The productivity of illness

There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
It has happened to me a few times but it wash’t until today, the third day of being confined at home because of my flu, that I began to see the pattern.

Getting sick is a great chance to think! 

“Oh, man, this is … sick”, you might say. Maybe, but it is true nevertheless. And there is a very good reason for this: you don’t have many alternatives.

What I mean is that if you are really sick, you probably are in bed, cannot do a lot of work, cannot see or talk to many people, watch tv, read books or surf the net. If you are really sick. Or you can do all of the above but for a limited amount of time. And the rest of the day you lie on your bed suffering and waiting.

But there is an οrgan  that is not too much affected by the condition of the rest of the body: the brain.

Yes, you might be sleepy or feel that your thought is misty, yet, in the absence of external preoccupations, and with plenty of idle time,  all your latent thoughts, worries, forgotten tasks, fears, hopes and desires will find a way to sneak into your consciousness. And here lies your moment of opportunity: you can play it like tv, i.e. watch and forget, or you can try to make some sense out of this mental jumble, discover things, short out other and finally, find inspiration and motivation to change your way onwards.

And this is precisely the pattern I realised today: it has happened to me each time I was in bed for more than one day. And each time I got away with something good. Not always significant or lasting, but, at least temporarily, beneficial.

As a matter of fact, this is how I came up with the Discoveroom idea. It was two years ago that I was in bed for about a month because of my waist. As a matter of fact lots of ideas came to me then. I even had  a moleskine by me to note them down quickly. I also started learning ruby and embarked in a pet project utilising codeigniter. But the one thing that got stuck was Discoveroom (not by this name, or any name, in the beginning) and now that I am again in bed, this is the one I find myself deliberating about.

So, what’s the moral here? Get ill to get things done? Of course not. The moral is that there is no idle time. Only idle people. You choose what you are.

 

 

Working for a startup

A few days ago I commented on a post by Nikos  Moraitakis about why people should, of all things, want to work for a (greek) startup.  Today,  I read a post by Mike Greenfield, titled “Why Developers Aren’t Interested In Your Startup” which kind of reinforced my point of view.

First, here  is what I wrote in my comment, mildly edited.

Nikos, I think we should make understood, as emphatically as possible, that startups are VERY risky endeavors. They are not for the light hearted. And you do not want to lure the wrong people in them, as they will most probably quit on the first few obstacles. But attracting the wrong people  is a very probable turn of events in a crisis as the one we are undergoing in our country: you WILL lure them just because they have nothing else to do.

So, if the picture is as bleak as I am drawing it, how startups can ever find the right people to work for them?
There is a simple guiding principle here: economic behavior is about motives and the motive of a startup job is a reward substantially big to balance the high risk undertaken.
Having said that, I do not imply a financial reward necessarily, although this would be a strong motivator.
Since, by definition, startups do not have enough cash to pay big salaries, any kind of financial reward must have a variable element that relates to startup performance. Stock options is the most common such reward. This is the reason I had tried to open the discussion about stock options earlier this year.
Apart from the financial rewards, there are two other equally strong rewards:

  • do the things that you really really really like and are passionate about, and
  • learn a prodigiously lot of stuff in a very short time.

The first is not obvious. It concerns people with special skills that want to put them into work. If, for instance, someone has made studies in a very specialized area, it is not likely that he can put these studies to work anywhere else than in a startup. So if he really loves his field, he will be willing to undertake the hardships and the possibly less remuneration just to able to work on the thing he loves.

The second has to do with the multifaceted role that each employee plays in a startup. Actually, to be completely honest, there is no role. Not an exactly defined, at least. Especially in the very beginning.
It is, more or less, a broad direction that one gets, than a job description. Which means that he has to have the motive and the guts to pave his own way.

Greenfield’s findings support the view that financial rewards are one of the main motivators, although they appear fourth in the post. The other three are:

  • Industry
  • Founders’ reputation
  • Investors’ reputation

I relate also ‘industry’ to what I refer as ‘specialization’ for obvious reasons, and i tend to agree with Greenfield on his guess that working for a startup that potentially has the power to do social good or change the world in some aspect is also a big factor.

But apart from my beliefs and guesses it would be interesting to hear from others what would attract them to a startup despite the fact that they could possibly get a higher salary in a more mature company. What can counterbalance the financial rewards?

Mac et al. annoyances

The last few days I am under a spell of bad luck: a near the elbow left-arm fracture, an old spine hernia that came back with a vengeance, confining me to bed the past two days, and, today, a Macbook Air that refuses make a  sound  while it won’t let me end a dialog.

Since the health of the body is less important than the health of the mind Mac, I will skip the first and focus on the second :)

I have a 4,5 year Mac book Air (first generation), with an 80Gb disk. I have managed to keep upgrading up to Snow Leopard and then stopped. I have decided that my next upgrade will be a new Mac book, not a new OSX for the current one.

In the short (or long, depending on the perspective) life of this machine I have experienced two serious problems, both taken care by Apple Support.

Before turning to apple support for this one too, I want to describe it here, hoping that someone might stumble on it and offer a solution that I haven’t already found (i.e.  tried, and rejected) googling for an answer.

Sound

The sound problem looks like  a hardware one. At least, this was my first impression since input and output devices ceased to show up in the Sound Settings in System Preferences.

The first search though, revealed that this is an all too common Mac problem, highly correlated to Air’s and Lions. So with an Air and no Lion I have a  50% chance of a software problem.

The known remedies to the missing sound problem, nicely summed up here, offered me no consolance. Neither the PRAM trick. So, I am afraid that it really is a hardware problem.

Image

Dialogs

The program I use most frequently (next to Chrome) is Coda, since I am doing most of my professional and personal work with it. But today it let me down too, although I don’t think it is strictly a Coda issue, as I noticed the same behavior with a couple of other programs too, namely Mail and SourceTree, but since I do not use them often I did not pay attention.

So what is this problem? Every time I attempt to open Coda I get stuck with the dialog below. I cannot close it, press a button, or make it progress. It stays there eternally.

Image

What the dialog says is true. I indeed got stuck saving a remote file, that forced to quit coda,  and since then…

My thought was that if I cleaned the local copies the dialog would disappear.

I tried to clear the cache but had problem finding it.

I deleted the Cache.db file in ~/Library/Caches/com.panic.Coda and all the entries in ~/Library/Coda/ (which look unrelated, but did it nevertheless). Then I looked at ~/Library/Application Support/Coda/Logs but the folder was empty.

In short, I did not find the cached remote files.

As a last resort, I also attempted to reinstall Coda. I got exactly the same result.

The funny thing is that if I click on a document that normally opens with Coda, the document opens nicely but then the accursed dialog kicks in.

So here I stand, or, rather, I lie, with no other solution left only than to beg you, kind reader, for one, before I make apple support richer.

Update 1: 

I managed to get rid of the annoying dialog by cleaning some cache files in /Library/Caches.  More specifically, after cleaning blindly all the cache files and folders that had a date close to yesterday, I opened Coda, saw the dialog again but this time clicking on cancel actually worked. Then, it asked me for a key, as I had reinstalled it and after putting the original purchase key, the confirmation dialog got stuck again. This time I knew where to look and it appeared that the only newly created cache file was /Library/Caches/com.apple.DiagnosticReporting.Networks.plist. I deleted it again, reopened Coda, repeated the above steps but this time, after entering the license key, the confirmation dialog worked. Of course all my setting were gone with the cache cleaning and reinstallation which is already a loss. But, at least I have Coda working.

Now, the property list file mentioned above, did not appear to have anything special inside. As a matter of fact, the one I initially deleted and the new one generated were identical. So, I cannot tell why it helped.

Update 2:

It took me sometime to make the connection: the two issues are related. In a very simple and stupid way: the dialogs get stuck as they attempt to play a sound. And since the sound system is dead, the dialog hangs up waiting. So, what I did, was disable the interface sound effects and, voila, dialogs started behaving.


Update 3 (7/12/2012)
Sigh! I was wrong. The dialogs problem is still there. And not only in Coda…

Xeni