Archive for December, 2006

Happy New Year

Sunday, December 31st, 2006

People have accused my Christmas post of being ‘twee’ so I’m going to keep this one a bit shorter but those people might still want to stop reading now.

And, yes it was an automatic post, I wasn’t on line at midday on the 25th, if I recall correctly I was in the middle of constructing a trifle. And I’m not online now either, and the chances are by the time you read this it’ll be 2007.

So for the next few days we’ll all be wishing each other a happy new year, to the point where — for me at least — they become just words, another mantra that we repeat. So when you wish someone a Happy New Year today, tomorrow or whenever, all I ask is that you mean it, even if only for that moment.

So, to each and all of you, I hope you have a fantastic 2007.

Really.

And I’ll try and dial down the twee for a bit.

Resolutions …

Friday, December 29th, 2006

Well the dawning of the new year is almost upon us and it’s the time when, after a few drinks and during a lull in the conversation, people ask about resolutions. It’s a tradition I quite like, it’s not really taken too seriously and it inspires people to think and, perhaps, change something.

I’ve made resolutions most years, some serious, some not so, some detailed, some just an idea. Most I’ve followed through with to some degree or another. This (last) year I resolved to try and get out of the comfortable rut that I find myself in, try new things, go new places, meet new people. I think I achieved that, although it may be cheating to just sod off for on an exotic holiday for a month and not really change much the rest of the time.

A few years back I resolved to actually make an effort to get in contact with old friends and stay in contact with current ones, it was a pretty good resolution and it worked well but I’ve since lapsed into my less communicative ways. I think this year is a pretty good time to resurrect that one, get in touch with old friends, make an effort to go visit people near and far … we’ll see how it goes.

Working at Chirstmas Time

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

Well it’s the December the 27th and I’m back at work in an almost empty office, there’s only two of us left now. People always think it strange that I work the days between Christmas and New Year but generally there’s not that much going on around now and it’s not that hard to wander in and get some stuff done. Better to save holidays for some other time.

It also gives me a chance to listen to all the CDs I’ve bought over the last few weeks (I got a bit Amazon-happy again and just kept clicking the big button). I’m listening to Jarvis, Jarvis Cocker’s new album, at the moment. It’s really rather good, well worth picking up in the sales. You can hear some of it on his (particularly awful looking) myspace page.

Bonus link: teaser trailer for the new Fantastic Four movie. As one of the few people that actually liked the first film I’m quite looking forward to this one.

Merry Christmas

Monday, December 25th, 2006

I’m often accused of being a bit of a grinch at this time of year as I don’t really embrace the Christmas season like some people do. Since I spend Christmas with my folks I don’t tend to have a tree, or put up any decorations in my flat. I fact I don’t really do anything special in the run up to Christmas.

I still feel the season is important, but it’s not about the decorations, the trimmings or even ‘the spice’ as the fat tongued mockney twat says in the adverts.

It’s about the people. It’s about family, friends and strangers.*

So I hope each and everyone of you has the best Christmas you can, however you want it to be.

As a gift to me, just take a second away from the turkey, the tinsel and the tree and think of everyone else’s Christmas and what you can do to help them have the best time they can — not just a Christmas but all year round.

Merry Christmas.

I’m not Christian so it’s not about Jesus for me, but if it is for you then that’s cool too.

Telewest Engineers Breathe Easy Again

Sunday, December 17th, 2006

Telewest managed to get the TV Drives back up and running after a seven hour outage yesterday. The official line says:

A configuration issue on our network caused this outage.

Sounds fishy to me, non TV Drive boxes weren’t affected so the majority of the network was intact. I guess it’s possible that they tried to push a upgrade to the boxes but it’s bizarre to do it nationwide in the middle of a Saturday. If they did to that and their update server died in the middle of it then I suppose that might hose the boxes until they got the server back.

But who knows what really happened? The problem with these sorts of things is that the customers are rarely really told what went on. In fact the customer services department are rarely told so the end users have no hope. Does it really matter? Do we benefit, as customers, from knowing the details after the fact? Is there any harm in putting the information out there?

Disaster Recovery Plans

Saturday, December 16th, 2006

I have the Telewest TV Drive system, basically their cable-PVR unit. I’ve been very pleased with it despite some slightly flaky software.

At half past one or so today it started displaying a message that say “Do not switch off your set top box as it is being updated”. Funny time for an update, I thought but I left it as I was supposed to be cleaning the flat anyway. A few hours of cleaning and present wrapping later I come back and it’s still the same. Some investigation on the web reveals that every box that was powered on at the time is similarly affected.

Now I don’t actually have much of an issue with this, it’s slightly annoying and it’ll be more annoying if it nukes all my recorded programs but I’ll live. I have plenty of other ways to distract myself (not least an old non-TV Drive cable box that I can use if I have to). The interesting part for me is the speculation that something has gone so badly wrong that all the boxes are screwed beyond help and will need swapped out (or at least an engineer visit).

So, I’m wondering, imagine you’re in charge of fixing this for Telewest, a good majority of your engineers are probably on holiday, you’ve got tens of thousands of boxes needing replaced or repaired, you may not even have the spares available to do it and if you don’t manage it within the next five days or so you’re the company that ruined Christmas, at least for some people. Let’s, for now, ignore the fact that there are much worse hardships than just having no cable on Christmas day.

What do you do?

Hire more engineers? Send out boxes by post? Start sending out the older boxes? Just start paying people compensation?

What if we go more unorthodox? Start streaming TV-On-Demand for free to people with broadband that are happy with that? Send DVDs (and players) of the big films that were on? Buy everyone Sky? The conspiracy theorist in me is forced to wonder about the timing, if you were a malicious individual acting in the interests of Sky you’d take the network out today — the deadline to order Sky in time for Christmas is the 18th.

What if the boxes are fixable but it’s an “open the case and fiddle” fix? Do you publish the fix instructions online and let people have a bash? Pay people to fix their neighbours’ boxes if they think they can?

All companies should have disaster recover plans, they should cover everything from the mundane to the ridiculous. I’d love to know if “what if we accidentally goose all the set top boxes on the network” is in Telewest’s DRP, and what’s written under it.

I’m guessing it says “Resign”, or maybe just “Pray”.

Competitions

Friday, December 15th, 2006

I like competitions where there’s some skill or challenge involved, rather than the normal prize-draws or ones with questions that you’d need the IQ of a dead hedgehog to get wrong. Competitions that can’t possibly be solved by using the Internet are even better. That way you feel that you’ve got a decent chance of winning, or at least you’re likely to be up against less people.

All of which brings me to the Orange “win the ultimate party” competition, sadly the thrust of the competition seems to be to harvest peoples e-mails but, ignoring that, it appeals to me. It’s an easy concept: design a £50,000 party for 400 people, best party idea gets their party made real, it’s not got long to run (closes in January) and the bar is quite high as you need to register 400 e-mail addresses for your entry to qualify. I’m going to trust Orange not to be too spammy and say that that’s a fairly cheap cost to enter.

So, this should be winnable but how to do it? The spec says “creative and unique” and something that would “bring people together”. I think that rules out the stuff I can come up with off the top of my head, the medieval banquet, the Hollywood party, any time-period themed thing. You could go with an abstract theme (‘Stuff the begins with T’, or even just ‘Orange’) but I expect those angles are going to be pretty well covered so I don’t think there’s much mileage in that.

I’m guessing sucking up to Orange and figuring in communication heavily isn’t going to hurt. Hmmm, perhaps some mad multi-site thing? Some phone-based interaction? Something ‘mobile’ (see what I did there?). Gah, not as easy as I thought. Any ideas? Free invites to any commenters that want them (if I come up with a half decent idea).

Banana and Tomato

Monday, December 11th, 2006

It’s been a bit quiet around here lately. I’ve thought of posting a few different things but I’m always wary of posting whatever flits through my mind. Otherwise I fall into the trap of posting stuff like this:

I tend to have a bit spare fruit lying around, so I’m fond of trying to do new things with it before it goes too ripe and mushy. This led to me throwing bits of banana in the pasta sauce I made tonight — it was interesting and I think that the right blend of bacon, tomato, banana and chilli might have the makings of something really special. Or maybe I’m just odd.

That’s the sort of inanity that you’re spared when I decide not to post anything at all. There’s plenty of that already on the web, hell if that’s your bag then there’s a new site dedicated to it.

So, there’ll be more posts when something moves me to post.

Or when I perfect my chibactomban sauce.