So I’m not sure if 6 months between posts is a record for me, but it has certainly been a long time. I’ve thought a few times during that period that I should write something, but then I’ve realised I don’t really have anything to write about.
My best laid plans to build a robot, develop a Windows Phone 7 app, and anything else, have all fallen by the wayside. There’s not really much point developing further for Windows Phone 7 anyway, after it became clear it’s been a well disguised beta test for Windows Phone 8. Any adopter, early or late, is now left carrying a device that can’t be updated to Windows Phone 8, and is less likely to have more apps, as I doubt the major app develops would see now as the time to start widely supporting it!
It’s been 18 months, almost 2 years of me trying to be positive about it, to encourage people it is a worthy smartphone platform, but I can’t in good conscience continue now. In reality it’s been more like 18 months of suffering, particularly with a horrendous on screen keyboard, and being left in the cold when it comes to lack of apps. Lets hope Windows Phone 8 gets more than a sprinkling of apps, and gets the ones people want when they want them, not years after the rest of the world has moved on.
Fortunately last week, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a Google Asus Nexus 7 tablet, when they were sold out almost everywhere. Thanks go to Currys Reserve and Collect service and my local store getting stock in just at the right time. While I’ve had just a week using Android properly for the first time, I am definitely a fan. I know it’s on a tablet, not a phone, but it really does put Windows Phone 7 to shame.
Just the home screen alone, allowing you to mix app icons and interactive widgets beats Metro’s basic combination of Live Tiles (no interaction) and an app list. Come on Microsoft, pull your finger out! At this rate, I’ll have changed phones, probably to a HTC One X, before you can say Windows Phone 8. Android has always had better hardware available, and now I definitely see that they have the better software too.
My baking has continued in the last 6 months. I have made my classic Bacon Brownies a number of times, mainly on request – at Christmas, for friends and for a summer barbecue (after their success last year). But I’ve made other things too. I found the Carrot Cake recipe from The Hairy Bikers tastes great, and really easy to make.
But the next recipe definitely blows that, and anything else, out of the water. After two recent events with the Scouts – a Cub Camp and our Scout Groups 80th Anniversary Celebration, I have found my new favourite baked item thanks to one of the parents – Monkey Bread! The recipe itself is from Lakeland, but if it weren’t for trying some on Cub Camp, I may never have found this delicious combination of cinnamon and sweet dough. I made this for the summer barbecue earlier this month, and although it didn’t turn out perfectly, it was definitely a success. One to make again in the future.
More recently I have done what I set out to do in my current job, and that is complete the graduate scheme. It was this that has kept me there after early on I realised I didn’t like the job. After 6 months, I didn’t want to leave having completed some of the modules, so made the decision to stay at least until the end. Now I’m finally here, and while it makes no difference to my day to day work, it does mean I am in a better position to look for other opportunities. Plus having now worked for 2 years in a large technology company, having some experience should be a benefit should I apply for other jobs.
The next few months are going to be extremely busy, so it may be later on in the year that I start thinking about changing jobs. By the end of October, I will have volunteered as a mentor at Young Rewired State, been on the week long Essex International Jamboree with the Scouts, hopefully moved house, and got married. All of that is likely to take priority over any potential job hunting, especially since there is still wedding planning to do.
Perhaps by next year I’ll be doing a job I enjoy, whether it’s through the ongoing changes where I’m working now (less likely) or elsewhere. I may also have finished building the robot and some of the other stuff I said I would do. Who knows. Next year is a long way off.
In late 2010 I jumped in as an early adopter to Windows Phone 7 and purchased a HTC 7 Mozart. While Windows Phone 7 still proves to be like Marmite, and the handsets available trail behind those offered by Android, it was an improvement over my previous phone. Finally I had a smartphone which easily supported the different social networks and had apps I wanted to use, unlike my previous Windows Mobile 6.5 handset, which had programs rather than apps.
The camera wasn’t bad either. An 8 megapixel sensor with a Xenon flash, quite a unique feature for a phone. Finally I was carrying a camera with me every day capable of some reasonable shots. Of course my compact Canon Ixus 85IS was, and still is, far better, but I don’t take that everywhere. So, on January 1st 2011, I began ‘Project 365′ (#project365).
The idea is simple – take at least 1 picture a day, and share it somewhere. I chose to do this primarily through Windows Live SkyDrive, because the phone could auto-upload the pictures. The album can be found here: http://bit.ly/z5m5H3
But looking back on it now, if I had known how difficult it would be, I’d not have committed!
At the end of the year, I had only 359 photos! Even when trying, I fell 6 short of a picture for every day. Some days I just felt there was nothing worth taking a picture of. Most of the time I’m travelling to the same depressing office, to do the same mindless job. I don’t want to be taking photos of that. I’m sure over half, possibly three quarters of the pictures are of my pet rats, and more recently, pet cats.
This really has shown me that most of the time, my life is boring. I do the same thing day in day out in such a routine, photo opportunities don’t really present themselves. Certainly not ones worth sharing. I at one point created a set on my Flickr to share these photos, but have since deleted them. These are not pictures worth having on Flickr. Instead, I will leave them on Windows Live, where they can be seen if anyone wants too.
This year, I knew right away I did not want to try this again. It highlights the boredom of my life far too much. Of course I’m going to keep taking, and sharing, pictures of my cats. That is, after all, what the internet is there for! But I’m not going to force myself to take pictures when pictures don’t need taking.
Ok, so it’s the end of the year, and I still haven’t finished building my (rather simple) robot. The current hurdle I’ve not been able to clear involves configuring the XBee Wi-Fi Module. I have tried both the XBee Explorer Dongle and XBee Explorer USB from Sparkfun, without success. I have tested both on multiple machines, and get the same problems.
The X-CTU software used to configure the XBee modules has trouble seeing that the XBee module is connected. I am sometimes able to read the current settings from the XBee, or even write changes to it, but not reliably. It may be something to do with the USB to Serial (RS232) converter that is built in to both boards. Therefore I still haven’t been able to configure in a way that will work how I need it too. If I can’t get it working, I may get the official XBee USB Interface Board from Digi, and try again.
Work, is of course, still work. I go there every day, do what I need to do, and leave as soon as possible. My plan for 2012 is to move on to better things, be that another, more fulfilling job, postgraduate education, or something else. The thought of being stuck in the same hole this time next year is far too depressing. I’m sure all of you will agree, writing ‘software’ using VBA in Microsoft Word and Excel is something no one should have to suffer!
To that end, I’ve been getting involved in more things outside of work, so there is actually something interesting in my life to stop work from finishing me off. I have signed up as a mentor for Young Rewired State, after attending the 2011 Final. I may also look at the other things Rewired State has to offer. I have already met some cool people through there, and we’ve come up with an idea for a project to hack together. I’m not sure I’ll be able to contribute much, as work has killed off most of the useful stuff I once knew, from Uni and before, but it’ll be fun to try.
So it’s onwards into 2012. If 2011 was ‘The Year Stuff Happened’, hopefully 2012 for me will have an equally good tag line. Perhaps ‘The Year I Resurrected my Career’ or ‘The Year I Rose Out of the Gutter’. Either way, if I’m still stuck in the same place this time next year, in the same depressing dead end job, you’ll know I’ve failed. But for now, time to polish my C.V. (if that’s possible), update my website and profiles, and order some Moo cards!