Category Archives: Personal

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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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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How I broke into the Games Industry

(Note: This is a repost from 2007)

Abstract

A small recap of events starting from I decided I wanted to be a games developer to present day including all the mistakes and turning points along the way.

Young and lazy

During A-levels, I started to get really lazy at school and more or less went through a rebel phrase where I honestly didn’t care about anything let alone my future and just wanted to have fun with my friends. So, when it came filling in the UCAS form (UK University forms), I really didn’t know what to put in and I didn’t talk to my parents about it. The deadline loomed so I literally made a snap decision that I wanted to do something with computers since they interested me somewhat.

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