Monthly Archives: January 2014

Public Speaking

I vaguely remember a time where I only had to write a quick, 45 minute presentation for NorDevCon, and that was way off over there in the future. Sometime between then and last week I managed to fail to write anything more than the synopsis and introduction for my talk; and agreed to do another hour long talk for the UEA; and a day long course for teachers for NorDev and The Forum.

While I’m no stranger to public speaking, it’s been a few years since I’ve done it to any degree and I’m used to speaking for 30 minutes on very specific, and very technical subjects. Giving broader talks at a higher level requires planning. At least, for me it does. Disappearing on a 30 minute tangent, as I did for my UEA talk, is all very well and good if that tangent has a point (it did). You’re telling a story, one that needs to come to a conclusion within the allotted time.

I script my talks. It’s the only way I can guarantee I can stay on topic, and on time. Since I talk fast these scripts can be quite long and involved. The 60 minute talk for the UEA was over eight and a half thousand words long. These scripts are written on the train, usually on my iPad (iA Writer is a fantastic app for this), although I sometimes also use my laptop. The slides and Keynote presentation comes last.

Of course, all this writing eats into time I’d usually reserve for other writing, such as posting here, hence the recent radio silence. Being back to just having my NorDevCon talk to write I feel like the pressure is off somewhat… although I am dimly aware that I’ve got less than a month to put that together. In the mean time I’m also being a glutton for punishment having offered to provide more help for local schools as they prepare for the upcoming change in the ICT curriculum, and offering to do more talks for students at the UEA. Seems I forgot how much I actually enjoy public speaking.

Haves and Have Nots

My development team is divided into the Haves and the Have nots. The Haves have a number of things in common. For starters they’re not using the bog standard corporate HP workstations that get issued to new joiners. They don’t use Windows, instead choosing Linux or Windows. They all have SSDs. They all have substantially lower compile times than the rest of the team.

Historically, to be a Have here, you needed to put your hand into your own pocket. Some, if not all of the hardware used by the Haves machines is self funded. Including the SSDs. This situation has arisen from the standard fallacy that you can just bulk order a load of machines for everyone in the company and they’ll be fine. Not all computer users are created equal.

Of course trying to explain to The Powers That Be that spending an extra few hundred on a computer is actually a cost saving is often an exercise in futility. Everyone else copes with a £400 computer, what makes us so special that we need to spend more?

The answer is compile time. Developers aren’t cheap and a bog standard Windows 7 box takes about a minute to do a compile of the code base. Custom Linux box with SSD: 6 seconds.

Thankfully I am now The Powers That Be, at least I am when it comes to ordering a bunch of 60Gb SSDs for use as development drives. I may not be able to convince everyone to move away from Windows, and our standard HP boxes may not quite stretch to sub 10 second builds, even with Linux on them, but if I can cut 10 or 15 seconds of everyone’s compile time the £300 cost will easily pay for itself over the lifetime of the disks.

I’m hoping this will soften the blow for the next move: proper development rigs for all the developers during the next hardware refresh. Now if only I could justify shiny new Mac Pros for everyone 🙂