Step into my Office

A view from my "Parc Lafontaine Office"

We, at Automattic, have talked a lot about the challenges telecommuters can face when it comes to health, sanity and sedentism while at our annual meetup. Working from home has a lot of advantages, but it’s sometimes difficult to make a clear transition between work and personal life when it comes to schedule, habits and so on.

Here is what I’ll be experimenting with this week: working from the comfort of my home office in the morning, then take advantage of my lunch break to relocate for the afternoon.

High-speed iPhone/3G tethering, full-featured laptops and long-lasting batteries make these kind of things easily achievable nowadays, without compromising on performance nor productivity. Since I am lucky enough to be provided with all of the tools and flexibility I could potentially need to do so, not taking advantage of them would simply be silly.

The expected work and lifestyle improvements I’m aiming for are:

  • Making the most of my actual in-house environment in the morning as I flow into my  day.
  • Adding daily exercise to my lunch routine, since I mostly walk/skateboard/bike everywhere.
  • Avoiding the common telecommuting pitfall of leading a quasi-hermit-like lifestyle (ie: remember to work from home, not live at the office).
  • A better socio-professional life as this practice will undoubtedly lead me to work from co-working spaces, especially in the Winter when the weather gets harsh.
  • Having a clear cut-off time, personally driven by having to pickup my kids at school (bonus: more exercise too). The latter doesn’t stop me from working longer hours by coming back online during the evening when needed or when I feel like doing so, but having to physically leave my seat is the perfect way to remind me I also have a personal life.

So here’s to committing to and iterating towards a better lifestyle, and thanks Automattic for not only affording me everything I need to do so but for proactively encouraging the entire workforce to find the right work/life balance.

Now, if only those darn bees would stop buzzing around my head… Working outdoors is a risky business, I want danger pay! ;)

Asides:

  • When it comes to focusing, no matter your location, nothing beats a good pair of headphones.
  • When working outdoors, do not compromise on comforts like immediate access to snacks, thirst-quenchers, even bathrooms or you’ll pay for it by having to relocate constantly and your productivity will take a hit.
  • The photo, title and initial location were all inspired by a photo my friend Javier posted on Facebook.
  • This post was written from the said location.

Montreal's Newest Skatepark: Le Taz – Panoramic Views

Here are some quick and dirty panoramic views (QTVR + frames) of the Taz, Montreal’s newest skatepark. Embed VR scenes from the pictures can be found below the gallery.

Construction happened during the Winter, so the even larger outdoors park (94,000 sq/ft) is not built yet. With 83,000 sq/ft indoors, I think we can wait another couple of month. ;)

Sorry for the abysmal quality, but I had more important things on the mind: riding, riding aaaaand, riding! :) Don’t worry, tons of pictures will surface online this week for sure.

Feel free to download the movie files if you want full screen.

Download source

Download source

Seven Things

Well, it had to happen sometime. Eli White (@EliW) was kind enough [aka: I’ll get ya back! ;)] to tag me in his own version of the Seven Things meme going ’round these days.

Meh, why not? So, I now have to detail seven things about me – some random, some weird – then find seven soul to harass with my new found mischievous streak.

Here we go:

  1. First thing first, I’m the proud dad of three beautiful boys between the ages of almost-3 to 9-and-a-half.
  2. I didn’t actually write my first PHP app. I wrote a script to convert it from Perl to PHP for me, around 1998-99.
  3. My favourite place to be is on a half pipe, with my son(s) and bmx/skateboard/snowboard, no matter the location.
  4. Although I live in Montreal, Canada, I’ll never EVER get used to its weather, yet still like it here.
  5. I dug part of our previously 4-feet-high clay basement by hand so I could have a wood workshop in our downtown duplex.
  6. I spent my childhood in France (0-12), teenage in Martinique (12-17) and adulthood in Canada (17-…).
  7. And finally, I hate how English spellcheckers highlight properly spelled words, such as favour, colour, and behaviour. :p

Now, for my preys, aiming for fresh ones:

  1. Pierre-Hugues Pellerin (@pierhugues), who will probably mention Ruby, despite his initials.
  2. François Lafortune (@quickredfox), who could write and illustrate a comic book published only in pure Javascript.
  3. Xopher Murtagh, who can play the trombone and probably find a way to get GNU/Linux running on it, somehow.
  4. Janina Szkut (@nanananini), who could probably mention something about knitting and PAX in the same sentence.
  5. Konstantin Ryabitsev (@mricon), who is probably already teaching four or five languages to his newborn son, who’ll probably read them fluently by age three.
  6. Sylvain Carle (@afrognthevalley), Praized Media‘s CTO extraordinaire.
  7. Evan Prodromou (@evan), who will (and should!) probably mention Laconica.

And to conclude, the complete rules:

  • Link your original tagger(s), and list these rules on your blog.
  • Share seven facts about yourself in the post – some random, some weird.
  • Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
  • Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs and/or Twitter.

Making Ubuntu Server Work in Sun's VirtualBox

Here’s a quick fix if you’re interested in installing a VM running Ubuntu Server in Sun‘s OSS virtualization tool, VirtualBox.

After installing the 32bit version of Ubuntu Server 8.10 in VirtualBox 2.0.4 on my MacBook Pro (OSX), I was faced with the following error message when starting the VM, which I found also happens on other platforms:

This kernel requires the following features not present on the CPU: pae

From Wikipedia:

Physical Address Extension (PAE) refers to a feature of x86 and x86-64 processors that allows more than 4 gigabytes (GB) of physical memory to be used in 32-bit systems, given appropriate operating system support.

Fortunately, the fix was as easy as pie:

  • Once VirtualBox is up and running, select your Ubuntu Server VM.
  • Go to the “General” configuration screen and select the “Advanced” tab.
  • Check the “Enable PAE/NX” option.

Here’s a screenshot:

Ubuntu Server in VirtualBox: PAE/NX option selection

Try starting your VM again, and all should go as planned. It did for me.

Rogers Canada Wireless Data Plan Update: Good vs. Bad

It’s no secret that I have one of the infamous 1.3 million missing iPhones with me, here in Montreal.

I only recently activated the phone features though, then found out that it took special (though widly published) credentials to be able to use Rogers’ EDGE network from the device.

So I tried the latter a few days ago, and got somewhat of a nasty surprise after trying to load one (yes, only one) Facebook page through Mobile Safari: it ended up costing me around $8.00… Ooops, I guess I won’t be doing that under my pay-as-you-go account…

I did find this a bit dishonest puzzling, since the same account (and SIM) allowed me to browse the mobile web for $0.05 per page from my older Motorola phone. Of course, there’s a difference between quasi-text-only pages vs. a standard page and all the attached media elements, but still…

The obvious conclusion was that I’d wait to use EDGE until I could score a decent data plan, since gaining the voice and SMS features was really what I was looking for when unlocking my device.

Looking for signs of such a plan, I found out that Rogers in fact recently released an unlimited data plan, without much fanfare, now matching Bell Canada’s $7.00/month offering. Details are very scarce and I’m not entirely sure this truly applies to my needs or if some types of weird partnership-based limitations are involved, but it’s definitely worth looking into. Unfortunately, the plan excludes anything but what Rogers wants to peddle, which still makes Bell’s offer a much better choice, but is unfortunately incompatible with the iPhone GSM capabilities (vs. CDMA)…

Now to top it all off, here is what happened to me this morning and what every iPhone-totting Canadian must be aware of: I was waiting for the bus, browsing the web from my iPhone while connected to a public hotspot (hence why I’m not really in a rush to get EDGE browsing activated). Reception wasn’t great though, being a bit far from the source, and what ensued led me to find out that Rogers has indeed tweaked/opened their network for increased and simplified data access: even though I had cleared out the credentials previously required to access the web through EDGE, it turns out that my iPhone did switch from wifi to EDGE in the middle of my session.

Of course, the reason I realized the latter fact was that my account quickly went from $7.00 left to $0.00… So unless you do have a ([un]limited) data plan, be very careful if you run an unlocked iPhone in Canada: the usual trick to disable EDGE (ie: not entering the special credentials) will not work anymore, and you might end up with a pretty bad surprise on your bill. Turning off Data Roaming (Settings -> General -> Network -> Data Roaming = off) won’t help either, since Rogers is my carrier. Just be sure that Mail.app doesn’t automatically checks for new messages (Settings -> Mail -> Auto-Check = manual), and avoid using network-based apps unless you have a good wifi connection.

We’re getting We’ll hopefully get there… At a somewhat totally depressing rate, given countries like Iran and Estonia have better data rates and networks than we do…

TUAW's 1.1.3 iPhone Update Liveblog

From: “1.1.3 iPhone Update Liveblog“:

It’s time to kiss my beautiful jailbreaked iPhone goodbye and to surrender to the inevitability of the 1.1.3 update. Goodbye delightful shell access. Goodbye beautiful 3rd party applications. I’m upgrading for the sake of my readers–and hopefully downgrading soon after! Read on for the liveblog…

I salute you, Erica, for taking a bullet for the team once more. :)

OpenMoko Back on the Horizon

From “User-modifiable Linux phone upgraded“:

Open source phone company OpenMoko will ship a new version of its user-modifiable Linux-based mobile phone next year. The “Neo FreeRunner” resembles OpenMoko’s original Neo1973 model, but with WiFi, 3D accelerometers, and a faster processor, as well as a consumer market focus, according to the company.

OpenMoko (com, org) had kind of fallen off the map after not meeting their October 2007 deadline for launching the consumer version. Gladly, they now seem to be back on track with their newly announced FreeRunner, a Samsung 500MHz SoC-based device.

I did win an iPhone in the meantime, but I still love OpenMoko. Even though Android and Nokia are now arguably also riding on the Open tagline.

Via Digg.

Update: Ouch… It’s supposedly priced at US$600… Hopefully, they’ll get enough volume to lower prices with the new consumer market focus.