of intensive work, then 1 day off, then another 3 days of "sprinting", followed by 2 days for "social stuff". We were quite productive on the work days, which resulted in us enjoying the "social" days together even more. We also had lunch and dinner together mostly, which resultet in way too much food being eaten. In early April, not all naxian restaurants are open, but there is still a good selection.

Borja and me spent much of the "social" time out on a bike. We explored many of the less cycled roads of Naxos together, and the number of climbs was almost dwarfed by the number of sheep and goats we met out on the road. We also met The Pig (which is another story for this weblog, but since The Pig has a no-photo shield around it, maybe better for another time). In the process, Borja managed to pass the magical "100km in one ride" mark, of which he has written a nice ride report. Oscar and Panos went looking for sheep and goats on a couple of motorbikes, but they missed The Pig.

One perfect fit is that we got a new team member from Naxos, joining the team just a few days before the sprint. This fit perfectly, as he could meet all the team members, and also get a working start on the code base.

Oscar has another sprint report online, with tons of picture.


Posted by betabug at 21:31 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
20 August 2016

Time for a new phone

It's been some years

It was January 2009 when I got a new work phone from my then employer. It was the brand spanking new Nokia e71 smartphone. It did it all and it proved to be a longtime companion. I've used - and loved - that phone ever since. I'm on my 3rd battery. Lately though, more and more things stopped working. The VoIP client and the VPN didn't hold up with the software cycles in their fields. Lately the email-client stopped working too. Those are software problems, there might even be solutions. More and more keys stopped working or fell out. And then the USB connector started to break.

In the end I bit the bullet and decided on a new phone. Given the current selection of phones, this is like "choosing the least sucky of all those sucky phones out there". There's nothing with a physical keyboard. The phone ecosystem seems to think that as a customer, you're just an expendable that never really "owns" the hardware. The security problems are a nightmare. Providers don't bother to update software. Everybody thinks that it's ok if a phone breaks apart and is broken if it ever falls down (typical e71-owners wouldn't even check the phone for damage when it fell down).

So I got myself a "Samsung Galaxy XCover 3 VE" (instead of "VE" it might also be described as "(2016)". It came with Android 6.0.1, which means it will be up-to-date for a little while. I'm trying not to think about all the security holes that are already announced for that platform and duly ignored by providers and handset makers. It's a phone that is slightly waterproof (IP67 IIRC), dustproof, and "should" even survive a little bit of falling down. Only experience can tell on that side.

First impressions: It works. The cameras is better than the one from the e71, but not by a huge margin. Good enough for pics to put on the web when out cycling. Using it is ok. Response time in the UI are really ok. The screen resolution is not great, but good enough for the current state of my eyes (I wouldn't see more on an ultra high resolution screen). Battery time is not in the same league as the e71, but I guess good enough. I'm very stringent about shutting things like bluetooth down and dow't use much (same as on the old phone). The e71 clearly was a phone where "phone things" were much easier accessible.

There is this saying about war, that says it makes difficult things easy, and simple things complicated (or something like that). That's the impression I have about Android. Install a VoIP client? Easy peasy. Open the phone to make a simple phone call to someone in your address book? Takes about 10 steps more than on the Nokia. Put pictures from the camera straight into Strava using the client, childs play. Get your pictures from your phone to the computer that sits 30cm next to it? Ah well, you could do it this way but..., and you could do it that way, but... but in the end it was designed to just hand over your stuff to Google or some other "cloud" thing. Which I obviously don't do.

And there is an app for everything(TM). But that app is quite likely trying to display annoying ads or is crippled in some other way. On the Symbian platform there was none of the ad bullshit really, but there were the crippled apps too. The symbian app selection was smaller, that just meant that you had less "sifting through all the garbage" to do.

Verdict: For now, it will do. It won't last as long as the last one, and it makes some simple stuff complicated. The rest, time will tell.


Posted by betabug at 17:47 | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)
30 January 2018

Portrait Monitor... and tablets

No, this is not about framing a photo, neither is it a tablet
Web designer stupidity in spanish

Since my computer work consists mostly of writing code, I find it very convenient to use a monitor that is "upright", or in portrait mode. That way I can see more code in the file that I'm editing. Typically the width of the code is limited to a few under 80 characters wide (and it's common to use a fixed width font). In my case I use a monitor that can rotate. I guess there was some "driver" software that came with it to automatically tell the operating system on your computer in which orientation you have it rotated. I don't use anything of that sorts, I simply tell my operating system how I want my external monitor to be configured.

So much for the navel gazing at my work habits. What is more fun is what happens when I browse on the World Wide Web with this monitor. Because nowadays, many websites seem to "sniff" somehow the screen dimensions, and when they see it's portrait, they assume I'm browsing on a tablet.

So I tend to get huge font sizes, menus hidden behind the "hamburger menu", and sometimes really minimalist pages. Quite often I can fix things by playing with the zoom level or slightly resizing the browser window. Most of the times I can live with this latest trend in web designer stupidity.

An award for extra stupidity goes to the designers of the website of spanish bicycle brand Berria though (or maybe to whatever framework they use) at http://www.berria-racing.com/. Going to their site, I'm informed to please turn my tablet into landscape mode. With no choice to override this, with no way around it or a button "give me the desktop site". (See picture.) Somebody wasn't thinking this through. Well, actually I can override it, by using only part of my screen and reducing the browser window to a landscape-shaped slice, but that's very unconvenient. Interesting enough, when you have a deep link to one of their pages, it works anyway, so why put in this stupid blocker? Facepalm.


Posted by betabug at 20:23 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
19 April 2018

EspressoSprint

5 days of work and a tiny bit of fun
Working into the sunset at the cafe Santana in Agia Anna

Twice a year me and the friends who work together on this project get together and work concentrated for a week or so. Usually we're remote working and part of the team is in Spain, part in Greece. So putting our heads together once in a while "in real life" is a Good Thing(TM). Apart from work days, we usually also leave some days free to do something all together, the so-called "social days". The last few years, the cyclists in the team go on a long ride together. This time it was all a bit condensed...


The official sprint tshirt

EspressoSprint

We call these get-togethers a "sprint". This spring, our sprint was here on Naxos. Due to family matters, some of the team members were a bit time-restrained, so we had only 5 working days, no "social days" at all. Ah well, can't always have it all! We are a very family-friendly team, so sometimes there is a bit of a downside too for that. Since things were to be a bit more "quick", we named this sprint "EspressoSprint". Quick, short, or not, it was good to have this sprint, as with all the ups and downs of organizing it, for a moment it had looked as if it wouldn't happen. I'm really glad we managed to go through with it!

The umbrellas at the cafe del mar

Working at the beach

The last time we were on Naxos, we were situated in the inland of the island, more towards the mountains. This time we were right on the beach. Agios Prokopios is a very touristy area of Naxos. During the tourist season in summer, I wouldn't house my friends there (unless they were into that bumbum-disko-beach-junkfood kind of vacation). But now in spring, Agios Prokopios was barely awake, most activity seen were shop owners painting and repairing. Our friend Mauro had convinced some friends to open their hotel and their beach bar / restaurant early for us.

Especially the cafe del mar in Agios Prokopios was a big success. Both for us, as we had a great time there, lots of work space, great food and service - but also for them, as the weather was quite good and their shop attracted more customers than expected. They had some umbrellas on the beach too, and except for one cloudy day, there was a bit of business most of the time.

One of the evenings we moved to the Cafe Santana over in Agia Anna (another Naxos tourist hotspot), where we worked right into the sunset. It was very nice, but I wasn't dressed warm enough, so I got myself a bit of a cold.

Working at the cafe del mar

Getting work done

Then there was our own business: Programming! In a sprint, it's usually good to concentrate on the things that profit when you are working in direct contact with the others in the team. So we discussed some things, we looked and solved problems in the UI parts, we reviewed and tested work and fixed the things that came up. We had to digest a u-turn decision of the customer, but I think we managed to get out with a good solution for that.

Working at the cafe del mar

It happens in some sprints that I have to talk so much my voice gets all coarse! Some sprints are all about meetings and discussions, this one was a good mix. I got to write some code, got to test out some stuff. I didn't write as much code as I wanted, but that's OK, I can do that on my own too. I would rate this as a very productive sprint.

Out cycling

Fun and food

Even though there were no "social days", the three cyclists in the team (minus the one temporarily injured cyclist), managed to get three nice rides in. We didn't have time for doing a long ride, but we had fun! We also spent a good amount of time eating out and enjoying good naxian food. The cafe del mar provided us with very good italian food for most of the days lunch, so we didn't lose much time to go out for lunch.

Out cycling

Posted by betabug at 11:34 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
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