Retropective

I don’t know why but I feel like posting again for the first time in a long time I am in the right head space to put pen to paper, figuratively.

So what’s new? Not much really I am still spending wag too much time working and when I eventually get some down time I’ve been spending it playing Warcraft  or on my PlayStation working my way through some games I completed years ago, for fun.   When I am not doing that I am either in front of the tv watching a movie or tv show, at the cinema or running my family  about as I a  the only one who drives.

2017 was a good year for me, I got the promotion I was chasing and the pay that comes along with it and have finally put some time into the flat and decorated a couple of the rooms, into 2018 I am hoping to do the last couple and maybe touch up the hallway. I have pretty much given up on getting a move out of here so am trying to make the best out of a bad situation.

This coming year I think I am going to try and push myself to do more things that don’t involve a computer or electronic device as it seems that all I do these days is sit in front of one screen or another, that being said I have enjoyed  my time on the ps1 and so don’t want to completely give that up.

This year I am probably going to try and work a little smarter than harder, over the Christmas break I was in for 3 days and I really had to haul ass to get everything done and it made me think about how I approached last year, taking on every piece of work that crossed my desk and not giving attention to the things that needed doing. This year I’d like to focus on the managing of my team and leave the doing to the people on the team, whether that can be done remains to be seen but it’s good to stretch one’s self I find.

Also this year I am off to Andy and Tanias wedding, th I haven’t been the best of friends to Andy of late, we pass messages between one and other on Facebook from time to time but since he moved away to be with his missus we barely talk.  I am looking forward to the wedding but am also aprihensive given the amount of time since we have seen one and other.

I think that is about all I can write right now so until next time.

Home automation/voice recognition a Google perspective

I remember growing up and being told that “talking to yourself, is the first sign of madness” and as I delve into the world of the Internet of Things (IoT) I wonder if this needs to be reworded to “Talking to inanimate, may cause madness”. Being a bit of a sucker when it comes to new tech, especially when it comes in at a reasonable price point, I recently purchased a Google Home speaker.

My first interaction with voice recognition was all the way back to the late 90’s/early 2000’s where my mobile phone came with the ability to call someone by me simply recording their name in my voice, pressing and holding the call button for several seconds and then saying their name.  This method however was very hit and miss and on the times where it did work you often ended up speaking to someone you didn’t want to. Since then though, the technology has moved on somewhat.

Flash forward 10 or so years and you find that voice made a bit of a comeback in the form of voice searching via the Google search engine. This was pretty good but still suffered with some of the issues which had always, and most likely will always, plague voice recognition, the inability to recognise accents and as such the resulting incorrect searches and results.

Building on this Google launched Google Now on mobile phones, this was a great step forward and gave you the ability not just to search the web with your voice but to also interact with features and software on your phone, allowing you to set alarms, send texts and emails, set calendar entries or even using Google Maps get directions working like a sat nav.

This brings us to the latest incarnation of Googles voice recognition, Google Assistant. Assistant in my experience is extremely intelligent when it get things right but infuriating when it doesn’t, I’ll come back to this. Where previously you could use a list of pre-set command Assistant was able to work with much more natural language, so no more “Set an alarm for 9am” now you could say “Set me an alarm for 9 in the morning”, while these are only small changes the impact they have on your interaction with Assistant is great.

So back to Google Home, or as I l tend to think about it, the source of my madness.

Google Home takes all the wonder and amazing features you have come to love in assistant and wraps them up nicely in a small speaker which you can place in any room in your home, it also gives you the ability to interact with smart devices throughout your home such as your lights, blinds, smart/wifi plugs, thermostat, sprinklers or Chromecasts.

On the surface of things this is great, OK I didn’t own any smart devices when I got my Home but owning a Pixel phone I had experienced, first hand, the power of the Google Assistant and figured if Home ran Assistant with all the smart things built in too then it was a no brainer. Unfortunately however Home was not, in my opinion, ready for consumers at the point it launched. In fact I think the launch of Google Home may have been rushed by around 3 – 6 months due to strength of competitor products such as the Amazon Echo.

I am constantly met with responses such as “I am sorry, I can’t help with that right now” or “I can’t add events to your calendar yet, or “I can’t set alarms yet”. Personally I think that as a baseline the device should support all of Googles own services or at least the key ones, email, calendar etc. Also I am finding that as with previous voice recognition it seems to suffer worse than Assistant on my phone with commands for the smart devices such as Phillips Hue, at times I have to tell it to turn my lights on 3 or 4 times and it has a lot of trouble changing the colour/brightness of the bulbs.

Having said this I would probably still recommend Home to anyone looking to get into Home automation and gaining the ability to control devices in their home with voice commands. I would warm that it is an expensive habit, and highly addictive but if you have the cash to spare and the inclination to make the shift to smarter things then it is definitely worth a look.

My first/third game

For a while now I have been flirting with trying my hand at programming, part of the reason is because as time passes it becomes more and more evident that automation is the future of testing, my chosen career, and a solid foundation in programming is really needed to understand how everything glues together. Recently I started a online course through Udemy thanks to a recommendation from a colleague, this wasn’t just a programming course though it was a learn to make computer games while learning how to program in C#.

In the past I have tried to learn JS with mixed success, PHP with complete and utter failure and Ruby which while I got the concepts I didn’t really do anything with it. Where this course differs is the practical application immediately putting to use what you have learnt and turning it into games! Those who know me well know I am a gamer and so the ability to write my own games is awesome.

Today I completed my first/third game, first own game built without following the tutorials in the videos third if you count the two I have built on the course itself.

You can try the game here, www.jimconnor.co.uk/games/tower/

Time

Today marks a bit of a landmark for me, it is my, official, 15th anniversary working for the same company. I say official as I actually started there earlier as a temp but officially didn’t start until December 1st 2001.

Talking with one of my younger colleagues, about how I am ancient and have been working at the company since he was 4, got me wondering about how long that actually was so I was “forced” to do some maths… OK not forced, I actually enjoy maths.

So first of a working year is around 261 days (thanks Google) 261 * 15 = 3915 days.

Over the 15 years I received around 434 days holiday, it’s probably a lot less than this but I don’t have the data for the old holiday scheme so that gives me 3915 – 434 = 3481 days or:

  • 24,367 hours
  • 1,462,020 minutes
  • 87,721,200 seconds

Over the years I have also done a bit of overtime, both paid and unpaid, and had some sick leave again I don’t have details of these so I am discounting them as even.

When I look at it 3,481 days doesn’t seem that much time, don’t get me wrong I know it’s a lot of time, but I still remember my first day 15 years ago,arriving for my first office job 2 hours early because I was so keen and over the years trying to maintain that same enthusiasm in each new role I got to experience. In the last 15 years I’ve had the honour of working with some great people and have survived working with others, and look forward to the next 15 years or my career especially my next milestone which I think will be in around 3 years when I will have worked for the same company for half my life!