Tag Archives: shiny

Of VGA Adapters and Sods Law

So, my shiny new MacBook Pro has an advantage over my old one insofar as it’s got an HDMI input. This means when I’m using it connected to modern and civilised projectors I can just use an HDMI cable and be done with it. Still, it’s not guaranteed that people have projectors with HDMI inputs so I normally pack my Mini Display Port to VGA Adapter just to be on the safe side. I also normally head to talks direct from the office so I keep it in a drawer there to be packed when I head out.

Tomorrow I’m doing a talk at Cromer Academy. Since it’s free of direct government control I’m going to give it a 50/50 chance of a brand new, state of the art projector with every port known to man, and an old projector that accepts VGA as an advanced input. These odds will, of course, be affected by certain factors; like me forgetting my VGA adaptor. I remembered at 9:50 this morning on a day where my wife is at work, I don’t have access to the car, and I have my daughter to look after. We were heading to the Zoo for the morning.

What resulted was categorically not me cutting short zoo time and making a Herculean dash for the office on rural public transport on a Sunday. No, that would result in tantrums. Instead we went on a fairyland adventure with trains, river walks and a castle (hurrah for Norwich’s historic architecture) resplendent with a hastily bought picnic on the train. Spin at its absolute finest.

I am now armed with my VGA connector, the child has fallen asleep from all the excitement and I’m in desperate need of a shower having charged round Norwich with a pushchair in a heat wave. I expect fate will repay me with some fancy 8K 3D projector that wirelessly displays images without the need for any adapters.

First Day

So Ben Taylor, CEO of RainBird has gone on record1 as saying something along the lines of that, “as a matter of principle, RainBird employees will be taken out for lunch on Fridays, without fail“.

It’s Friday… although, to be fair, perhaps if I’d made it into the office before 11 I’d have more of an argument. I ended up working from home in the morning in order to take delivery of my new monitor before coming in and setting up my temporary desk and writing a document that is quite literally called “Big Ol’ Bunch O’ Questions”.

It’s actually made for a nice first day. I got a lie-in. Apart from a brief period before lunch there wasn’t even anyone in the RainBird offices. I’ve not been bombarded with millions of names that I’m not going to remember2, I’ve not had to go through the whole induction thing, I’ve not had to answer the same questions many times over as I’m shown round the office.

Also, since I came in late I got a lift with my wife. She’s still in town so I’ll shortly be going to meet with her and my daughter for an early dinner before going home for the weekend. Who said startups were ridiculously long hours?

1 Sadly a printed article in the EDP, the online version of the article omits the quote in question.

2 I’ve met one guy, who’s name I’m familiar with.

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 🙂

New Mac Pro: *Want* *Need* :(

Recently I’ve been looking a building a gaming rig. My main desktop now resides at work, and my laptop really isn’t cutting the mustard on the gaming front. Historically I’d just go to Alienware and hand over a few grand, but since they’ve been bought by Dell I’ve found the build quality to be substandard1, and I really don’t have the £40002 for the rig I want. Also the current cases are fugly as hell. My last rig was actually a stupidly expensive Mac Pro – not the best gaming rig in the world, but it’s still going strong some years on. No, the only option was a custom build.

Cue about a week of scouring the internet for cases, and hours upon hours of YouTube reviews and case porn. I want this thing to look good. Seriously good; to the point of taking £300 of my budget and throwing it at a Cosmos 2 case…

…and then Apple announce the new Mac Pro and [almost] all consideration of getting the best gaming rig money can buy goes out of the window. The phrase “shut up and take my money” springs to mind – in fact “shut up and take my firstborn” has crossed my mind :S.

There is just something about [some] Apple designs, and the new Mac Pro flicks my ‘must have‘ switch. The Mac Cube3 was the first Apple product that caused this, then the first, second and 4th iPhones, the iPad 34, and the 30″ cinema displays also caused the same reaction. Luckily for my wallet the iPhone 5 and retina display 13″ MBPs have fallen into the really want category, which I can, with great force of will, resist.

Ultimately I suspect reality is going to come crashing down on me and the need to shift a certain amount of polygons per GBP will win out here5. What I will be left with is a very big, very brash, very fast games rig, but in my heart I will be pining after a fairly small, very sexy, stonkingly expensive workstation. A lottery win would seriously help with this first world problem.

1 It’s kind of upsetting to find out that the water cooling option has simply been rammed into a case designed for air cooling, putting pressure on joints and ultimately causing coolant to spill all over my pair of £1000 [each]2 GFX cards, shorting them, 3 days after I got hold of the rig – and yes, I’m well aware you can add stuff to water coolant that makes it non conductive, and no, I don’t know why they didn’t add it.

2 I don’t piss about when it comes to building rigs.

3 Sadly that was quite a bit of style over substance, and System 9 was shockingly bad. By the time OSX came out and made the machine all it could be the hardware was a bit dated.

4 Sorry, the old “New iPad” – Apple do like to confuse with model names.

5 While I don’t buy the whole “Apple is too expensive” argument as it’s often comparing Apples with pears [or PCs :)], there is no denying that if you want to build something to shift as many polygons as possible for as cheap as possible you want non Apple hardware… and, sadly, Windows.