Monthly Archives: March 2004

Geelong: The Haymarket Hotel

I’m spending the night in Geelong tonight after spending the first day of a two day engagement with a new client in the area. When arranging travel and accomodation plans the boss asked if I wanted to stay in Geelong or in the city. I decided to stay in Geelong and I am really happy that I did – because I have discovered the Haymarket Hotel (OK, credit must go to Super Karen, our Logistics Manager who booked the room).

After the day was done I made tracks back to the Geelong “city centre” to find the hotel. I probably made two or three passes of the place simply because to me, it didn’t look like a hotel. I resorted to counting numbers and found the place on the last pass. After parking on the otherside of the road and crossing the street I was greeted by the owner at the door who helped me in. With a PDA in one hand, laptop back around the shoulder, car keys and overnight bag (on wheels) I was running short of hands.

After being shown to my room on the second story I decided to go down to the bar and have a beer (or two). The bar is only open to guests and guests of guests. The owner was down stairs talking to another of the guests and it was really nice just having a social chat. The best that I can describe it is that it is like faulty towers without the things that make you cringe. If I ever need to come back to Geelong to see our client again I hope to stay here again.

Over the last few years I’ve travelled a fair bit and stayed in all sorts of hotels, with a few exceptions they are generally all large concrete structures with rooms of varying size and absolutely no character. The result is that I either go to bed early or work out of complete boredom. Right now I am sitting in a common lounge, there is a fire crackling in the corner and in about twenty minutes I believe my room is going to be turned down. All in all I have to give this place two thumbs up.

My Pocket PC Experience

Last night I reclaimed my Pocket PC from my wife. She wasn’t using it and I wanted to play with the biometric reader on it. Anyway, as I was sitting drinking my cuppa I picked this up from Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox this morning and found it to be a good read. Its all about usability in consumer products but really finishes up talking about how important usability is in general and why we should spend more time focusing on it.

As I get older I think I’m starting to realise that all the backend architecture in the world won’t make a particular piece of software successful. Unless it has an interface that is kind to its users it will ultimately have a limited life span. Anyway, where was I. Ah yes! I was sitting on the couch this morning I was reading e-mail on my Pocket PC having my morning cuppa. I wanted to reply to a few of the e-mails. Hitting the onscreen keyboard with the stylus was going to take me forever so I had to abandon that idea.

I wondered whether I should send a voice mail back using the record button on the iPAQ but since it was going back to a mailing list it would probably get stripped or bounce. I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to follow up on the e-mail when I got in front of my laptop (which was just sitting in the other room after all). In a last ditch effort to make the whole experience worthwhile I wondered if I could somehow flag the e-mail for follow-up. Nope!

So basically the device has a hard to use keyboard, the voice feature while a good idea doesn’t work today because attachments (wave files) often get stripped – and even if they did Telstra usage charges for sending something like that over GPRS would be atronomical (its expensive enough to send text). So the only thing it could do easily (flag for follow up) it flat out didn’t support.

Note that this isn’t a reflection on the Pocket PC, more just about the sorry state of technology in general. I’m hoping that the Smart Phones that the Microsoft folks are carrying around deliver a better experience – but then they don’t have to pay for the GPRS connection out of their own pockets.

catch { // Nothing but whitespace } should be banned!

Before I get started, I need to state that I don’t agree with Joel’s condemnation of the try {} catch {} block. My beef is with the catch {} block, or more specifically with empty catch blocks like this.

try

{

    // Code that may throw an exception.

}

catch (SomeException ex)

{

    // Sweep exception under the rug.

}

The problem here is that I am catching an exception but doing nothing with it. Not a single diagnostic, nothing, but it is surpising how often I’ve seen this code even in C# where there are no checked exceptions! This code can make bugs impossible to hunt down because silently ignoring an exception can result in side effects an completely different branches of execution.

There are a number of other enhancements that I’d like to see made to the exception handling syntax in C#, but I’ll leave them for a later post.

Be kind to offline readers!

First, let me say that I am a big fan of Agent Smith’s blog. I’ve found it invaluable getting some perspective from “the other side”. But unfortunately my ability to read this blog is limited by the way the RSS/RDF feed works. You see I am an offline blog reader which means I typically get a chance to catch up on this kind of stuff when I am sitting on a bus on the way into the city, or sitting in an airport lounge waiting to take off.

Agent Smith’s feed (among others, I don’t mean to pick on you) only gives the first sentence or two of the post content which means I have to pop a web-browser to get the full picture. Until Telstra drastically reduces rates for GPRS connections this just ain’t going to happen I’m afraid.

So – could those out there with blogs that don’t tell the whole story please provide a secondary feed for us disconnected folks out there!

The Canberra Balloon Festival

Over the past week or so residents of Canberra have had some cool sights in the sky for the drive in to work. The Canberra Balloon festival has been on an on Saturday we all went down to check it out. It was an early start but well worth it. I managed to take a few happy snaps and vids, two in particular might be of interest to readers of this blog.

The quality on this first one isn’t real good because I copied it off my digital video camera that doesn’t have quite a quality of my digital still camera. Its a picture of the Microsoft Office XP balloon that is based here in Canberra.

 The OfficeXP balloon that is based here in Canberra (well, atleast I think it is based here).

I’m kinda left wondering when they are going to get a 2003 upgrade. Or maybe they should go for the upcoming version of Mac Office. The second picture is really for just one reader of this blog who is doubtless downing gallons of carrot juice celebrating the performance of his team in the Wizard cup (its only pre-season man).

One of the special shaped balloons at the Canberra balloon festival. Notice the detailed instructions on the valve.

Frank, I saw this one and thought of you! It didn’t come out real well in the picture unfortunately, but check out the detail around the valve. Imagine what would happen if you pumped your ball up to that pressure normally!

This particular ball(oon) was teathered to the ground and they were letting people take short trips in it just to get a taste for what it is like going up. Its based in Melbourne so presumably they are going to use it as part of the promotions for the upcoming AFL season.

All in all I had such a fun time that I went and visited the Kavanagh Balloons web-site to see how much it would cost to have this as a hobby. No price list, I guess that means I can’t afford it. Bummer.

TAOBAM 0

TAOBAM 0

I want Dilbert in XAML. But until that happens I’ll have to settle for drawing my own comic strips. Click on the picture to download the XAML version as a fixed format file generated by the Windows Client Printer Driver.

Update: This didn’t go as smoothly as I thought it would. First, my hosting provider wouldn’t allow downloads of .container files so I had to wrap it in a zip file. Then, my PNG file (see above) decided to go haywire when I posted in BlogJet, then did the updates in .Text itself. Fun fun fun!

Blogs and family

I’ve been reading Cameron Reilly’s blog again (its a dirty habbit, I’ve got to stop it). Anyway, this post raises some interesting issues. Like a lot of people I don’t live in my home town so I do have alot of close interactions with my family. We normally catch up every few weeks or so over the telephone and maybe once a year in person.

Blogs certainly seem to be proving their worth as a marketing tool with hot news spreading through a virus through blogspace. It’ll be interesting to see how blogs serve as a way of keeping families in touch.

Thought: I wonder what would happen if we encouraged school students to keep an open log of their thoughts about their studies that was accessible to teachers and parents where they could ask questions. Parents and teachers could then read the blog entries to help identify ways to help the student learn.