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simon collis

musings of an omnivorous biped


Posted by Simon Collis on 2013/06/20
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What’s the secret to good comedy?


It’s probably also the secret to good blogging.

Anyway, I’m experimenting with scheduling posts. 2am didn’t seem to be working so well (I picked it as the time my Twitter feed seemed to get the most active, but apparently that’s not the best time), so I’m aiming for 10.30am now.

Naturally, I’m not writing and posting these while I’m at work, you understand. That’s what the scheduler is for: write it now, post it when most of your audience is awake.

It’s not SEO… but hey, this is why early evenings is what telly people call “prime time”. That’s when most people are home and watching the TV…

Knowing yourself…

Posted by Simon Collis on 2013/06/18
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Knowing how your mind works is key to motivating yourself.

For example, I need clear deadlines and new challenges, so I work as a temporary worker. It keeps me motivated – I don’t feel trapped going to the same job day after day, and because of this I feel the need to deliver, and enjoy working on the projects that I have to do.

Ironically these days I’m probably not working on things that are as complex as I used to a few years ago, but I’m enjoying them more because there are deadlines, and probably because there is more pressure rather than less.

Some people don’t need or want that – they want a quiet life, they want job security.

This, of course, is not only fine, it’s good. Find what makes your working life work for you, what gives you job satisfaction, and follow that. It’s the only way to get through your working life.

Music is magic

Posted by Simon Collis on 2013/06/16
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Somehow I’m reminded of a quote from the film of the 1970 Isle Of Wight festival. One of the stage hands says @music is magic, and we’re here to worship our new plastic gods.”

In the end, we treat all gods as plastic – or elastic, rather. We interpret things to seem what we want them to mean, regardless of the evidence. That’s confirmation bias, and we filter out things that don’t match our preconceived beliefs, while hanging onto the things that do.

Confirmation bias is counter productive: it’s like wearing blinkers as you go along, not seeing the things you don’t want to see. I live in a nice neighbourhood, so I ignore the beggar; I don’t feel well and it’s hayfever and I’ll ignore the temperature I have…

It’s a dangerous process, but unfortunately one that is hardwired into our “human programming”. Be wary of it.

Lesson for the day…

Posted by Simon Collis on 2013/06/16
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Don’t leave WordPress running for 24 hours with a post half written. When you finish it, WordPress will complain and… the post is gone!

My own fault for breaking my self-imposed daily post regime.



Posted by Simon Collis on 2013/06/11
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Life will change for me soon, whether I like that or not. I’m coming to the end of the contract that I’m on, and I’ve been there for over a year.

Life is itself change, and if change comes to meet you and you’re not prepared for it, then you tend to get caught by surprise. So that’s one thing I changed by becoming a temp again – I took control of that and made sure that I was more in control of the changes by taking a risk and letting go of the strings of “job security”.

Ironically, my last two contracts have lasted longer than my last three permanent jobs… but that’s another story.

I took control of my life by releasing some of the control. Ironic, isn’t it?

What’s the value of what you do?

Posted by Simon Collis on 2013/06/09
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I’ve been thinking about value tonight. Basically I’ve been doing something quite difficult and time-consuming, but it’s the sort of thing that, because almost anyone can do it, attracts quite low wages. Whereas what I do for a living actually attracts quite high pay because people who can do it in the way that I do – come into a job, hit the ground running, and sit there for eight hours a day writing computer code – are in short supply.

But that’s nothing the do with the value of what I do, that’s just the price.

What I’ve been doing I’ve been enjoying tremendously, and it’s more productive than some of the things I usually do – playing Age of Empires, or Plants vs Zombies. And there will be a result to it, an output that I can keep.

So the value to me of what I do is something extra than my usual downtime because it’s productive, even if my hands (which aren’t used to doing this sort of thing) are aching like crazy.

And I think that’s the one of the keys to being happy – get the value out of your downtime.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an inflatable snowman to stuff

Not quitting

Posted by Simon Collis on 2013/06/08
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There’s a lot to not quitting. To just carrying on, doing what you do, regardless.

Seth Godin’s 5,000th post on Typepad made me feel that maybe I should be doing more.

Confirmation bias has kicked in, and so I’m seeing examples all around – put the TV on and Clare Balding’s documentary on Emily Davison is showing. The suffragettes didn’t give up, in the face of horrendous odds, and now the things they fought for are considered to be part of a democractic society, fundamental underpinnings of our way of life.

I had a realisation at work the other day – the core libraries that they are using were written by me, from a position of nothing. I’m not trying to boast – I merely recreated work that I’d used before, with a few specific tweaks and changes that the company I have been working for needed. But suddenly, again, there is an accomplishment – an entire set of libraries that make life easier and make work flow more effectively.

So here’s a new journey for myself – blogging daily. Let’s see where it takes me.

There’s been an awful lot of rumours about Intel and takeovers recently. One, that Intel is about to buy (or merge) with AMD. Another, that Apple might be about to buy Intel. Well, there aren’t that many companies that have the financial clout to buy Intel, but there are a few that might want to buy them. Here’s what I think.

  • Apple
    A takeover of Intel by Apple would make perfect sense for Apple, if not Intel. In fact, I’d say it ought to be right at the top of Tim Cook’s “To Do” list.Apple have recently started designing their own ARM chips for iPads and iPhones. It would make sense to buy Intel, decommission some of the products and turn their fabs over to making their own chips – which they’ve been designing themselves for a few years now. It means not having to deal with pesky outside suppliers like Samsung, with whom they have a bit of a history.

    It would prove disruptive in the external market too – they could easily drop the mobile chips for external suppliers, which although it would pass the market over to AMD for Windows laptops, and effectively kill the Surface Pro, it would have a strategically far more important result – ending Intel’s push for Android. And more traction for Android is something Apple can’t really allow to happen.

  • Oracle
    Oracle earn bucketloads of cash, and already own the SPARC architecture through Sun – a hardware business they’ve been growing. Owning Intel would give them a way into the x86 server market, either with Solaris on x86 or their own version of Linux. It would also essentially give Oracle a very hefty slice of the “Windows tax”, as they would now be providing the chips for probably 80% of the Windows market. It would give them access directly to Intel’s design department, with the inevitable consequence that Intel could produce a line of processors “optimised for Java”.If Oracle really wanted to play hardball, of course, it wouldn’t then be out of the way to suggest to Microsoft that if they want that ready supply of Intel chips to continue, they might want to consider discontinuing that pesky “SQL Server” product with immediate effect – whether that’s legal or not, I’ll let the lawyers fight over, but I can imagine it causing Larry Ellison to purr with delight; it is, after all, pretty much the same sort of squeeze Microsoft put on OS/2 back in the day.
  • Microsoft
    Legally speaking, this one would probably be the most difficult to achieve. I can imagine the DoJ would have something to say, and AMD would be right there, knocking on the door.Nevertheless, Intel’s recent announcement of upcoming Android notebooks must be alarming Redmond, and I can imagine that being pretty high up on Microsoft’s list of “things we really don’t want to happen”.
  • Google
    This one is quite the maverick on this list, but let’s think a moment.Google got into the hardware market by buying Motorola – mainly as a hedge to get Microsoft off Android’s back. That didn’t work. Owning Intel would pull the rug out from Microsoft, and essentially reverse the balance of power between the two companies, forever. Google would be able to dictate terms, and Microsoft could do little more than acquiesce meekly, knowing that Google essentially controlled enough patents, and enough of the market structure, to play enough hardball to strangle Microsoft’s businesses at any second. Certainly, the “Android tax” would stop overnight – it would have to, if Microsoft wanted to continue to work with the makers of Android – who would now be the largest supplier of the chips on which the vast majority of their software runs. Their only route out would be to push Windows entirely to an ARM-based infrastructure – something that’s not working very well right now.

As John-Louis Gassee pointed out, Intel are weak right now. They’re ripe to be taken over. For Apple or Google, Intel would represent the prize: control of the industry.

If Intel survives as a separate entity by the end of the year, I’ll be extremely surprised.

And once they’re gone, who’ll buy AMD?

Google Android is the worldwide leading smartphone OS in terms of shipments. I don’t think anyone would dispute that. iOS is the leading smartphone OS in terms of developer revenue, and I don’t think anyone would dispute that either. That Apple hates Android and would like to kill it – well, that may have been true under Steve Jobs.

But things are changing – Apple are introducing 4G, and beefing up Siri. Voice recognition and voice search are areas where Google do have quite a big patent portfolio, and both Google (through Motorola) and Samsung have 4G patents. So this could run and run.

The problem is, as has been pointed out in a few news sources, the Apple v Samsung trial hasn’t really hurt Samsung’s image, whereas even the Apple faithful are turning on Apple over this one.

If they keep hitting out at each other, there can only be one winner – Microsoft. Read more

Citizen Khan

Posted by Simon Collis on 2012/08/30
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It’s quite rare that I blog about something that’s been on television (well, at least, that’s been on television more recently than twenty years ago, anyway), but with the controversy surrounding the BBC’s new show Citizen Khan. Apparently, the BBC have had over 200 complaints that it’s “disrespectful to Islam”, and may be investigated by OfCom. So I thought I’d take a look myself. Read more