November 29, 2004

HP 'all-in-one,' but master of none

In a moment of weakness I bought a HP 6110 all-in-one printer/scanner/fax. It looked good after reading the box, but it has not delivered. Yes, it can print well. But other than that, it is very disappointing.

My main gripe is the length of time that the scanner drivers take to load, and the impossibility of tweaking the scanner settings and getting it to remember them. I used to scan a lot of pencil sketches into Acrobat. Since the HP insists on resetting the black/white threshold to whatever it feels like, I have been forced to give up the pencil and draw in ink or end up with blank pages. While a scan profile with a custom B/W threshold setting can be created and set as the default, it refuses to use that one when Acrobat opens the scanner dialog.

And in the time that the scanner driver takes to load, I could boot my computer, scan and email a document with my Canon all-in-one.

One other thing - since I updated the flash rom to the latest HP release, the fax functions think that Letter sized paper is the only size in existence. I can set the paper size to A4 in as many dialogs as I like (both on the machine and in the printer, scan and fax options in the software), but as soon as it goes into standby mode, it resets to Letter. This is very annoying for incoming faxes, as every page received prints across two pages.

So, if you are considering a HP all-in-one for SOHO use, don't do it. Buy a Canon.

Posted by Jeffrey to the Technology category at 03:22 PM | Comments (0)

November 28, 2004

Getting sharepoint subsites to communicate

I finally came across the answer to an issue that has had me tearing my hair out: Howto: Display list or document library data from a parent site within a different site.

In my case, I have http://server/subsite_1 which is private and contains a master list of data, and http://server/subsite_2 which is for a different user base but needs to display a subset of the master list data.

I had tried some very long URL's to retrieve the XML of the right information; this worked within Frontpage but failed on the server. The above post uses the data view web part to retrieve information on the other site. I see no reason why it would not work just the same with sites on another server.

Update 29 November: It occurred to me that the login credentials need nothing more than Reader privileges to retrieve information, so I created a new user solely for use in cross-site data view web part connections.

Posted by Jeffrey to the Sharepoint category at 11:37 PM | Comments (0)

November 26, 2004

PI insurance woes

The Australian (and indeed the world) market has seen insurance premiums for professional indemnity policies skyrocket. At the same time, clients are demanding higher and higher cover. The question is, what can a company do to limit its exposure and reduce insurance premiums.

I don't have all the answers, but I do have one proven idea. I attended a seminar on risk at which an insurance broker spoke about the need to set your company apart from the others as being aware of the risks and proactively managing it.

The result was a whitepaper that I wrote for our company. In it, I identified the various risks that we face as a consulting firm, and then described the actions that we take internally to counter each risk. For example, a design flaw is a potential risk. We counter it by employing experienced engineers and peforming independent checks in house. Gratuitous advice given to a contractor is also a potential risk; we don't do it. The process is simple and beneficial, as it creates an awareness of the risks that we face every day.

The benefits? Well, by passing this document to our broker at renewal time, we obtained a 10% discount on our premium. Three hours work went a long way towards paying my salary for the month! And the document will definitely be revised further for next year.

Posted by Jeffrey to the Engineering category at 12:08 PM | Comments (0)

November 25, 2004

New stylesheet

Well, I find the variety of styles available at irresistible, so I have changed to a cleaner and brighter look. Hopefully the text contrast is better with this stylesheet.

Posted by Jeffrey to the Blogging category at 05:09 PM | Comments (0)

November 18, 2004

Tilt-train over-tilts

It has been interesting to watch the aftermath of Queensland's tilt train derailment. The first reports from the black box appear to indicate that the train was travelling ~52 km/h above the recommended speed. No doubt our wise politicians will see fit to put speed cameras on the rail line, or increase the demerit points for speeding offences across the board.

What they are likely to overlook is that the recommended speed is simply the recommended speed, based solely on limiting the g-forces experienced by the passengers to acceptable comfort levels. The design speed for the track was more than likely well in excess of two times the recommended speed for the curve. If it is ultimately shown that the tilt train, with an operating top speed around 160 km/h, was definitely going to be derail if it entered a corner 52 km/h above the recommended speed, then it is a very sad day indeed for the designers.

The governing engineering principle is simply that failures should not happen suddenly or without warning. If the train really was travelling dangerously fast, then the passengers and crew should have been experiencing obvious discomfort a long time before the incident. Time will tell.

Posted by Jeffrey to the Engineering category at 08:42 PM | Comments (0)

November 15, 2004

Strange visitors

It's interesting to examine the trails left by visitors to this site. Some of the recent search terms that lead here:

I think that slightly exaggerates the recent hot issue in Maleny.

Evidently someone was after me (but they pulled the pin at filling out the contact form).

And a user from this domain has been here a couple of times recently:

I guess they will be disappointed.

Posted by Jeffrey to the Miscellaneous category at 09:29 PM | Comments (0)

MT-Blacklist installed

Hopefully the addition of MT-Blacklist will reduce or prevent comment spam, to which this blog has fallen victim several times. Look forward to seeing how it goes! Thanks to Jay Allen for the script.

Posted by Jeffrey to the Blogging category at 09:18 PM | Comments (0)

November 11, 2004

Becoming knowledge workers

I found a document from the Australian National Training Authority entitled Contemporary Models for Professional Development in the Knowledge Era. It contains some very succint comments defining knowledge workers:

"... a 'knowledge worker turns data and information into meaningful knowledge that can be made productive’, and that this is effected by sharing ‘through mutual interaction and collaboration’."

"One important characteristic of an effective knowledge worker is a ‘generosity’ to share knowledge with others."

I have devoted considerable time to considering how best to capture the knowledge of the workers in my own organisation. While they are all knowledgeable workers, retrieving the knowledge and storing it somewhere easily accessible is a challenge, and the comments above really struck a chord with me. There are those that feel that sharing their knowledge diminishes their value to the company; while they retain it they have power and ensure their place in the organisation.

My own view is the converse: if you can demonstrate an ability to share your knowledge to the benefit of the organisation, you have become even more valuable. There is no limit to the amount of new knowledge that can be acquired, processed, shared and applied to the mutual benefit of the company and it's staff.

And as a previous mentor of mine said, there is nothing to fear from the people below you climbing the ladder, it is your job as their peer to reach down and help them up. In doing so you become more successful yourself.

If you relate to my struggle converting knowledgeable workers to knowledge workers, please post some feedback.

Posted by Jeffrey to the Personal category at 04:25 PM | Comments (0)

DWF Composer

We have now moved our CAD processes to AutoCAD 2005 and rolled out DWF Composer. This was done solely to enable round-trip drawing review and markup using the dwf format.

While DWF Composer compares favourably with Volo View as far as the features offered, it is still too soon to assess the benefits of the move to AutoCAD 2005.

On the downside, the dwf file format for markup import directly back into AutoCAD is new (v6.0), and this has meant that the dwf's can no longer be viewed on the Pocket PC platform - dwf viewers for Pocket PC are few and far between, and as far as we can determine they all require older dwf formats.

Consequently the pocket PC initiative has come to a grinding halt until someone releases a new viewer package.

Posted by Jeffrey to the Engineering category at 04:06 PM | Comments (0)

Productivity improvements of sharepoint

Microsoft have published a white paper outlining the results of some independent research on the benefits of a collaboration platform.

Some of the highlights are a 34% reduction in project cycle times, 35% reduction in time allocated to meetings, and a 37% reduction in travel. Suprisingly, the productivity improvement from this is only estimated at 0.2 to 4.0%.

My organisation had already adopted an anti-meeting stance before we introduced sharepoint, but it has facilitated much quicker document retrieval and definitely reduced the round-trip time for review, amendment, approval and release of drawings to our clients. And subjectively the productivity improvement is much better than 4%.

An added benefit is the improved relationship with clients by use of sharepoint sites as extranets. This has been very well received.

Posted by Jeffrey to the Sharepoint category at 03:59 PM | Comments (0)