Arnt Gulbrandsen
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The qualities of home offices and others

I work at home, and I'm a bit frustrated with that this summer. I'm too remote, and we're not good enough at bridging that gap (half the fault is mine, to be honest). But my ex-colleague Bjørn Borud's latest blog posting makes me feel good again.

My office is suboptimal. I started with a dedicated room and have done as much with that room as I knew how to, and that's a great deal more than most companies are willing to do with their offices. Perhaps an unoptimised home office is no better than the regular kind, perhaps the main difference is that I have optimised my little realm for writing code while Bjørn's office is optimised for easy reorgs and long lines of sight. Whatever the reason, I'm glad I am not reduced to hunting for hotel lobbies where I can work semi-productively.

Said a great politician I don't quite admire: The actual policies are less important than the skill with which they are carried out. There is something to that.


Newfound wealth

I have found fifty-three dollars on my desk. I remember why they're there: 15-20 years ago, someone whose name I have forgotten gave me a dollar to help pay for a haircut and three others then chipped in. Their four dollars have littered my various offices since.

One of the three must've had too much to drink, because now that I look closely, I observe that one bill bears a portrait of Ulysses S. Grant and the number 50. Good. $49 is an appropriate fine for a joke as poor as that one. Justice has been served.



I'm back from having my hair cut. I'm not sure yet whether it was the right thing to do. Time will tell.

48cm and 33g in the Great Cut and another bit while adjusting afterwards.


In Hospital

As chance would have it, my favourite magazine Petits Propos Culinaires published an article on French hospital food in the same week that I went to hospital in Germany. The author was thrilled to receive an emissary from the chef who asked what she liked and what not, and told her that dinner would be soup followed by an omelette, salad and afterwards an apple doughnut.

In the event, the omelette had the consistency of a hard-boiled egg and was wrapped in cling film, etc.

Now I'm in a German hospital, and guess what, food is ordered using ugly machine-readable forms. There are three options for main dish each day, with two options for salad on the side. Today's salads are beef salad and salad with beef. I cannot investigate the difference (I am not not permitted to eat salad), but perhaps that's a feature.

Instead of beefy salads, they serve me pork, potatoes and a sauce apparently made from carrots, flour and monosodium glutamate. The pork yesterday had been butchered twice, that today had also been shredded to hide the evidence.

Fine French menu here, ugly German menu there, the food is the same. I take this to mean that large organisations will grow to act like each other where it matters. Only appearance will differ.


Sitting down to work

This is my answer to so how should the office be, then? and so how does your office look?, both of which are are entirely reasonable things to say to me, particularly this month. If you haven't talked to me about work environments and productivity, this post may be one to skip. (more…)


I should be tidier

I ditched the old laptop bag and got a new one. Much better. The new one is roomier on the inside than outside — and just as dangerous to aircraft security. Things end up in it that I don't know about. During my first two trips with the new bag, I have already brought several dangerous materials undetected through security checkpoints: dangerous liquids (an orange, a large bottle of hair conditioner), a sharp knife and of course something explosive.


Regarding recent developments at Trolltech

Nokia's rampage makes me want to post the picture below.

It's from a very rainy Friday in September 2000. I had a meeting around noon that day. Directly afterwards, I went for a weekend in the mountains with two friends, and I felt just like that.

About an hour after the picture was taken, over dinner, I explained my mood. Unless things change, I expect I'll leave in a few months. My forecast was good, I gave notice four months later, ten minutes after another depressing meeting.


No mail today

I am reminded of the Inmos Transputer.

That, as my older readers may still vaguely remember, was a freak processor in the eighties. It was designed for parallelism: Its fundamental design was for a computer with many transputers, not one with a single humongous blob. Each CPU was small, simple (the wikipedia page includes the complete instruction set) and linked to four other CPUs using bidirectional message-passing connections, and the design allowed vast CPU meshes with message routing and forwarding.

The thing that reminds me of the transputer is the way those links worked. When a Transputer received a message that had to be forwarded, it would prioritise communication over its own computation.

I am reminded of this because my mail is down. A great big failure happened during Christmas vacation. Then a routing mishap left me unable to take part in a video conference this morning. I am forced to prioritise my own programming over message passing, and it feels so good. Yesterday was great.

Tomorrow I shall apologise to borud about my unresponsiveness. But today, I plan to wallow in solitary hacking.

Actually I'll wait a few hours with publishing this. There's a chance someone might see it.