Jul 25

Can technology save my day?

I recently went to Toronto to attend the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, a conference of some 16,000 Microsoft partners. At this event I found an unlikely saviour for a problem that has been dogging my digital life for some time now.

First off, I am a music lover. I love all sorts of music from speed and thrash to classical to folk to – well you get the picture. A few years ago the Most Beautiful Emma (MBE) decided that, as I was no longer a bachelor and was no longer commuting to work in a car in which I could listen to the thousands of songs I own, she would buy me an Apple iPod.

At first, the idea of an iPod didn’t work well with me. Yet another piece of kit I had to make a pocket available for, just another thing to worry about charging. It wasn’t until MUCH later that I discovered the “Genius” feature and that changed my world.

Since discovering an easy way to wade through my 27k strong music collection at the push of a button, I have moved from my iPod being an interesting device in my life to it being an essential device in my life.

Weirdly, I don’t buy any music from iTunes, I buy it all from www.play.com as that way it is downloadable, the data is correct and if by some chance there is a stuff up, I can simply download it again. I also buy from the Microsoft Marketplace for similar reasons. No proprietary formats and already bought and paid for is still available for download.

Zune Player

While Microsoft Marketplace is pretty damned cool and I LOVE the Zune software player, it simply doesn’t work with my iPod. Don’t get me wrong, I love my windows phone and I owned a Zune device years ago, but my Zune was doomed and my Windows phone only has 16 GB of available space. 16GB simply isn’t enough for me, I need 138GB at least. This is because I am fundamentally lazy. I want all my music available at all times and I don’t want to have my phone run out of power because of my regular lengthy train trips.

So I happily continue to use the iPod together with the worst software of all time, iTunes, purely so that I can take advantage of the Genius feature.

So this all sounds pretty decent right?

Well it was until February when I decided to move all of my data off of my laptop’s primary drive and onto an external USB so that I could replace the 500GB SATA drive with an ultra fast 128GB SSD drive.

The company I work for has some pretty darned strict security policies, we have to, we hold sensitive data for millions of people, and I was afforded a bit of leeway with regards to accessing an external USB device because of the size of my SSD drive.

Sadly, a month later the SSD drive fritzed completely and I was left with a much smaller 250GB SATA drive as that was all that was available for me at that time. I could have waited for a larger drive, but I am too impatient for that and in truth my music was all stored on an external drive so I wasn’t too worried.

That was until I got home, tried to access my USB drive and discovered that our security policies no longer permitted me to do so. Nor would my laptop recognize my iPod. No amount of huffing and puffing would get anyone to change the fact that USB devices are dangerous to allow to connect to your machine and that my reason for accessing wasn’t work related.

To add insult to injury, I had just finished my first resync of my iPod and the iTunes I installed on the SSD drive and had not yet run Genius. So my iPod has effectively been “bricked”. Lots of music on it, but none of the “cool” I so desperately want.

So where does WPC feature in this story?

Simple, at WPC I attended a Windows 8 Launch session and was given a pretty decent bit of swag, a 32GB USB key drive containing “Windows 8 to go”.

You might ask – “How does that help?”

A good question for sure.

First off, my general rule of thumb with swag is that it belongs to Griffin. He always emulates me and wants to work at Mimecast, so I figured giving him a USB key would do me no harm and might actually score me some additional brownie points.

You see, Griffin is not allowed to work on my computer. I know it sounds draconian, but he likes to go onto the Internet and just type random shit and click away from there. He has no idea where he is clicking too and will follow any link that seems interesting alternatively he types “free online games” into the search bar and follows whatever comes up.

I can’t risk him installing a virus or something on my work computer so he is effectively banned unless I co-drive with him.

He has owned two of his own hand me down laptops and will no doubt own my Microsoft Surface when it comes, but for now, he has to borrow mine or Emma’s if he wants to “work” on the Internet.

So giving him the bootable Windows 8 to go allows me to let him use my computer without him being able to do ANY damage to my work PC. In fact, he is so chuffed that he can take his computer anywhere that he makes sure we all know about it.

Flash back to my problems…

Griffin playing games on “his” Windows 8 laptop…

Windows 8 to go is a full blown Windows 8 bootable OS. I can install apps into it and I can do so without any involvement from the security folk at work. I can turn this piece of hardware into both a home computer AND a work computer! I already store most of my files in online containers so they will be accessible no matter what…

Yes its not as convenient as having everything in one, but it does mean that I can satisfy my home user needs while not impacting on my office user obligations.

I am pretty sure that Microsoft meant for the Win 8 to go model to be used the other way… Work OS on the key chain and personal stuff on the hardware, but I like this arrangement.

Anyway, I can now install iTues on the key drive, connect my external USB drive and activate Genius!

And all that without once doing anything to break work’s confidence in the security of my system.

Realistically speaking, most of what I o is web based, so I can access personal things or work things via the web anyway and my laptop becomes nothing more than a glorified terminal.

Gotta love the cloud 🙂

Jul 14

The onwards progression of mankind

Having just come back from Toronto where I stayed for a week while attending the incredible Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC 2012), I have had a fair amount of travel time to think and reflect on all manner of things.

Admittedly, most of this has centred around Microsoft and their technology and Mimecast and our partner ecosystem.

As usual, he rest of my thoughts have been focussed on my family and how they are getting on without me, when I will next speak to them and what surprises I will get them for letting me go away for so long.

On this train on the way from London to Swansea, I engaged in a text mesage string with Emma, letting her know which train I was on and my expected arrival times, while she filled me in on her movements for the day, typical logistical stuff. Typical that was until I received

opp

“Opp”? I was more than a little flummuxed so I texted back saying “por que?” [side note: I know that por qué means ‘why’ but I have always used it in the ‘what’ context because its all Greek to me…]

A good few minutes later I got

Don ‘ t de silly Bazza it’s me griffin

Ok, so my 7 year old son has commandeered Mum’s iPhone. That makes sense… Not to be outdone by my son, I wrote back a little mood booster so that the next few hours with Mum pass without incident. I told him he was beautiful, clever and strong. I also said that I have lots of surprises for him.

I got back

Okay

Followed by

Yay thank you and I can ‘ t wait for you. By Griffin . I roat my name so you would reemembir.

After I had finished laughing and beaming with pride, i got to thinking about what this means and I came up with a few thoughts about the development of mankind.

Firstly, it is no secret that children are losing their childhood faster than we as adults did. Much of this is attributed to the content so readily available to them on the Internet, television and cinema.

I have always largely agreed with this and tried to appropriately shelter Griffin from the horrors of the world and let him keep on being a happy and healthy child that develops at his own rate.

Today that changed.

Now I don’t claim this to be an original thought, nor have I researched it in any way, I have simply decided to capture my unfinished thoughts into this post and see hat others think.

After receiving that text I spent a little time reminiscing – with pride I might add – on the things that Griffin does to emulate me.

He idolizes me, he wants to be me, he wants me to be happy. Ok, most of the time he ants himself to be happy, I am just a by product of that 🙂

Griffin reads his bedtime story to me via Skype when I am away

Griffin sees me working all day at my computer and heading off to London every week to work in the offices at Mimecast and he wants nothing more than to have his own computer and in fact a room in my flat in London of his very own so that he too can come and work at Mimecast. He has asked me on many an occasion to get him a job there, telling Mum that she must “look after the house while Bazz and I go to work”.

He has even gone as far as basically booting Mum off of her own desk in my office and claiming it as his own so that he too can “work” in “his office” – just like Dad…

He wants to drive cars like me, he wants to have a cell phone like me, he wants to have money like me and he wants to be able to make decisions like me. Granted, this is not all about me and me alone, much of this is also an emulation of Emma too, I am just looking at this from my perspective.

Griffin has already “owned” two laptops. He was a little too young for them and ended up breaking them through his lack of understanding of how to be careful with something as delicate as an old and falling apart laptop… He had Windows XP on one and an educational Linux distro on the other and both of them very slowly beaten into submission by his accidental knocks and drops.

Every time he sees another child with a mobile, he tries desperately to get Emma and I to give him one, using the fact that other children have got them as his justification for us to get him one. We have pseudo-capitulated and he now has an old Nolia feature phone that I have been keeping in my office as a backup in case of emergency…

Every night at bed time, Griffin asks us the same question

What time are you going to bed?

Every night we tell him that we are going to bed later as we have grown up things to do.

When he sees us looking at film previews and we say we want to watch them, so does he and he is very quick to tell us how unfair it is for us to be able to watch things that he isn’t allowed to simply because he is too young.

Anyway, are you seeing the pattern here?

He wants to be just like his parents, the people he knows the most, loves the most and idolizes more than anyone else he knows. This is perfectly natural.

It is also I believe the primary reason that children today are growing up so fast.

Lets take a look back at the past. My past specifically.

When I was a child, my parents both worked. They dropped my brother and I at nursery school in the mornings and collected us some time in the afternoon. We had sitters and nanny’s looking after us while they were at work.

When they came home, they did so without shiny gadgets and 24 hour availability, they came home and played with us, ate dinner and took part in family life.

Granted, my folks got divorced when I was about 4 years old, but that pattern continued with my mom. Work happened at work, play happened at home. If we weren’t playing at home, we were helping clean up the house, cook the food or doing homework.

I still wanted to be able to drive the car and in fact occasionally got the opportunity to steer the car sitting in my Mom’s lap, driving down the dirt roads on the way to Tante Hannah’s farm, where I would run around with the other kids chasing chickens, looking at tortoises and begging for rides on the tractor.

If I wanted to watch a movie, we had to travel all the way to Film Fanatix in Craighall Park to rent an 8mm reel with something or other on it, hang a sheet across a window and wait for it to get dark so we could actually watch the thing. We had a small slice of time available in the afternoons to watch children focussed broadcasts and a single five minute cartoon during the breakfast broadcast in the morning.

Television simply wasn’t a focal point.

We had the TV on while we ate our evening meal, but the kids sat with their back to the TV and the adults watched the news in the background.

I remember thinking that I wanted to be a cowboy, I wanted to be a fireman, I wanted to be a policeman. Later, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I don’t recall ever wanting to be an engineer like my dad?

Our parents had no ipads and smartphones, computers at home didn’t happen until we were signficantly older and talking on the telephone to someone in another country was a big deal.

These days, non of that holds true and I think it is this invasion of our homes by the technology and work practices that we as modern humans have been perpetuating that is causing our children to grow up faster than needs be.

Why should they settle for playing cowboys and indians when they can play on Mum’s iPhone? Mum plays on her iPhone ergo it is a suitable entertainment device.

Why should they stay little when they are trying so desperately to grow up – LIKE WE ALL DID – and are being given the tools to do so by their own parents?

I work from home all the time, Griffin sees me working from home and he wants to work. I never saw my parents working and so I never wanted to work like them. Not until much later in life anyway. I use a Windows Phone – Griffin wants a BlackBerry (I used to have one of those so its validated in his mind…) I stay up late, travel and watch whatever movies I want and he wants all of this and will fight tooth and claw to grow up.

Children get exposed to adult themed content accidentally all the time. They listen to what their parents are talking about and they apply their own context to what they hear. They see the news, the see the newspapers, they are exposed to humanity on a daily basis and let’s face it – that is probably the most “adult” theme of them all. We rape, burn, pillage and destroy without a care in the world.

On one hand we talk about cruelty to anumals being appaling and on the other we smile while we carve the flesh off of animals we have bought at the supermarket.

We tell them smoking is bad and come home reeking of smoke (well i used to – almost 5 months without a drag now) and we tell them booze is bad while sipping our chardonnay.

I propose that it is not television, cinema and the Internet that is causing our children to grow too fast but rather that it is societal change that is introducing work and technology to the home that was never there before.

Comments welcome!

Jul 12

Yes you CANada!

This past week has seen me running around with Mimecast at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto, Canada.

I arrived last Saturday and we immediatley got off to a good start with dinner with the team and a couple of drinks.

On Sunday, Nick, Paul and I went to have brekkers and watch Andy Murray give the whole UK hope, only to have his early lead wrenched from him, never to be returned.

After that, we had a welcome session on a boat. Yes, a boat. A big one. I was worried that I was going to get sea sick, but seeing as we remained docked, I had nothing to worry about. Until they tried to undock and sail off… Luckily my colleagues were paying attention and we managed to escape to the docks.

A couple more drinks and then bed, after all, Monday is when the conference starts…

And what a start!

After a short performance by Cirque du Soleil that did a fantastic job of building up the excitement and getting us all in the mood for a great time, everything kicked off and the conference began.

I am not going to talk about everything that we covered in the sessions and keynotes as I will dedicate more time to writing something a little more in-depth on the company blog. In this post I just wanted to capture some of the things I did around Toronto.

On Monday night, after loads of quality sessions all day, we went to another boat party, another one that kept on claiming to be leaving the dock, and had some excellent fun. Lot of good conversations with colleagues and partners alike. I met several folk that I know I will keep in touch with and several who it will be great doing business with.

One of the things I notice most about Toronto, is that it is an interesting and beautiful city. Unlike many other cities I have been to, you get a sense of the size of the city while walking around because for the most part it appears to be pretty flat with broad, open streets that run straight east and west, north and south, giving you the impression of being in the outdoors, rather than cramped in a city.

There are also art installations everywhere, statues, big birds, steel constructs and more, making this a visually appealing city.

The UK Partner Event on Tuesday night was absolutely brilliant. Another night spent meeting existing and new partners, truly the highlight of the after hours events so far. The venue we went to was fantastic, huge, never ending and full of interesting things in every corner.

Last night the Mimecast team all had dinner together again and I prep tonight for the last party before I leave tomorrow morning early.

I will check in again ith a more detailed report on all the tech that I saw here and the folk that I met, but not likely to do that until late tomorrow…

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