May 1, 2016

Remote: Office Not Required

I recently read Remote: Office Not Required by David Heinemeier-Hansson (who created Ruby on Rails) and Jason Fried (who co-founded 37 Signals with Heinemeier-Hansson). This book is really a case study in why the future of work will be remote, of which the book did convince me (but I would say, I already believed).

The book is really structured to convince those who do not believe in the premise of the title. It talks about many successful companies who have transformed themselves to work remotely fully and large corporations who save lots of money on office space (IBM, being one example).

The biggest criticism I would have is that the book is simply too positive. It brushes over negatives, if it really ever discussed any (I came away not remembering any one overtly negative point). Also, the book never tackles what the future of remote working really will be, i.e. how it can be better. Some of the downsides of remote working (isolation being the major one) can be tackled with the help of technology, but the book never explores this point (in fairness it could be the topic of a book in and of itself). That would have made this a lot more interesting read!

Overall I would give this book to skeptics, but I would expect them to believe very little of it (or how it could apply to them, if your not IBM or a cool hip startup). A decidedly average book, considering a lot more could be discussed with the topic.

Rating 2.5/5

review book review
April 15, 2016

Mechanical Keyboards

Early last year, I purchased two Code Keyboards (one for work and one for home). The Code Keyboards are designed by Jeff Atwood (who founded Stack Overflow). Mechanical keyboards are old style” in that the switches are from an era where everything was mechanical, unlike today where everything is glass. So mechanical keyboards have ardent fans and people who don’t really care for them.

I did a lot of research before I purchased, talking to various people in work who are very knowledgeable about mechanical keyboards (The best community for advice, discussion and group buys is /r/mechanicalkeyboards on reddit.). The variety of hardware and opinions is positively mind melting. If you are doing your own research, you should definitely come across Cherry switches (a very established German brand). Switches are what sit between your key that you see (with the letter printed on top) and the electronic board that converts the key press to a signal the computer can understand.

Another big brand in the mechanical world is Ducky, a Taiwanese company who make predominantly mechanical keyboards. They are known for their quality and the variety (lights, amount of keys [102, 104] etc). For my part, I decided on not buying a big brand like Ducky or Das Keyboard, but to go with the Code Keyboard, as this matched what I wanted.

While searching I decided on factors to suit me:

  • No fancy light displays
  • Should be backlit
  • Compact size
  • Should look professional
  • No fancy non-standard media keys ( I want it to work with any computer out of the box).
  • Shouldn’t be too noisy (I respect my colleagues right to peace and quiet!!!)

The Code Keyboard matched all of these. Over a year later I’m very happy with them still, I would recommend them. Not least as I had a micro usb cable go bad, but WASD Keyboards (who make the Code Keyboard) sent me a free replacement, providing good customer service.

review hardware review
April 1, 2016

Ulysses App

I recently purchased Ulysses Mobile after a recommendation from Macstories. My first impression was how expensive it was priced and what really makes a premium writing application?

Needless to say, I’m not a huge writer. But I do have a real fondness for plain text (it will survive the apocalypse) and by extension, Markdown by John Gruber. The problem for Ulysses is this: there’s lots of really great Markdown applications for iOS, two of which I have written about: Editorial (my favourite) and Byword (not so keen on this app).

So where does that leave Ulysses? Well John Voorhees wrote an excellent column in Club Macstories Newsletter, where he said you need to exploit a niche on the App Store, but it needs to not be a niche of one (aka. just you). So Ulysses is different to the other applicants I mentioned in key ways:

  • All files are called Sheets” and by default do not need a file name, it is kind of like Drafts, just open and write away
  • It has a library, all optionally but by default synced to iCloud
  • It has filters, which are flexible way to quickly group sheets”
  • It has extensive tagging
  • It has optional word count targets for each sheet”
  • You can add notes and other metadata which will not show up in the exported result (usually PDF)
  • It supports many formats for export, such as docx, PDF, HTML, ePub
  • It is very themeable, with an online web gallery of themes

So in other words, it’s a lot more extensive in different features and thus audience to the other editors.

So would I recommend it? I’m still not sure about the desktop class application tag the developers have used, but it is a nice app to write in (I wrote this post on my iPhone in Ulysses). The library and filters seem like something I may not truly need, but there’s no doubt it’s a nicely designed app. Overall for me it’s probably not worth the price tag as I wouldn’t use key features, but if your serious about writing, you should definitely pick it up.

app review ios review
March 15, 2016

Roost Laptop Stand

I backed the Roost laptop stand on Kickstarter, which already had a successful run in their first Kickstarter campaign. I’ve been delighted with the result so far, it lives up to the promises of being super light but yet durable and strong. Here’s a photo of it:

Roost Laptop stand holding a macbookRoost Laptop stand holding a macbook

It came with a really nice case which holds the Roost underneath and has pockets for a portable keyboard (I use a Logitech K811) and mouse (I use a Logitech Marathon M705). It works great for a really comfortable and ergonomic desk wherever you may travel (or set up to work). Highly recommended!

product review
March 1, 2016

Maintainable Software Book

I recently read O’Reilly Building Maintainable Software (Java Edition). It provides good insight as to what to look for to create maintainability in enterpise software systems.

10 suggestions the book provides:

  1. Write shorter units
  2. Write simpler units (measured in Cyclomatic Complexity)
  3. Write code once only
  4. Keep interfaces very small
  5. Seperate code in to modules
  6. Couple modules loosely
  7. Keep modules evenly sized
  8. Keep codebase small (and look for ways to right-size)
  9. Automate development pipeline and your tests
  10. Write clean code and refactor as you go

Overall I thought the book was very well laid out, easy to read and easy to understand. I’d recommend it to anyone new to software development, but most of the tips contained within the book should be very familiar to the seasoned developer.

Rating: 4/5

Book Review Review