Thursday, December 29, 2005

Falkayn's Store is ticking along nicely at with some moderate interest, mainly in the Serenity/Firefly themed gear I have up.

I received my first set of orders from them just before Christmas and found that the print quality was good, and the shirt quality adequate. One of the only annoying things left is that I can't get coloured T-shirts, like my favourite chocolate brown colour, on which to place funky designs.

The other annoying thing as a designer with a premium store is that it encourages you to apply one design to multiple items, even if that design really is optimised for one type of product (e.g T-shirts, mugs etc). I think I would like to come up with different versions of the one design that work in the different shape print areas.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Lots of Firefly/Serenity Designs

I've spent a fair bit of time in the last two days create a whole bunch of great Firefly/Serenity designs. The quotes from the TV show and movie are great additions to a cool T-shirt, so I've created my shot at the movie logo, and added some of the funnier quotes.

Feel free to request other designs if you have one that takes your fancy. I've done a couple of custom Traveller designs already.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Falkayn's Store: Sci-fi, IT geek and pirate gear!

I am proud to announce Falkayn's Store, a place where you can buy gear designed by me with sci-fi, IT geek and pirate themes.

Here is some of the designs:

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

One of Nine (well actually Eight)

Heh, this is nonsense ... but fun late night nonsense:
Main Type
Overall Self
Take Free Enneagram Personality Test

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Keeping Busy With Babies

Things have been a bit hectic in the McDonald household, we had a new addition to the family last week, a beautiful baby girl. My posting frequency has been a bit slow, but I am getting back in the saddle this week.

Our thanks to everyone who has given us such great support, gifts (pink of course!) and love during this time.

Angus McDonald

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Snowy Software - Software Asset Management Tools

Our new endeavour, Snowy Software, is an ecommerce website with a range of great software asset management tools (stuff that does software audits, license management, usage tracking/metering and software deployment administration).

There is even a FREE 30-day trial (yes, free as in beer) available for most of the products. Also check out what we are doing with Cattle Dog, especially our new IT asset management blog, the Round Up!

Friday, August 05, 2005

Political Islam

In reading Wikipedia tonight I found myself learning about the difference between Islamist and Islamic. Basically the former is a political movement holding that Islam is not just the ideal religion but also the ideal political system for governing the state. Most Muslims are NOT Islamist, but Islamic.

Having said that, there is also an interesting online website called NO to Political Islam Petition, which attracts signatures as a way of showing disagreement with the Islamist principles. If you are Muslim then I invite you to do so, if not, then you might want to visit them and see what they are about anyway.

For some reason the world seems a brighter place for knowing this - although I feel foolish for not having done the research myself after 9/11.

UPDATE: The International Crisis Group has an interesting article called Islamism, Violence and Reform that points out that Islamism is not a unified movement, especially amongst Sunni supporters of it. Again, worthwhile reading.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Generating Random Boolean Sequences Using Cellular Automata

Today vbAccelerator became my favourite site for VB tips and great usable source code. Those of you that know me well, understand that programming in VB6 is not my idea of bliss, but sometimes it is the most effective tool available (as it is today).

One of the vbAccelerator tips that could be applied to almost any programming language demonstrates Generating Random Boolean Sequences Using Cellular Automata.

This is a randomisation method that the author adapted from Stephen Wolfram's book "A New Kind Of Science". Which is also available online. Unlike existing randomisation methods in VB, this allows for a much closer approximation of true randomness.

The embarrassing thing about this is that I've had this book gathering dust on my bookshelves for a while now, and I can think of at least one use of cellular automata that I could have applied since then!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Macaw Discussion Board

Those wacky Europeans are at it again! Serge van den Oever has announced a free list template for Windows SharePoint Services, the Macaw Discussion Board... the way SharePoint discussions should work... and now do work!

Discussion boards are a sore point for many SharePoint users that have experienced the richness of more mature discussion/bulletin board user interfaces (e.g. phpBB).

Macaw, a Dutch (in case you hadn't guessed) IT consultancy have produced a really nice list template that solves many of the problems that SharePoint discussion boards have. The list template is documented in Serge's blog post, and is available for free download from Sourceforge.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Thomas Nelson's Corporate Blogging Guidelines

Michael Hyatt, President and COO of Thomas Nelson Publishers recently published a 2nd draft of their new Corporate Blogging Guidelines for public comment. They have worked hard to create a set of guidelines that is easy to understand (i.e. uses plain English) but that also protects their company and employees. I particularly like the fact that they encourage employees to seek blog hosting for themselves - adding credibility to their blogs, and removing a potential issue when employees leave.

The main source of protection is reminding employees that what is expected of them as bloggers is the same as what is expected of them as employees, and setting some ground rules about playing nice in the blogosphere. The incentive to blog is given by their intention to create a blog aggregator page on their main website that links to all employee blogs, and allowing employees to write blog posts during company time. It will be interesting to see how effective this is, but I would imagine that because they are in the publishing industry this form of self-publishing will appeal to many of their employees.

What is nice about this is that Michael was smart enough to elicit comment from the readers of his Working Smart blog to ensure that the guidelines were appropriate. Thanks to their feedback what they ended up with was much more user-friendly than their first effort which was a dismal set of legalistic rules.

The guidelines also set out why Thomas Nelson is looking at encouraging blogging:
At Thomas Nelson, we want to encourage you to blog about our company, our products, and your work. Our goal is three-fold:
  • To raise the visibility of our company,

  • To make a contribution to our industry, and

  • To give the public a look at what goes on within a real live publishing company.
How many of your employees already blog? What guidelines have you given them to protect their jobs and your reputation? What could blogging do for your business?

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Ajax: A New Approach To Web Applications

Adaptive Path's Jesse James Garrett has an interesting essay title Ajax: A New Approach To Web Applications. The ideas discussed in it are not as revolutionary as they are presented, developers have been using the XMLHttpRequest object since IE 5 using ActiveX, and Mozilla/Netscape and Safari have recently followed suit using Javascript.

The really interesting point is that we now have a technique that runs across most browsers (not IE only) that can add significant interactivity to our web applications.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

We do stuff.

If you like having a laugh at generic marketing copy and consultants in general, then take a look at huh? They do stuff.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

3M Security Glass Ad

From the Signal vs. Noise blog comes the 3M Security Glass ad. magine a bunch of US dollars in between two glass panes ... now click on that link and go see them!

I love the fact that they're standing behind their product, but I can't help but suspect that some other security measures are being taken to keep that cash safe (and are those all US$1 bills?).

EDIT: OK, apparently they did have a security guard present, they let people have a go at breaking in - but only with their feet, and the money was fake, except for the top layer. It was a stunt they pulled in Vancouver.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Leadership is Just One Thing

Lisa Haneberg is a writer and management trainer who has an interesting blog called Management Craft

One of her recent posts is about Leadership. She states it is "just one thing", and then defines that through a series of steps as:
So the one thing (leadership) is proactivity with a tinge of charisma that feels compelling, is at the service of others, demonstrates ownership of results, targeted to provide the greatest benefit, and that is delivered by someone we trust.
I like that encapsulation of leadership. It's neat and seems accurate without being generic, but is multi-layered and complex enough to really capture the essence of leadership.

Friday, February 04, 2005

NSW KM Forum - Telling it like it is

I went to the NSW Knowledge Management (KM) Forum for the first time last night. The night's presentation was by Dr Theresa Anderson and was titled "Telling it like it is: using ethnography and storytelling in the workplace".

I was a little worried that it would be highly theoretical and academic, but was pleasantly surprised by both Theresa's down-to-earth style and emphasis on practicality. I think, based on her description and the Q&A sessions we had, that ethnography is a philosophical approach that informs and directs other study, rather than necessarily an end in itself.

Wikipedia defines ethnography as:
Ethnography (from the Greek ethnos = nation and graphe = writing) refers to the qualitative description of human social phenomena, based on months or years of fieldwork. Ethnography may be "holistic", describing a society as a whole, or it may focus on specific problems or situations within a larger social scene. The genre has both formal and historical connections to travel writing and colonial office reports, but several academic traditions claim ethnography as a valid research method that submerges the subjectivity of a researcher in the routines of an alternative social environment to discover its specific and otherwise unpredictable patterns.
(emphasis mine)

We also undertook an interesting activity whereby we were each asked to identify the key challenge we are facing in KM, then with one other person explain to each other out challenges, and then take their challenge and explain it to the next person (a good way of getting you to think about their challenge seriously!). The aim was to develop some real-life situations for the forum to address this year, rather than theoretical topics. Some of the ones that were discussed:
* How do you demonstrate KM's value to senior management?
* How do you locate the right person for a specific topic/task?
* How can KM make my company more competitive?

Since then I've thought of some extra ones that I'd like to see addressed:
* How does an organisation identify what they don't know, but should?
* How can KM help non-Knowledge Workers (e.g. machinists)?
* Should KM be introduced everywhere at first, or just in one part of the organisation at once?
* How do I isolate the effects KM has had on my bottom line, given that we are also re-engineering processes (to help capture knowledge more easily) and introducing new technologies (e.g. intranet portals)?

I've got some ideas about those, but I'd like to see what a diverse group like the NSW KM Forum can do with them!

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Cattle Dog

It's official, I've taken the plunge and started my own consulting company, Cattle Dog. More news about this soon!

Sunday, January 23, 2005

One of the roles I went for last year but didn't get, was with A big part of the role was project managing the remodelling of their site's look-n-feel.

The new look launched today, and looks great! Like any brand new design, there are some hard edges that will need to get filed down. A case in point is the yellow highlighted links, on my LCD they are a little too faded to be easy to see. However, I would definitely give it 9/10, especially as it now looks great in Firefox as well as IE!

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Portal software: passing fad or real value?

I noticed today that James Robertson has agreed with an article by Janus Boye called Portal software: passing fad or real value?.

It seems that James and Janus are of the opinion that portal software is overrated and unnecessary if you have a good Content Management System (CMS). Hardly surprising given they are both running "vendor-neutral" content management consultancies.

To be sure, Janus' portal examples do seem to make his point. However, I don't think these problems are as relevant to Windows SharePoint Services / SharePoint Portal Server 2003 as they might be to the portals he gives examples from.

Specifically the problems of 'portlets' going missing is not applilcable to SharePoint, and their URLs are more human readable than many websites I've seen. Cost may be an issue, but then has he priced MSCMS recently?

Performance can also be an issue, but when used to integrate line of business (LOB) applications you need dynamic pages, and most content I've seen is meant to be dynamic - not static. Of course SPS 2003 does have web parts that let you edit content in place, with either WYSIWIG or raw HTML editors, so that's another touted benefit of CMS that's been absorbed.

When he gets to the bit that talks about the "top features requested on corporate intranets" (and from what survey did you get that Janus? :P) they are exactly the sort of features (enterprisewide search, employee info) that something like SPS 2003 can enable better than MSCMS, so where is the argument there?

When you then also consider the collaborative benefits of MS Office 2003 plus SharePoint, it becomes much harder to see why you would imagine a CMS can offer your enterprise anywhere near the same functionality.

Of course Janus does make some good points. A portal solution (as with any IT solution) is "not a silver bullet", and the human side of the project is always going to take hard work. Portals are also not going to make your internet site the next big thing, and are probably a waste of time for most internet/extranet sites. The most interesting point for me is that Microsoft have merged their CMS and SharePoint teams, and we may very well see the tools moving closer together in the next few versions.

Jakob Nielsen has made some good points about what a good intranet portal should be about, and most interestingly said:
Intranet portals aim to replace the wild Web model with a tool metaphor, where a company's content and services work together instead of undermining each other. Having a single starting point, a single overview of each user's most important services, a single search, a single navigation scheme and information architecture, and a single set of consistent page design templates all combine to make the intranet portal a more promising corporate information infrastructure.
To my mind that is a vindication of Microsoft's direction with SharePoint, and their .NET integration toolset (Reporting Services etc.). There are still problems, but it will be interesting seeing how they get ironed out over the coming years, because, guess what, SharePoint isn't going away.

Monday, January 10, 2005

GM FastLane Blog

General Motors have started the FastLane Blog by their Vice-Chairman, Bob Lutz. This is one of the first Fortune 100 companies to do this and it will be interesting to see how long/whether it stays around. Based on Bob's interest in user comments I expect it might become a good way of gathering informal feedback from GM clients and fans.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Firefox and Sharepoint

Patrick Cauldwell has worked out how to do something VERY interesting, using Firefox and Sharepoint together, and not having the annoying problem of needing to re-authenticate on every page.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Programming Fonts

On a lighter note, Coding Horror has an article about Progamming Fonts, giving a set of examples.

Personally I like the look of ProFont, so I'll give that a spin for a while.

[EDIT: I've investigated these and on reflection I really like Proggy Clean (slashed zeroes).]