Monday, November 16, 2015

Aquatic Informatics Named to Deloitte Technology Fast 50

My employer, Aquatic Informatics, was named the 37th fastest growing technology company in Canada and only one of three cleantech leaders on Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50™ List. Very cool for the Vancouver software scene.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Office 365 Message Shows Openness at Microsoft

I was quite surprised to see this message in an Office 365 help page:

Why isn't my Office 365 app launcher working as expected?
If you're using Internet Explorer when you visit a team site or other SharePoint Online page in Office 365, the app launcher may not show customizations you've made, like resized tiles or apps pinned to the navigation bar.

What can you do?
## Try this first! Use a different browser. We recommend using Microsoft Edge on Windows 10, and if you don't have Windows 10, try using the latest versions of Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome.

Everyone has been hacking on IE forever, but to see this level of openness from Microsoft itself is quite telling. Yes, they're promoting Microsoft Edge, but nothing wrong with that. There was a time when people at MS were saying silly things like "don't call it a bug, it's an unintended feature." I was at an event when Steve Ballmer called out that behaviour and told the audience to be open with customers. "If it's a bug, call it a bug." That was around 2002. It's good to see the openness continues.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Error Starting Ubuntu Desktop on Chromebook After Upgrade

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm very pleased with the Toshiba Chromebook I picked up last year. Like many Chromebook users, I decided to install Crouton and have access to a full install of Ubuntu Linux. I followed the instructions in the article How to Easily Install Ubuntu on Chromebook with Crouton and all went smoothly. Switching between Chrome O/S and Ubuntu is as easy as a key combination--you just have to remember those keys: ctrl+shift+alt+forward (or backward).

Unfortunately, the version of Ubuntu installed was 12. As fun and nostalgic as that was, I immediately set about upgrading to the latest stable build. Running the upgrade was simple enough.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
sudo apt-get install update-manager-core
sudo do-release-upgrade

Everything worked at first, I even went through the process of installing some applications such as Gnome Terminal, Gimp and Git (Crouton installs the minimal release--so barely any applications). However, I ran into a snag when I rebooted. The sudo startunity command would fail with a nasty message.

[   727.514] (WW) The directory "/usr/share/fonts/X11/75dpi" does not exist.
[   727.514] Entry deleted from font path.
[   727.514] (==) FontPath set to:
727.526] (EE) Segmentation fault at address 0x0
[   727.526] (EE) 
Fatal server error:
[   727.526] (EE) Caught signal 11 (Segmentation fault). Server aborting
[   727.526] (EE) Please also check the log file at "/tmp/Xorg.crouton.1.log" for additional information.
[   727.527] (EE) 

I prefer the Unity desktop, so that's the one I had originally installed. To work around the error, I reinstalled Unity using the same command in the original setup article:

sudo sh ~/Downloads/crouton -t unity.

To be clear, this simply reinstalls the desktop. I still had the latest version of Ubuntu and the applications I had installed after running the Crouton install. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Secret Sabbatical

My uncle, Dr. David Cawood has writing a fascinating book. It's called The Secret Sabbatical: The Revolutionary Approach to Recover Your Imagination and Discover Your Destiny for the Rest of Your Life and it's unlike any 'business book' you've ever read.

With extensive use of examples from the humanities, the book discusses the "loss of imagination" that is currently rampant in most organizations... and more people's lives.

From the website:

"This is the Book with the secrets of The Secret Sabbatical. Up to now this material was only available in one-on-one Course sessions for those asking “What Should I Do With the Rest of my Life?”

Developed over 10 years the Course has been fine-tuned for executives, surgeons, architects, research scientists and other professionals. Now you can read the notes from that Course, which are arranged in a clear sequence that covers how to find your own answer in the needed depth."

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

5 Tips to Make SharePoint Easier for Non-SharePoint People

Here are some quick SharePoint document library tips to help people who aren’t familiar with SharePoint have an easier time.

#1 Simplify Versioning

A quick and easy way to help your users avoid pitfalls is to simplify the version settings for their document libraries. You may have some complicated process in mind that requires specific settings, but if that process is confusing your users, you should consider simplifying the version options. For example, if you don't need versioning, just turn it off completely. If you don't need minor versions, turn them off. People new to SharePoint usually don't know that there minor versions are only visible to them by default.
geeklit sharepoint versioning
One easy way to prevent conflicting changes is to enforce check out before documents are edited. This is a simple radio button in the version settings.
geeklit sharepoint versioning

You would use this if you’re worried about your users making conflicting edits. Requiring that they check out documents before editing will eliminate the problem of conflicting changes, but you’ll need to educate them on checking in the docs when they’re done.

To add the column, go to the doc lib's settings page and find the "Columns" section. From there, choose the "Add from existing site columns" link and then select the "Checked Out To" column from the list.

#2 Add the “checked out to” Column

Since I just mentioned enforcing check-out before editing, the next tip has to be one of my favourites—adding the “Checked Out To” column to the default view. This simple change can make life so much easier for people new to SharePoint.


If you add this column to the default view, it's obvious to everyone which documents are checked out and who has them checked out.

#3 Show draft documents by default

Another option that is related to simplifying versioning is to show draft documents by default. This way you can allow people to see draft documents before they have been checked in. If a user sees a draft, he or she can talk to the person working on the document before making changes that would potentially conflict with the existing draft.

This saves lots of hassle because it's common for users to forget to check in new docs, or simply not understand why it has to be done before other people can see that a file has been added.


#4 Keep the permission model simple and manageable

This one is straightforward. If you want to save yourself some hassle. Use an inherited permissions model that uses groups instead of individual users and is flexible enough for everyone to do their job without going to the SharePoint admin regularly to extend their credentials. 

#5 Show your users how to sync their document libraries to their local folders

Note: You may need to install the install the SharePoint 2013 OneDrive Pro client to get this to work.

Many users feel more comfortable working in the Windows file system. They can do this with their SharePoint document libraries by choosing the "Sync" options or the "Open with Explorer" link. Once you have the SharePoint library syncing to a local folder, you can easily do things like paste files into the doc lib to upload them to SharePoint.


#6 Bonus Tip For Admins and Power Users

If you go to the library settings, you can use the "Managed checked out files" option to see all the checked out files and from there, you can even take ownership of them by choosing the "Take Ownership of Selection" option.

This is great when a document isn't showing because it only has a draft version and you're not sure who has it checked out.


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

RabbitTxt Text Messages is My First App

I’ve been working with a friend of mine on a simple iOS app called RabbitTxt—you can grab it for free right now from the Apple iOS App Store. The idea is to enable quick, one handed, pre-canned text messages to people or groups. Basically, tap, tap, send. Or if you’re sending the same thing to the same person, just… tap.


The app will remember the last person (or group) you sent a message to and also which message you sent, so you don’t have to select them again.

Unfortunately, my grand idea of the fastest text/SMS messages possible ran into an iOS restriction. Once you tap “Send Text” in RabbitTxt, you’ll need to press send again when the iOS messenger app opens. Sadly, there’s nothing we can do about that. The fastest possible text message interface on iOS is… tap… tap… Shrug.

It was Pat’s idea to add the “Jazzify” feature and it’s pretty snazzy. This feature converts your text message into a flashing image. Perfect to get someone’s attention.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Fairchild TV Interview about the Vancouver Tech Scene

I was recently interviewed by Fairchild TV (a national Chinese language station) for a segment about the Vancouver tech scene.


If you’re interested in the story, here are links to the video. Note that it’s a Cantonese language station.

(You can download the video if you find it's playing too slowly on the site.)
Part 1:
Part 2: