Mission Workshop 21L Monty Bag Road Test

I love gear, small gadgets, wallets, tools, notebooks, you name it, I have most likely looked into it. Bags are no exception and after taking months looking at reviews of dozens of bags, hunting for the ultimate bag for me, I finally caved and brought the Mission Workshop (MW) 21L Monty bag and surprising, it’s proved to be quite a versatile bag.

Mission Workshop Monty 21L

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Remote Work is dying? It shouldn’t be…

I recently read an article in the City AM newspaper the other week titled ‘Why remote working may be dying’ was curious why this may be case. It’s something that I would like to do myself so the decline worries me as from the article, it sounds like it could be trending.

With the recent improvements in technology, especially in cloud computing and communications, I would expect remote working would be on the rise as it is easier then ever to work with someone in a different location.

Then it made me wonder how remote working is perceived by employers and employees alike. When someone mentions working from home or remote working, the first conclusion that they come to is that it is the same 9-5 job but being at home instead of the office. The companies that have this view assume that they can give an employee a laptop with VPN and that is remote working sorted.

Remote working is far more then this, it isn’t just working at home and avoiding the commute and be away from office distractions, it is far more then that. It is about having the freedom to work the way you want to and consider to be most productive whether it be at home after lunch or in the office early morning. It doesn’t matter as long as the work is still being done and everyone is pulling in the same direction.

Two companies that come to mind that have done this well are:

Both companies approached implementing remote working in similar ways:

  • Made remote working available to everyone
  • Culture change so everyone understands what is required to make it work

The latter is the difficult part, as it requires changes in workflow on everyone’s part. The books above will go in huge detail on what this really means, it ultimately means that the the ‘old ways’ of office working are no longer available so last minute questions, having the option to walking up to their desk when something comes up etc are less of of an option then they would be.

It requires more structured planning, effective communication between team members and understanding that everyone is not working by the same clock and with that, it means that everyone has access to the information they need to work without having to wait for it.

So given the extra effort needed, why have remote working at all? It is because it allows employees to be in control of their work and are therefore empowers them to masters of their own destiny. As Dan Pink has mentioned in a TED Talk, this increases their motivation and that alone should be more then enough reason given that 70% of US workers are not engaged in their work.

Mayor (from Yahoo!) and Spicer (from Cass Business School) were quoted in the article:

“At a conference last year, Mayer admitted that people may be more productive when alone, but said that they are far more collaborative and innovative in an office. “Some of the best ideas come from pulling two different ideas together.” Spicer agrees – “remote employees get cut off from vital social networks – you miss the opportunities for spontaneous knowledge exchange.”“

I disagree with this. Ideas and innovation can come from anywhere, in the shower, coffee house, out jogging, on the commute, etc. In my experience, sticking people together and asking to solve a problem or come up with ideas on demand is the least effective method. Cognitive or creative thinking just doesn’t work under the clock.

As for being cut off from social networks, its a company cultural separation issue and one that can be fixed as proven by the previous mentioned companies.

Finally, the last paragraph in the article:

“So the commute looks here to stay. But today’s workers shouldn’t lose heart. Research by the London Business School found that homeworkers received fewer promotions and smaller pay rises. By staying in-house, you should have a headstart.”

I call bullshit. This just shows that companies don’t trust their employees and still believe that they have to be at their desks in order to be working. This outdated thinking needs to change, remote working should be a valid option for people who need a more flexible life/work balance that today’s times are demanding more and more.

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£30 Android e-Ink eReader (Kobo with Android install)

When WHSmith had a sale on the standard Kobo Touch for £30, I found it hard to resist not to impulse buy one especially as I found out that Android 2.3.x could be installed on it not too long before.

Before then, I had owned a 3G enabled version of the Kindle Keyboard (3rd gen) for several years and I really liked it for reading books but more recently been finding it a little clunky and large to carry around. I toyed with getting a Nook as it is possible to install Android on it as well and again, the size and weight of it always put me off when the sales were on for it.

The actual install of Android for the Kobo was really straightforward and this video also shows a step by step guide on the process including prying open the back cover and providing download links for the software and disk image for the install.

BlogAndroidKobo

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Using Applescript to batch resize images

A couple of months ago, I wanted to try and collate a lot of my cloud accounts and reduce the number of services that I was using for various tasks. Part of it was to move my photos from Picasa to Dropbox which was a pretty daunting task given the number of photos I had and especially with the slow upload speeds we have in England.

It now isn’t uncommon to buy a smartphone with a 5, 8 or even 12 megapixel camera which leads to photos being several MB at the very least. Personally, I didn’t need my photos to stay in such a large resolution as I am not a professional photographer nor was I intending to have them blown up and printed. At most, my photos had to be at least 1080p which is enough to show friends and family on a computer or phone/tablet screen (I also didn’t want to wait several minutes for each photo to download if I was browsing them on the cloud).

After a quick resizing test, reducing the resolution to 1080p brought the file size down to about 0.5MB on average which was a huge improvement and started to look for software to do a batch resize.

Only problem was that I couldn’t find anything for the Mac that would be able to handle directories of photos in different orientations and skip photos that were already smaller then 1080p. A few results pointed me in the direction of using AppleScript and although I hadn’t scripted in it before, I thought I give it a try given how powerful it is for automation.

Personally, I wasn’t a big fan of the syntax and found my muscle memory for operators kept going to usual keys used in most languages which was a little frustrating. e.g logical OR is the word ‘or’ instead of ‘||’. However, I had no problem creating a script quickly to mass resize photos and most questions were a Google search away. The only issue I had was the script timing out and after a little bit of debugging, I found out this was only happening on large folders and I had to override the default timeout value.

Below is a link to the script and as usual, it is supplied as is with no guarantee. I recommend trying a sample copy of photos to see if it would suit your needs.

https://bitbucket.org/yaustar/mass-image-resizer 

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Working with Twitter API 1.1 with Unity

Update 9th Oct 2014: Let’s Tweet in Unity has been updated to work with API 1.1: https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/en/#!/content/536

Back around late summer/early autumn, I was working on a project that involved showing Tweets in a unique way using Unity. The concept itself was not complicated and with Unity being Unity, we thought there would be a plugin or existing code to work with Twitter’s API and we could prototype the concept relatively quickly.

We were wrong. It took us a few days between us to get the search query working with Unity using Twitter API 1.1.

There are quite a few resources and plugins for Twitter’s old API (1.0) but none for 1.1. 1.0 was a really simple interface in terms of producing a URL query and the result would be a JSON string. 1.1 added the need to use OAuth authentication which has caused problems for many developers judging from the various forums littered with queries.

At this stage we had two problems, getting the OAuth Authentication correct and working with Unity’s WWW class for web queries instead of the .NET framework.

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Accessing the Yelp API with OAuth within Unity

I’m working on a side project at home which involved accessing the Yelp API with Unity which required the use of OAuth authentication and as the GitHub examples didn’t have any C# variations, I put one together myself with some help from Google.

The Yelp API is pretty straight forward despite the large number of parameters involved and the OAuth signature generation is handled by the outh project on code.google I found. As it only consists of a single source file, it makes it really simple to integrate in a project and use.

I had to make several changes to it as HttpUtility isn’t accessible in Unity and therefore I replaced all instances of HttpUtility.UrlEncode with WWW.EscapeURL which is part of Unity’s libraries and also added a bug fix that was purposed from the issues list from the project which can be found here.

A sample of the API call can be found after the jump.

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Getting back into the Game

(Note: This is a repost from 2011)

As some of you know, I recently changed jobs from WMS Gaming to Playfish UK and as I wrote about my reasons for leaving the games industry, I thought it be interesting to write about why and how I came back.

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Why I left my Games Job

(Note: This is a repost from 2010)

This is more of a reply on my earlier article of How I got into the Games Industry (which was originally written in 30 August 2007) as since then, I have left the industry and thought it be interesting to detail why for balance.

Ultimately, the main reason for leaving was for quality of life (QOL) which is a hotly discussed topic in industry circles. Each I was on crunched to some degree, some worse then others which began to take their toll on me.

When I was all new to the industry, it was all very exciting and the extra hours didn’t seem that bad but as I got older and more experienced, other things started to take priority and I didn’t want to spend all my time at work for long periods at a time.

The tipping point is when I foresaw that we were going to crunch (badly) due to a fundamental change in the project and there was very little we could to get round it. Higher ups/Middle management wanted it and we couldn’t say no to it. Then came a series of decisions that literally went against every software engineering book I have read and made matters worse in the most obvious ways. (Please note I am being purposely vague due to NDA agreements in place).

Enough was enough and I started looking for jobs soon after. It certainly didn’t help that I was underpaid due to a wage freeze and got passed on promotion twice. In short, I felt like I was working my ass off for little pay and getting nothing at the end of it which didn’t feel right especially when I knew I could be getting better.

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Games Design Courses – Are they worth it?

(Note: This is a repost from 2011)

Disclaimer: Everything here is of my own opinion and do not necessarily represent any other party’s views.

Note: When I refer to game developers, this means I am referring to everyone involved in the development of the game such as programmers, artists, producers, designers, etc.

There has been increasingly more enquires about becoming a games developer in forums related to games careers such as the ones on IGDA and GameCareerGuide. As much as I am happy that more and more people are interested in entering the games industry, the majority of these are asking on how they become a games designer and which games design course should they choose because they naturally see it as the best way to get into the industry. After all, if you want to be a plumber, you do a plumbing course. So if you want to be games designer, you do a games design course, right?

If only it was that simple.

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How to be a Games Tester

(Note: This is a repost from 2010)

Preface

This is a commonly asked question with surprisingly little resources for information available. There are a few sites such as Only4Gamers which will provides information on testing and a list of jobs that are available for a membership fee.

However, similar information is already readily available freely but is just scattered across several sites. I am writing the this article to consolidate all the freely available information into one place so aspiring testers do not have to resort to paying for information, that in my opinion should be free.

Playing games for money? Awesome, right?

Games Testing is sometimes referred to as ‘Getting paid to play games’ and from that, it sounds like an awesome job. After all, most (if not all) aspiring testers play games every day, why not get paid to play them?

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