Thursday, 28 May 2020

That Work Life Split Under Covid

With the lockdown and working from home I'm finally doing something I always thought I wanted to do, work from home.  I'd always had the niggling thought I could be more efficient and it would be really good to be able to work from home.  Oh my... Oh Me Oh My How wrong was I?!

The first elephant in the room, work-life-balance, I work in my home office, my home office where I write this blog and make silly videos and play and read... And... so when I've been in it 8+ hours a day, I don't want to look at it any more... I don't sit at my office desk craving to be home chomping on some private project, because I'm already at that home desk and the lines have been blurred.

Second, the family... Specifically (sorry love) the wife... She's no concept of being in the zone, as a programmer, when you're in the zone and been doing something niggly all day and everything is finally falling into place, no matter the time, you stick at it to get done... No, my wife can't comprehend this, she doesn't understand everytime she shouts "Come on now"... It's another 20 minutes because you just mentally ravaged my trail of thought... Put headphones on?... Yeah you don't know how loud my Mrs is.

Third, hours... I touched on it a little above, but there's no quantitative way to express what you're up to.  I feel, quite strongly, that if you're not producing something (like code) and being seen to, you're looking absent from the work place... You're at home, not right there doing your thing.  Recall, I'm quite used to sitting typing for hours on end with folks wondering quite why my keyboard is so loud.  I get a lot of feedback from that presence in the moment in the office.  Without that feedback, I'm feeling more than a little fraudulent, especially as when software engineering tends to do, things go awry and you're then asking for more time... I've literally had 2 weeks on a project, then a week off (yes, I had a week off at home) and then I returned and asked for another 2 weeks... and I'm pretty much about to ask for yet another... based on the original 2 week estimate I over egged this pudding... But I have been working frenetically, except I feel on the other side... they might not see it that way.

Fourth, being somewhere else, this might sound obvious, but I'd never appreciated it, rolling out of bed stretching, getting a coffee and walking a few steps into my chair always felt like bliss, when I did it of a weekend and got on with some project it always felt so right and clean.  Now, it's sullied, it's forced upon me, it's the norm... and to be honest, it's doing my head in.  I miss the commute, the hour to decompress either way.... I miss that moment where I get to just be in my own head, in my own space in the car on the tram or just walking.

Whether that last part of the pre-virus world ever returns, I could not say.

Sunday, 17 May 2020

By my But

I'm a little tired of my touch typing being out of practice, having been coding for a long time, I've let my actual narrative writing fall by the way side, and I've noticed a decline in the accuracy of my typing that must be addressed.

This will mean time, time writing, time throwing things on this blog perhaps!

However, the biggest problem at the moment is my fingers being asked to type the word "by" and I'm often caught out typing "but".

Which is very very annoying.

Saturday, 16 May 2020

Welcome Readers and Unwelcome Spammers of Turkmenistan

I've had a rather large influx of viewership from Turkmenistan... Welcome....

Unfortunately this has been accompanied by a campaign of dross appearing in my comments, span and junk and all sorts of dubious links.

Friday, 15 May 2020

Goodbye Childhood Confidence

My best game of charades got crapped on... This is a grudge, a very old grudge, for this happened when I was 8... Yeah, I don't let go easily.

It was a life lesson, which put the nail on my opinion from experience that as a child adults can be dumb and remain so outside of their own specific fields of interests, and will miss no opportunity to knock a child's confidence.

What was this about?  Well, it came after a string of little things where adults put me down, my mother would not accept that "ambulate" is a word... And before you start to say "why didn't you just google it and show her?... well, there was no google, this was the 1980's.  There wasn't even a dictionary in the house!

She'd also in correctly corrected my mental arithmetic on numerous occasions, which set me on the path of a life not trusting my own number skills for life.

TL;DR; I'd had a load of adults putting me down...

Anyway, the story.... I go to school this day, you know school; where all the teaching staff encourage learning and being clever like.... Well... No.

On this day, we were all given over to full charge of the schools one teaching assistant, because the teacher herself felt very ill, the teaching assistant, who I will call Mrs C, had no idea what to do with us so we played charades.

Each child was asked to think of a TV show they had watched the night before and to come up with a sign or gesture for it without speaking and we each had to guess the show.  Recall there were only 4 TV Channels at this time, and most of us played out right after school or our tea, so pickings were slim.

Eastenders was signed by one girl pointing east and clapping the drum motif.

Coronation Street was signed by a boy making out a crown on his head and walking about a bit.

Things dried up a bit, "The Bill" was two lads walking around slowly flicking their heels a bit, we all thought they meant a dance show.

Then after a lot of silence, and I was a shy child, I decided to give it a go with the last show I was allowed to watch.

I stood and I performed a wave to everyone, waving and blowing a kiss across the room, then bent down and stroked an imaginary dog at my heels... A pet dog.... A wave goodbye and a pet dog.... A goodbye and a pet... 

I thought this quite clever, I remember watching the men in the show in their bunk room, never really paid any mention to the plot nor story, it was something on the TV and I knew that the words were "goodbye" in German and "pet" was added to affect a geordie accent.

And the teaching assistant, clearly knew what I meant and rather than be encouraging, as she had been to the other kids, who worked in pairs or made only strange motions to intimate their thoughts she shat all over mine.

Like proper shat on me from a great height.  "Don't be ridiculous, how was anyone going to get that?"

Was it my fault you lot can't speak English, or work backwards from "petting something" to "pet" to.. Oh the only show on one of the 4 measly channels last night has the word Pet in it, even if you don't know the funny foreign words because you're 8 English and this is the era before the Berlin wall came down and Germany was a distant ignored memory from old war films and Grandad's recollections of their not liking it up them.

I've never let this go... Not even now.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

My Anti-Lockdown Neighbours

My f**king neighbours, all of them as I do not intend to be specific nor name them, but some shame they should feel as they, daily, continue to be utter and total liabilities in these times of crisis.

We have all sides both aged over 75, one side has both going to different houses around the street as well as accepting visitors and their grand child to stay over, both going out and stopping to stand - without socially distancing - with multiple people.

The other side, similarly aged (if not older) and similarly accepting visitors, sneakier they invite visitors in via their side gate directly off of the curbside.  In an ineffectual attempt to hide their reception.

Another, a lone old woman again in at least her mid 70's accepting visits from different neighbours.

None of these households are actually self isolating, they believe they are but simply aren't.  All are visiting shops, all are going to locations where they could and surely at some might will pick up the virus and mixing with people who could carry it.

It beggars belief.

Not least as both our direct neighbours can be overheard extolling their efforts in the virus lockdown, extolling the death toll... When they flagrantly disregard the rules in their axis of bullshit.

No gloves, no masks, they come and go, visiting houses with kids.  Indeed kids on this street are out playing, mixing and swapping sweat and spit... I'm put in mind of kids being made to mix when chicken pox was about.

Except unlike chicken pox, taken early, corvid is a mortal threat to all and any age.

The fools.

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Reverting to Morning from Night Owl

I have recently, with the lock down slipped back into some very old; almost genetic; bad habits, the worst being a total night owl and it has to stop.

But that's easier said than done as I'm one of those people who have to work hard in order to get up early... In this post, let me explain why and at the end I'll share two key strategies I use to make myself get up and stay up early.

As a Night Owl Child & Teen
I have always been a night owl, always, I have been told as a young child I would be up all night long and this continued into my teens as I discovered computers... With only one machine in the house, which was time shared between myself, Brother and Father, I would of course join them, but "that boring stuff" of programming, was something I did alone at night in to the very small hours.

My Dad worked shifts, his rising and sleeping being all over the place, my Mother didn't have any set pattern for sleep she let us sleep.  Only when we stayed with my Grandad did he make me to wake and rise with him.

So it was that as I hit college, at home the family bought a PC and I began to learn Pascal, oh the hours flew by.  The Borland Turbo Pascal compiler having that all enchanting count of lines as it chewed through your code.

University Slumber
Then as I entered University I had a predilection for the wee small hours and any lecture scheduled before 11am was a dire circumstance, and I couldn't help it.  But I recall that the faculty appeared to identify with their charges.

First Dawn Chorus
The first time in my life I then had to revert to a morning schedule was for work, the all important money, the fortune (not) that could be earned.  My first IT role started at 7am everyday and often ran until 7pm.  Though only payed for the hours between 9 and 5 (sneaky of them).

It was however just over an hour from my bed to work, and I had to get up, clean up after our dogs and then get myself ready, so an alarm prior to 6am was the norm.  For two years regular as clockwork, up at 6am out and gone.  In this role I traveled a good slice of the globe too, and always found as long as I kept my sleeping schedule I could cope.

Being young was of course a boon.

In my twenties, having left my first expansive role, I made the hideous mistake of living within walking distance of the office but driving to it in my brand new car, an utter destruction of any chance to wake before plonking myself behind a keyboard all day.  Something I was somewhat suffering from of late during lockdown.

The worst this got was after leaving this second role, being head hunted no less, I joined a company which again demanded just over an hours drive from my bed and my failing to get back into the swing of getting up early.

I didn't stay long, my concentration was all over and besides I found a National level gaming team and World of Warcraft taking far too much of my time to worry about work.

An Average Decade
Through my remaining twenties and thirties I was variously an early or late riser, finally settling on a routine which suited the flexible hours and schedule of the role I held.  But was decidedly late to bed and late to rise.

Starting Early and Promotion
After ten years of starting later and heading to the twilight years of my thirties I started to rise earlier, this was partly driven by a desire to do more with my day; as it had slipped into rise and work, return and vegetate before the black mirror.

The horses, and their needing to be tended to in the morning, my wife's health not allowing her to rise early.

And then I got promoted, so I had to be there before other folks and be on hand throughout their day, so I started to rise earlier, from an 8am start I began to ebb towards 7am then 6am, so that I was in the office for longer hours, but got huge slices of work done before the main body of folks arrived to query and take their direction off of me.  Similarly however I was working late in to the evenings and then also spending time with the Mrs, so I did suffer a little and weekends were the time in which I collected on my sleep debt.

Sleep Disorder
It wasn't sustainable and I have actually developed a sleep disorder because of that and other factors from my life style.

As the lockdown bit, for the first time in my life working solidly from home, put my bed closer to my desk than ever before.... literally feet... and you know what... it was dire.

I began working til first midnight, then 1am, then 2am... finally at 3am... and then rising zombie like on or before 9 to start the next days meetings.

Something had to change.

Strategies for Reverting
The first of two prime strategies I employed are going to bed earlier, this was to be pretty strict, no reading in bed, no laptop in bed, no notebooks.... Bed was for sleep and nothing more.

The second is a pint of water, set beside my bed, the first thing to do is get up on the alarm, never hit that cursed sleep button, sit up and drink that water.

With these two and a lot of will power have broken the spell of lockdown doldrums.

One key part of this time in a morning is to do something for myself, especially during the lockdown, whether that's a coffee looking at the garden, a walk from the car to the office or even twenty minutes playing a game or reading an article or two.

Do nothing related to the day ahead in that time, make it something you want to do, either something exciting or interesting or simply plainly different to the day about to dawn.

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

File Catalogue

I need to write myself a piece of software to catalogue all my files and mark/reduce duplication and then store them forwards onto my back up medium.  For you see, I have a back up routine, unfortunately since 2016, I've updated this three times... And changed the disks in one of them once, this means I have four copies of my back up.

Not bad, but also not storage efficient, and I want to reduce this to two, one on site disconnected and one off site disconnected, with a buffering server in my office for fast retrieval.

To do this, I first need to know what I have.

And I have a lot of files, at least 14TB in the office alone, split between the 500GB mirror ZFS pool, the file server itself and my local drives, upon which I reckon there's at least these 3 or 4 multiple copies of everything.

There was also an old machine which had 500GB of storage for family photo's, but I've already migrated that to cloud storage.

So we're purely talking about files I have, project files, videos clips, edits and lots of code.

Now, my original plan, when putting the new PC together was to migrate a single copy to the dual 4TB drives I bought, and from there split between the new local file server and one remove cold storage server.

However, I never got around to this, I started, but didn't finish.... and in the ensuing half year I've of course used some of that 8TB of spare space for things further exacerbating the task a head of me.

NEW plan therefore, write a cataloging software tool, to parse everything, get me a checksum and hash of the file contents so I can uniquely identify each file, boil all that down into one copy on one of the 4TB drives... And over spill if I absolutely have to onto the other.

Then, spew this backup blob onto the external storage, I'm thinking of using the garage file servers I have and an Amazon AWS instance or some other cloud solution, that'll be a mammoth upload, but crucially I have time to identify the location over the next day or so whilst I write the cataloging software.

The next step will be to keep only the active projects and use the file catalogue, even expanding it with metadata, to make the remote stuff easy to parse.  One tool I'm already thinking of adding is a cpp source tree parser, to give me the namespace, class/struct names and include file pattern for any cpp file it finds, and build a DOT file graph of the header includes from a project so I can see what it is without retrieving the files themselves.

This makes it a complicated task, and it's compounded by the sheer number of files and diversity of projects and tech tinkering I've undertaken and generally left to languish as I've ran out of time or simply moved onto other things.

This whole effort is to move my code bases towards completing tasks on my own terms, my own project, my own way, and in my own time, but finishing them, because at the moment at work I'm not in that kind of control and I miss it, I miss being in control of the projects I'm working on... Hey ho, on-wards and upwards and all that.