Tag Archives: linkedin

John Stepper

The idea of working out loud – using social platforms to make your work observable and to narrate your work in progress – is becoming more popular. Yet even some who see the value of working out loud will say it’s not right for them.

“I don’t like to toot my own horn.”

“I’m more comfortable quietly doing a good job.”

“It’s fine for extraverts, but what about everybody else?”

Well, working out loud is good for introverts, too – maybe especially so. Here’s why.

The power of introverts

Over 3 million people have viewed Susan Cain’s TED Talk on “The power of introverts.”

In a culture where being social and outgoing are prized above all else, it can be difficult, even shameful, to be an introvert. But…introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated.

And in her book, “Quiet”, she makes a…

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Filed under Education, Life - or something like it, Technology, The Human Condition

Join Me – Should WebEx be worried?

Anyone who knows me will be aware of my passion for high-quality free software – and today I have a real cracker!

This week I was training a friend who lives on the other side of the country on how to use his new software.  I’m too cheap to pay for a WebEx account and so the search was on for a suitable alternative.  Fortunately I quickly stumbled across Join Mea screen sharing tool that promised “ridiculously simple” screen sharing and, for once, they were not kidding!

Installation was a snap.  Download a tiny 4mb file, click install and that’s it!

Sharing the screen was simple too.  Start the software, send an email with the link provided and wait for the software to tell you that people have joined.  No complicated setup, no ads, and nothing for the viewer to install as everything runs in their browser.  During sharing you can see how many people are watching, chat with people, start an internet conference call, share control of your desktop with someone and even pause things if you need to get offline for a minute.  If your viewers are on an iPad that’s no problem either!  They have an app and it works beautifully.

During my session I had some problems with my wireless network and it even handled that with aplomb, providing a nice helpful message on the screen to let me know that no-one could see what I was doing.

So what’s the down side?  Honestly…not much.

The “Basic” (read free) version has a few limitations.  You can only share your entire screen so you had better shut down your email, instant messenger and any browsers connected to ‘interesting‘ websites before you start sharing.  The Pro version provides the option to limit screen areas,  schedule sessions instead of sending out the invitation just before the session and present to more than 250 people.  None of that was a problem for me.

For me the system worked flawlessly with almost no lag and, compared to the complicated and confusing LiveMeeting and WebEx sessions I have used before this was beautifully simple.  It has therefore earned a well deserved spot on my famous Free Software page.

If I were the WebEx CEO I would buy this company out before companies start deserting them on a large-scale.  But if you are looking for a screen sharing tool that is free and “ridiculously easy” then your search is over.

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Filed under Education, Free Software, Linux, Technology, Windows

Programming for kids!

I’m always looking for ‘teachable moments’.  So much so that I’ve heard “Oh Dad!  Why does everything have to be a lesson” on more than one occasion.  

Knowing that the kids will do just about anything to get more ‘screen time’ I have been a long time fan of the Khan Academy to provide additional education without the complaints and with more patience than I could muster.

When I heard that the Khan Academy had come up with a computer science course I was intrigued, but a little skeptical .  But after just two sessions with my kids I have to say that they have outdone themselves!  The lessons are explained in ways that are fun, accessible and very easy to understand.

The best part is that they have an interactive screen right next to the code area where any changes are seen in real-time.   Numbers can be changed using sliders instead of typing, which helps them quickly understand what each parameter does and whether it is the one they were looking for, and any errors are immediately shown along with a helpful message.

Check out the video to see just how easy this is to use.

After one lesson my 9-year old daughter ran off to the kids PC to start creating her own colored shapes.

I can only tell you that I wish this had been around when I was learning to program – it would have saved me enormous amounts of frustration staring at the cryptic “Syntax Error” messages that the Apple II would throw out.

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Filed under Children, Education, Technology

My Favorite Free Software!

I love the Open Source/Free software movement.  It has provided me with some incredibly powerful tools to solve problems, not to mention hours of fun tracking down and playing with this stuff.

The following is a list of some of my favorite open source or free software tools.  It’s a mixed bag of things that can help improve productivity, solve PC problems, aid with development or just have fun.  

I’m always looking for more so please post your own favorites as comments and, assuming it makes my Geek-o-meter twitch, I will update the list as time goes on.

toondoo

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Filed under Free Software, Linux, PC Problems?, Technology

I’m a PC guy…should I buy a MAC?

I’m a PC guy.  Really.  I spend a lot of time on PCs.  I know how they work, how to keep them virus free, running fast, and I know all the shortcut keys so working with PCs is effortless for me.

More importantly they are cheap – my current machine came with a dual-core 2.7 GHz 64-bit CPU, Windows 7, a 1TB hard drive and 4Gb of RAM and cost just $220.  No screen, but they did throw in a mouse and a keyboard.

I’ve looked at Apple machines in the past and, while they look great, they just seem too expensive for what you get.  As a case in point a Mac Mini (the poor man’s Mac) configured to the above spec comes to $1,147!   And actually that is only a 750GB drive.

It just doesn’t seem to make sense.  And yet I keep bumping into people who are technically savvy and wouldn’t consider owning anything else.  In a conversation this week one such person said “I could never understand why people spent so much money on Apple machines, until I owned one.” and that started me thinking about a similar experience I had with motorcycles.

Case #1 – BMW vs Jap Bikes

Back in the mid-90’s I spent a huge amount of my life riding motorcycles.  I commuted into central London every day (80 mile round trip), instructed at the weekends and spent vacations riding to the south of France.   A typical year would see me rack up a minimum of 30,000 miles, and often much more.

Initially I bought nothing but Japanese motorcycles.  They were lighter, cheaper, faster and more available than BMWs and I really couldn’t understand why anyone would “spend all that money for a badge“.   But I found myself replacing my Japanese machines about every 6-9 months because they were just plain worn out and starting to become unreliable.

A work friend convinced me a try a used BMW by pointing out that he had used his trusty R80 for years and had no problems with it at all.  In the end I dropped  £2,200 on a used K75 with 25,000 miles on it, which was more than I had ever paid for a Japanese machine at any mileage.

At first it felt a little strange to ride because things were not where I expected them to be.   The indicators operated completely differently to anything else I had ridden and were downright confusing at first, and then there was the torque reaction from the shaft drive to contend with.  But it didn’t take too long for everything to feel completely normal and, dare I say it, even more logical.

I rode that bike everywhere and it was as reliable as a hammer.  After 18 months of trouble-free riding I had to sell the bike because I was leaving for the U.S.   I had put 50,000 trouble-free miles on it and it still looked great and ran the same as the day I bought it.   Selling a Japanese bike with 75,000 miles on it would have been a complete non-starter, and yet I was able to sell my little K75 for £2,000 – only £200 less than I paid for it after all of those miles.  

Case #2 – Harley vs The Rest

I know a number of people who swear by Harley Davidson motorcycles and would never consider owning anything else.  But most of those people have also never ridden anything else because that would be heresy!  I have ridden Harley’s on several occasions. My considered opinion is that they look nice but steer like a cow on roller skates and vibrate enough to make male owners sterile.

So the big question for me is…are Apple computers like BMWs or Harley’s?

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Filed under Automobiles and motorcycles, Life - or something like it, Technology

The happy secret to better work – So good I had to share

People that know me know that I love to listen / watch TED talks.  They are always interesting, inspirational and eye-opening.  But today’s voyage into TED was simply so good I had to share .

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Filed under Education, Life - or something like it, The Human Condition

Not doing this when searching? It’s like watching ads on your DVR.

Since the DVR arrived we almost never watch live TV.  In fact, on the rare occasions when I do, I still zipping through the ads and can’t understand why the fast fast-forward button has stopped working.  When I catch myself watching ads needlessly I curse and wonder if, one day nearer my death, I’ll regret all those wasted moments.

And yet I recently discovered that 90% of people are wasting time searching the Internet because they don’t know one very simple trick.  In fact, analysis suggests that people who know this trick are, on average, 12% faster than other people using when searching the web.

So…here it is.  On any web page pressing Ctrl-F will bring up a search box where you can type in a word and immediately jump to that on the page.  Go ahead, try it now to look for the word amazing…I’ll wait.

Not only does this magic key work on ALL web browsers, but also in office tools, PDF files, and pretty much anywhere else where there is text to be searched.

And there are many other keys that can save you a lot of time too and, since I’m on a roll, I’ll throw a few of my favorites in here:

  • Ctrl-Z = Undo.   This works even in places where no undo button exists.  I can’t tell you how many times this baby has saved me.
  • Ctrl-A = Select All.  The next time you need to select everything in a document or web page, just make sure your cursor is in the text you need and use this.
  • Ctrl-P = Print.  I think that one is self explanatory but, again, it works in many places where no print button exists.

Using just these four simple keystrokes will save you hours.  The only question now is what are you going to do with all that free time?

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Filed under Education, Technology