May 18, 2012

How do you solve your problems at work? - a small talk

As a programmer, as an analyst or a software engineer, I wish to place a question to you readers.

To solve the problems you face in your work do you read anything, be it technical, managerial or mid-way?

Well, I guess everyone reads only one thing - Google.

There is nothing bad about using Google to find answers to your queries, but when it turns out that you read only the first 5 result URLs and give up in about 5 tries for the same matter, you aren't doing enough.

I have seen some people give up in this fashion and revert to dirty and stupid workarounds for the problem at hand. Most of the time the fixes or changes are done without proper depth of knowledge or know-how of side effects.

This is the very point for which I am against depending on Google to solve all your problems.
Maybe as amateurs, everyone has the right to depend on the resources thrown at your disposal by Google. But as your own understanding and business needs start taking specific shapes, too much dependance on Google can adversely affect the quality and effectiveness of your own solutions.

And yeah, there are well research harmful side effects of Google in a person's everyday life. But I don't mean to touch upon that matter here.

So what is it that you need to do?

 a) Firstly. start thinking about your problems objectively and subjectively by yourselves.

b) Try discussing with peers.

c) Form a mental picture of the problem scenario.

d) Solve as much as possible by yourself. Take it as a challenge.  It will help in reinstating the passion for your job (presuming its existence at least  in the past).

e) Write/draw troublesome points and the entire problem statement if required. Also try tools like FreeMind or Mindmeister which help in doing this in digital format.

f) If you still feel a disconnect between the problem and solution, then TAKE A BREAK. Believe me. It helps in keeping up the motivation and creativity.

g) If you don't have a solution even now, you would be in a position where you can either Google away objectively, blame others or question the sanity of the use case you are trying. :P

Here are a few additional tips that I follow:-
a) Take extreme caution at stages where you commit things to external parties, especially when not connected directly in the hierarchy
b) Learn to estimate more, plan for unknowns
c) Be ready to burn the midnight oil for R&D, experiments etc which you help you catch up against your own lack of competence. The world can be unforgiving sometimes.
d) Read occasionally good articles about design principles, good practices of development (both technical and non-technical). Also more abstract topics like work attitudes specific to your discipline, psychology, statistics etc can come in handy

Last but the most important, "Learn to Work Hard, but Party Harder" and to Do what you love, and Love what you Do... ALWAYS

Signing off wishing happy careers...

February 14, 2012

Batteries - The Achille's heels of your laptop

Last friday night, I unplugged my laptop (Dell Studio 1555 -2 yrs old) to hand it over to my room-mate, and was shocked to see the laptop switch off immediately.

I was fairly amused as I was certain that the battery was fully charged. So I tried powering up the laptop, but it wouldn't. The LED indicator blinked red showing low battery. So I connected the AC adapter and powered it up again.

The LED was blinking red and white alternatively, and I received an error message that "The battery cannot be identified.The system will be unable to charge this battery." It is the first time that I had faced such an error message. Previously I had experienced error messages for incompatible AC adapters. But, this was nothing like it. The laptop would run purely on AC power only.

After an hour of frantic googling on scant network resources (that was the day we switched the internet provider, and were having problems connecting), I was convinced that my battery is dead and nothing could be done to salvage it. I found that there was a newer version of BIOS available for my laptop and hence installed that too. But still on removal of AC Adapter, the laptop switched off.

I was heart broken as this meant an unplanned expenditure of nearly 3k, and still people were pointing out that a new battery may not solve the problem. Anyway, I decided to stay put and postpone the purchase to when I go home. In the back of my mind, I cursed my rough usage of the laptop for extensive downloading and so on. This episode even cost Dell a prospective customer as my roomie who is considering to buy one soon got freaked out at this problem, and especially due the lack of warranty and the notoriety Dell's post warranty service has gained over the internet and among users.

Today I decided to satisfy my curiosity regarding laptop batteries, and had read up some manuals and articles online regarding its operations and maintenance. So, just after finishing my stuff on it and shutting it down, I played around with the batteries, removed them and observed all the readings and connectors inside. I compared my personal laptop's battery with that of my official one and just dusted up both and replaced. Just for curiosity sake I tried powering on my laptop without connecting AC adapter (after all what is there to lose once u are prepared to shell out some bucks). And lo, it booted perfectly. I am wonderstruck even now.

Maybe it was just some dust, or the firmware update combined with a re-attachment of the cells. I haven't figured it out yet. But I am glad that I don't have to shell out the money soon. But the problem of batteries if quite serious and is here to stay. I have to take care of my batteries from here onwards to prolong its life and get a good performance from my laptop. I am reminded at this point of a friend of mine who always advises to perceive laptop as a person and treat them likewise. He has a 7 year old laptop in very good working condition to prove his point.

Adios amigos. Take care of those aging batteries to avoid headaches later on. Happy computing.