The interruptible programmer

A read a good blog post about learning to work¬†interrupted. ¬†Work 2.0 ‚Äď the interruptible programmer. ¬†The blogger had to learn to switch from a conventional, anti-interruption, get in ‘the mode’ then stay there for as many hours as possible, to a take frequent breaks mode due to health problems. ¬† It was interesting since the majority of my career I’ve been exposed to the frequent interruptions style of working and have been aspiring for the non-interruptions style in order to improve throughput.

At my old job, I used to handle a plethora of queries.  Support phone calls would come through distracting me from programming.  I also used to keep my ears open for conversations about areas of the software or business I knew about so as to be able to help my colleagues avoid taking a wrong, time-consuming path as they were scoping out ideas for solutions to business / technical problems.  These too were distractions that I had to learn to shut out.

At my new job, there are still distractions but an order of magnitude less than what my old job was.  No phone on my desk, or MSN chat allowed means that the only real distractions are from my boss, some seldom queries from a fellow dev or product manager, and then emergency support queries from the business when all the other developers are away that are even more seldom.

Adjusting to this new way has been a little harder than I initially thought. ¬†I was used to being interrupted. ¬†The benefit of being interrupted often was that I wouldn’t get ‘locked on’ to a problem. If I was stuck, something would happen by chance to distract me so that when I came back I had pondered a way forward in the background. ¬†It was so run of the mill that I didn’t realise how much it became part of my daily routine.

At my new job, I found I’d get stuck on a problem and then keep pondering and pondering on it without a way forward thanks to the seemingly productive ‘one thing at a time’ mentality. When faced with a hard problem, I had to learn to deliberately leave a problem be for a little while and re-employ the task switching skills I’d learnt at my previous job. Here is a crazy analogy: Work is not a sausage that you can split in half and then continue eating the other half later. ¬†Some parts of eating the sausage wear you out, and you need to cut up into smaller chunks so you can chew through it.

The blogger however reminds me of my current boss, who I must say is exceptional at task switching in the face of constant business and colleague distractions (or at least able to do frequent task switching without complaining about loosing context). ¬†It was good to have a working example to think about whilst reading the blog. ¬†It seems that the best tricks to employ are, to one, not get upset that you are being distracted, and two, keep some context of what you are doing, so that when you switch you have something you’ve written down to come back to. ¬†The blog post makes mention of GTD as well which is good to see.

Preventative Battery Maintenance

Over the last few days, I’ve been putting my aging battery in my ASUS M51SN (now some 2.5+ years old) through some torture of plugin / plugout for watching vids/podcasts that incidentally almost drain the battery whilst I clean the house. ¬†I also use it briefly on the way to work or in my lunch hour (10-30 min stints)

After coming out of hibernation this evening at home, after having a day of sporadic use that started with a couple of 10 min runs in the morning followed by a 10 min run in the afternoon, the battery Icon had a cross advising me that my battery was at 10% and that I should consider replacing my battery.

I came across the following forum

Windows 7 and the battery error “consider replacing your battery”

and whilst it is easy to see a lot of people complaining that there is something wrong with Windows, I can pretty much tell based on the change in behaviour & my previous experience with laptop batteries is that this could be the last legs of the laptop battery.

Nevertheless, the forum did teach me a windows command powercfg -energy to get the used maH and a whole lot of other useful diagnostics about where the battery power is going. ¬†Something I used to rely on third party tools to tell me. ¬†One trick others seemed to try which I hope will work for me is a full discharge and recharge. ¬†Repeating this cycle a few times seems to improve the level that the battery charges up to. ¬†I’ll update this blog with news if that works

How to subscribe and export to a Google Calendar from Outlook 2007

This handy little page on the MS website, has steps to subscribe to a google calendar from within Outlook.

Transfer calendars between Outlook and Google Calendar – Outlook – Microsoft Office Online

I’m happy with this out of the box solution as opposed to the popular Remote Calendars option that doesn’t work with 07 straight out of the box.

Given I don’t use Google calendar that much thanks to my PDA, I still think its great to have a seperate repository and the means to keep themn in sync is most welcome.

Mobile OS Love

or about updating the operating system on your Windows Mobile based phone.

 In the hunt for Windows Mobile 6, the next unofficial mobile operating system upgrade for the Dopod 838 Pro, I came across a few sites to help learn the process and terms involved in the upgrade.

¬†First up, although there is a Windows Mobile 5, there are different iterations of it, much like how desktop Window’s OS’s have Service Packs.¬† These are called AKU’s or Adaptation Kit Update and provide extra features or security fixes with each release.

My Dopod was shipped with AKU 2.6 but there was a subsequent 3.0 release which provided vast improvements.  This included upping to .NET compact framework 2.0, Internet Sharing (in place of the wireless modem program), an Javascript enabled Internet Explorer for AJAX based sites, better bluetooth support inc FTP for BT filesharing, vCards sent by SMS and WPA2 support.

You can read more about AKU’s, how to determine¬†the version installed on your phone¬†and the different releases available for Windows Mobile 5 here.

 I have since read there are AKU 3.2/3.3 versions out there too which improve on the wifi aspect.  More importantly though, you will need an updated v3+ AKU to upgrade to WM6 successfully.

¬†To upgrade to AKU 3.3 you can follow this post¬†on the¬†xda-developers site.¬† Beware, this isn’t a simple how-to, you’ll have to do some pre-reading to get the right software and know what you are doing before performing the upgrade.

 Acknowledgement: the links above were pulled from this discussion on the site.

Ok, so now the first hurdle has been achieved, here are some discussion posts around WM6 on the 838 that I found useful :: View topic – WM6 “XDA Live” 0.1 for Hermes (Dopod 838pro) – Upg¬†– links back to XDA developers but also demonstrates the use of the new rom

[REPORT ISSUES] WMXL v0.20 Released… – xda-developers¬†– the main page for the newer release and a discussion of the issues faced.¬† There are potential issues with connectivity, not across the board, but some people are finding bluetooth headsets, wifi and hsdpa connections a little different.

Windows Mobile 6 Thread Links – xda-developers

XDADeveloperWiki РHTC_Hermes Рgreat site for all sorts of HTC / Dopod info


The final considerations are finding a way to backup the existing rom, backup your existing data, applying the new platform and having a means to roll it back should it all go haywire.  This is no small topic in itself so I will post again once I found out some more.

ActiveSync 4.5

Windows Mobile – ActiveSync 4.5¬†is now out of beta.¬† Best new feature is the means to have the phone use the PC’s net connection or the PC to use the phones connection without having to establish any PPP links.¬† Works over both USB and Bluetooth (haven’t seen reports about IR though I hope this is the same).