Ramblings of an IT Consultant

Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Is Christmas just an excuse?

In Just for Fun, Technology on November 14, 2010 at 2:00 pm

For some Christmas is an excuse for a good time.  In the  weeks running unto Christmas, we all rush about trying to find the perfect gift for friends and family, it’s an excuse to spoil them! We also spend the time attending parties, which is another excuse to drink too much and stay out late having a good time. Then when the big day comes it’s another great excuse to eat and drink too much before falling asleep in front of the sofa.

Over the past week I find myself talking to clients about work that they require, and I find myself planning my time after Christmas. I don’t seem to be the only person doing this.  I have also noticed that my clients are also doing the same thing. Today is only the 15th november, so why does it seem that everyone is slowing down for Christmas already?

For me the events of the year have taken their toll.  It’s not been a bad year all in all.  I have a new a wife, become an uncle and had a really good year business wise.  But on the other hand I have had to help my wife with the sudden loss of her mother.  With everything going on I seem to be feeling the need of a long break, and Christmas is the opportunity for that.

Maybe my customers have had their fair share of ups and downs too.  Its been a bad year financially for lots of businesses, tough choices have had to be made and nobody is quite sure what the effects of the governments cut backs has in store for the next few years.  So for them maybe it’s an excuse to take a step back and spend some quality time with the family.

Whatever the reason, for me and a lot of others it would seem that the Christmas break could not come soon enough.  So what is your Christmas excuse?

Dates: Why are they so tricky?

In asp.net, Microsoft, Technology on November 14, 2010 at 1:19 pm

We all have problems with dates in our lives.  We have all forgotten someones birthday or an anniversary, some of us may have had some disastrous first dates or even a blind date!

Today another instance where a simple date got the better of me.  I was doing some work in Access and I just couldn’t get between dates to work.  This is an issue I always seem to have with most query languages I use.  SQL Server makes the issue even more tricky at times.  I am pleased to say it does not look like I am the only one who suffers with dates.  Google has hundreds of articles about date related issues so it can’t just be me.

Does anyone else struggle with dates?  The best date I ever went on was my first date with the current Mrs G!

Today I asked myself the question: What are my reasons for blogging?

In Blog, Technology, Wordpress on October 27, 2010 at 5:00 pm

As I have mentioned before I am quite new to blogging.  Before I started I looked at lots of blogs related to blogging.  I found lots of useful information about the topic, and my interest as a blogger began.

The main reason I decided to start my blog was initially to let my clients know what I was up to, as well as  posting useful code snippets.  Slowly the focus of my blog started to change and my topics moved onto reviews of hardware and software.  I now also enjoy having the occasional rant or sharing a funny article or video via my blog.

However since moving my blog to WordPress I have started to read more and more blog articles about things I wouldn’t usually read about.  I am pleased to say I am a fan of  freshly pressed on WordPress too!  It always amazes me the amount of useful information available online and that there are people who are more than happy to contribute.  I have been trying to search for random things via the search option,  to see how my content stands up to other blogs.  I am pleased to say that so far I feel that I am making some headway.

If I am honest I was beginning to wonder if there was a point to my blogging.  For some it seems pointless.  I was out having a beer with a few friends on Friday when I  mentioned I had now created a blog.  The response was “Why? isn’t that a bit sad?”.  Then someone said “Oh don’t tell me you find it relaxing?.  Before I got a chance to answer all of the questioned posed to me the conversation had moved on.  Sometimes I am not the most confident of people so started to doubt my reasoning behind my blog.  I get a lot of flack from people asking me how I have time to blog when I am so busy running my business.

So all of this got me thinking.  I can still stand by my initial thoughts on starting my blog.  Below are my main reasons for blogging:

  • To give potential and current customers a view of the work I have undertaken in the past and my capabilities
  • When I have the time to review hardware and software
  • To help other programmers with code and ideas of things I have found useful
  • To have the occasional rant.  It’s good to get bad experiences or days off your chest
  • Throw ideas out to other people.  Sometimes for help mostly out of interest
  • Provide links to useful and funny stuff on the web
  • Provide myself with a creative outlet
  • Have Fun!

After completing my list it makes my reasons blogging clear and put a little smile on my face.  Maybe its indulgent, maybe its therapy but one thing is for sure, I now truly understand my reasons for blogging!

So I suppose the big question is…..  Why do you blog?

Pointless but funny!

In Just for Fun, Technology on October 23, 2010 at 12:02 pm

I was looking through twitter and I came across this video on Youtube which as recommended by Jonathan Ross.  One of the funniest videos I seen in a while! Thought it could add some fun to my fellow bloggers day.  It is technology based sort of…… well its on YouTube! Baby Monkey (Going Backwards On A Pig) – Parry Gripp Enjoy!

Top 10 Reasons to pull your hair out at work

In Just for Fun, Technology on October 23, 2010 at 9:21 am

As a software consultant I get pleasure of working with other peoples handy work.  Generally in most consultancy jobs I can spot good and bad bits and so I decided to list of top 10 gripes.  Whilst putting this list together I realised that this list could apply to any job.  Also if you are a client of mine this is not personal to you its just been one of those days! 

  1. The client calls you with a very complicated programming problem and then expects to you explain how to resolve it over the phone
  2. After explaining it to them over the phone you realise it would have been quicker and a lot less stress to drive to their site in Newcastle to do it yourself
  3. Your drive there and fix the problem in 1 1/2  hours and realising there is not a days work to do and the client expects not to pay for your time
  4. You arrive on site to fix an issue and after a 3 hour drive you find if they spelt correctly it would have probably worked for them too
  5. You arrive to take a look at an error in their code and try to fix it only to waste at least 3 hours before realising that if you had started again you would be in a pub somewhere by now
  6. They think a weeks work can be done in a day don’t but dont really want to pay a days money either
  7. No matter how many times you tell the customer that you dont program in clingon the customer still expects you to take a look
  8. Someone buys a ready made solution and thinks you can understand it and change it with a 30 second look at the programming when it would be easier and cheaper to start again
  9. The client believes that if you are not working on their site then the chances are your not working for them at all.  Ok so sometimes you do go and do something else but generally you work harder without the distractions
  10. The client changes their requirement at the last minute and you have to more or less start from scratch before the 2hr deadline is upon you

So there are my top 10 I am sure most of you can add to that!  Feel free to leave your comments on your bad day in the office.

The Art of Blogging – What is it?

In Blog, Technology, Wordpress on October 21, 2010 at 8:19 pm
Sucessful Blogging

I am a new blogger and if I am honest I am still not sure if I understand it all totally. Like most people serious about blogging I did my research and to a degree, I still am. So why has it not worked for me yet?

I will agree with most people looking at this blog thinking that it is new and its going to take some time. However I originally started with a Blog Engine blog on my business website which you will find at www.gallagherit.co.uk. Every new article is read by about 10 people. However Blog Engine allows for serious spamming which makes it difficult to moderate. For now I have decided to keep them both going with more or less similar content to see which one is going to work out best.

I never realised it could be so hard to get readers. I mean everyone will find what I have to say useful right? Then I realised maybe not after all my content is quite specialist although I try to write an interesting story around what I am trying to explain, I suppose most people might not be interested in that!

I have read so many blogs on how to be a successful blogger and they all say the same thing. Here are the top 10 tips that I always come across:

1. Find a topic you enjoy and write about that

2. Content is king! Make sure you write interesting and accurate content.

3. Research and then research some more about blogging

4. Keep on Topic. (I find this difficult!)

5. Quality is key. Even if your blog post is a short one make sure it’s good. Don’t give in to bad spelling and grammar.

6. Keep to the schedule. If you say your going to write blog every day then write one every day! You readers will expect this.

7. Make sure the design of your blog is easy to read and navigate. If your blog is in bright pink remember most men will turn away!

8. Readers might be few and far between at the start – Give your blog time to mature like a good wine.

9. Dont just write your blog for search engine results.

10. Make sure you enjoy blogging. It can be fun and rewarding so make sure you keep it that way!

I suppose now I am in the waiting game. Waiting is the one thing none of us humans are good at. I am a keen gardener and when growing veg I cant help but have a sneak peak and pull up carrots to see if they are growing. But as my wife keeps on telling me that waiting and playing the long game will reap its rewards.

The way I look at it is now I might be writing lots of articles that nobody reads but like my garden my audience will grow with a bit of care and attention.

Do you have patience or are you ready to throw in the towel too soon?

Internet Terror Threat!

In BBC, Microsoft, Technology, War on Terror on October 20, 2010 at 7:40 pm

So its been plastered all over the news that the UK will be hit by hackers in a new terror threat.  On Radio 2 yesterday they were discussing if this was possible and its effect on the UK and its banking and energy systems.

I think we are already being terrorised by Microsoft!  They sell and promote software that can be hacked and always needs updating.  All we need is another virus like the one we had a few years ago.  That virus restarted thousands of computers across the world anytime they connected to the internet!

Now imagine that virus but a lot more powerful.  Maybe with the capability to destroy the boot sector of a pc then the world’s computer systems could be in deep trouble!  Just think there could be a Microsoft vuneriability out there already just waiting to be exploited.

Just a thought!

Recursive function links Lightswitch and IPad with an @parameter

In Apple IPad, Technology on September 12, 2010 at 1:57 pm

So here we are at week number 2 in the land of blog!  I thought blogging would be a drag but I am quite enjoying it.  Hopefully others are finding it interesting too.  I am getting on average of 20 readers per day and have been told thats quite good.  So I would like to thank my mum for checking my blog at least 19 times a day for comments!  Here is the weekly roundup:

04/09 – First Look – Microsoft’s LightSwitch

Since my first look I have had a few comments in my email saying my review was not very constructive.  Not sure if this is true but you can be the judge of that.  I have been reading a few blog posts on Lightswitch and it seems to be an either love it or hate it product a bit like Marmite.  I will spend some more time over the coming weeks on evaluating Lightswitch and see if I can build an application and report back.  Some useful reviews can be found at http://www.lightswitch.be

05/09 – ASP.NET 301 Redirect simple really

I have used the 301 again since writing this article.  I had a website that needed to be separated into two.  It was a online shop www.foodshack.co.uk and the Halal meat products had to be redirected to www.halal-meat-online.  A quick check against the database to see if the product was Halal when the page loaded was all that was needed to trigger the 301 to the new website!

06/09 – When only an @parameter will do! (Part 2 of 2)

I have helped a few people with parameters since this article.. However I think this article might be worth a re-visit sometime soon.  I am still changing my sql to parameters everywhere I come across them and in some systems its quite a big job.  But you know what they say if a job is worth doing its worth doing properly.

07/09 – SEO and Link Building – The Dilema

Well I am pleased to say that if you type Gallagher IT into google it now appears on the front page so not bad for two weeks online.  My next task is to get high rankings via keywords.  Hopefully my articles will start to help.  Any pounters would be much appreciated.

08/09 – The art of repeating yourself

The use of the recursive function is not a daily requirement.  The main reason for my article was to let people know that you can create a function that calls itself but highlighting the risks.  A collegue of mine still beieves his server has never been the same since I sent him some code that ran a function within a function with no means of escape.  I think that function should have been called mission impossible!

09/09 – Apple IPAD a gimmick or a business tool?

Still not really used my IPad for business but the IPad continies to be the top gadget in the house.  I even used mine to help me cook dinner yesterday.  Before you ask it did not sprout arms and legs and take over the chopping, but it was a very useful tool when searching for an alternative basic curry base. 

BBC Website Errors – What is causing it?

In BBC, Technology on September 5, 2010 at 3:11 pm

So there I was catching up with the latest on Dragons Den and the BBC website says it has too much traffic and technical difficulties…. I wonder what the is causing that…. have the government planned to increase the TV licence by 100%?