Sunday, October 28, 2012

My time is way over budget

I was reviewing my list of projects and I realize that its gotten way too long. I have too much time debt. It may sound strange to call it that. I look at it like I do finances. If you are collecting too much debt, you need to analyze how you are collecting it.  With my checking account, I can easily just pull a list of all my transactions.  It's a little harder when we talk about time.  There is no record being generated automatically.

In order to analyze my time, I need to start tracking it. I read about several ways to do it and I settled on something fairly simple.  I opened up Excel and made a table with these headings.  Day, Time, Minutes, Description, and Category.  Every time I change tasks, I write down the time and a short 2-3 word description.  I try to write down the number of minutes I spent at the same time, but I don't care if I miss a few.  It is easy enough to calculate after the fact.

I am using very broad categories. I want a high level view of where my time is spent. I think I have about 7-9 things that I am tracking but they roll up into 3 large buckets.  Support, Other, and My Projects. At the end of the day, I will make sure to date all the entries to assist in later analysis.

The whole point of me collecting this data is to analyse it. The results have been interesting so far. A strong third of my day is end user support.  This is a measure of overflow from the help desk.  Ideally we have enough support staff to handle support issues. The next third of my day is meetings, reviewing items with the rest of the team, and email.  The last third of my day is me working on my projects.

These results are interesting because I am not getting as much work done as I thought I was. I am busy all the time, but not enough of that it going toward my projects. I initially estimated my project list at 56 weeks. With these new metrics, its more like 3 years worth of stuff.

I am going to keep tracking my time to see if I am able to improve these numbers.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Windows 8 and Juniper RDP VPN unstability

I have been dealing with an interesting issues with Windows 8.  I loaded the beta way back when it was first released.  Once issue that I had issues with was my VPN connectivity at work.  It was very unstable.  I could get 2-5 minutes of work done at a time before it would drop.  I wrote it off as a beta issue and went on my way.  I didn't need to work from home as much as I was, so it was not that big if a deal.

I was a little disappointed when I installed the RTM and the issue continued.  I could deal with it if I was just checking in on servers.  But if I needed to any real work, it was just too much.  It felt like it was dropping more and more often. 

This weekend I actually needed to work on some things and my connection would only last a few seconds.  So it was time to solve the issue. I had enough.  I didn’t have any quick access to any computers that were not running Windows 8 or Server 2012.  I thought it was a good time to finally enable Hyper-V on my desktop.

I enabled the feature and after the reboot, I started installing Windows 7.  As I waited for the install to run, I was reminded at how much faster Windows 8 installed.

The good news is that it worked.  I was able to connect to my VM to use my VPN.  I did find it interesting though.  I would RDP into my VM, to RDP into my work desktop, to RDP into my servers.

If anyone else is having the same issues I am, here is one solution.  I think the issues I am having are more the way our VPN is deployed. We use a Juniper client that has its own rdp client.  I think if our admins had configured things a little different, I could use a different RDP client.  But this works well enough.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

100 projects and counting

I sat down and listed out all my tasks and projects in a spreadsheet. I wrote down everything that came to me.  All the things that people expect me to do or would like me to do.  I put down things that I should be doing but never get to.  I listed all the things I know I will never do but should be on the list anyway.

I needed to clear all of it out of my head. Get it down someplace so I am not wearing myself out thinking about it.  I just kept going as far as I could go.  In the end, I had over 100 items listed in my spreadsheet. That kind of caught me off guard when I saw that number.  I do this every so often and it usually helps me recharge a bit. But this time it showed me how far behind I really am.

I took a bit of time to put time estimates with each item to get a better picture.  The running total was just over a years worth of work.  Assuming that nothing else came up, I could be caught up in 56 weeks.  

I decided to take a look back at the last few times I recorded all my projects. My lists from 6 months ago and 12 months ago were the only one's I had time estimates on all my items.  When I chart the time estimates  for all 3 time periods (today, 6 months, and 12 months ago), it shows that my list is getting longer.  Its growing much faster that I can clear items off of it.

There is no way I can take care of that list alone.  I't very apparent that I either need a team of my own to tackle these things or I need to start turning people down. But now I have some data to back me up when I bring it up. 

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

I'm sorry Windows 8

When the Windows 8 Customer Preview was released I was waiting for the download link to become active.  I have spent a good deal of time getting to know Windows over the years.  This is just another beta in a long list of Windows betas that I have ran as my primary operating system.  I have to be honest, I struggled with the new UI. 

I am one to figure things out on my own.  That’s exactly why I run beta software hot off the press.  But here I am practically running an IT department at times and I could not find the shutdown button.  Using the mouse felt awkward because I can’t use it like my finger.  Do I seriously have to use the scrollbar?  Why not click and slide?  Once I did find the shutdown button, I could not find the log off button.  It also felt awkward to pull out the charms bar to search the start menu.

I found myself using Powershell to shut down or reboot the computer because I knew the command. It felt silly that I eventually had to google for these simple things.  I eventually made my desktop shortcuts and set up my pinned apps.  Then something amazing happened.  The fact that I was running Windows 8 faded into the background.  Once I stopped using the start screen, I found myself working the exact same way I worked in Windows 7.

The building windows 8 blog did a very nice write up about the design and ideas that inspired the new design.  It was a wonderful read that gave me a lot of insight.  I deleted all but 8 items from the start screen and was content to use it as needed.

When I got my hands on the RTM, I decided to give it another shot.  I took everything I knew and ran with it.  Things felt good at first.  I was checking email, doing social media, and browsing with IE 10.  I found the Metro IE 10 to be an interesting experience.  This worked for a while.

Once I stopped playing with things and started using my system, I kept falling back to the desktop browser.  I tried to stick with IE10 as much as I could.  It is very hard to resist using Chrome though.   So I am basically using 3 browsers.  This is making my experience very fragmented.  I flip into Metro for Twitter, I flip into Metro for Facebook, and I flip into Metro for email.   But I’m getting tired of flipping. I’m done flipping.

I’m sorry Windows 8. I wanted to see the start screen succeed, but I can’t force it.  I may not install a start menu replacement, but Metro is not going to be my main workspace anymore.  I’m going back to the desktop and I’m going back to one browser.