Working Tools 42. Sabotaged.

The new normal has exposed the weakness of my iPad-only system.

The iPad Pro as a mini-desktop is a beautiful, minimal setup. The tablet sits on a stand, in horizontal orientation, controlled by a separate keyboard and mouse (or trackpad). This makes for a focused experience.

Then, somebody asks for a video call, on Zoom, for example. I can take the call, but it must be the only app working. I can’t take notes on the iPad while listening to the call. The camera is on a shorter side of the tablet, meaning that if I’m looking at the person to whom I’m speaking, I look as though I’m looking away from them. Not the end of the world, but annoying. Given the state of the world, I, like everyone else, am on more video calls, and am likely to remain so.

I perform stress tests for clients. I dig down through the paperwork, to assess and document that procedures are being followed. Much of this work, is traditionally done on-site, in-person. Not this year. Probably not next year either. Once I have completed the test, I run seminars, going through any issues identified and covering what’s new in the world of anti-money laundering. That’s not going to happen.

I set about structuring a remote stress test and remote seminars.

In reality, it’s not too difficult. I need to manage a lot of documentation and I need to create some video presentations.

Duck Duck Go Search. “Screencasting on an iPad.”

It didn’t laugh at me, but close.

To clarify, I will be making a few video presentations a year. I will use a powerpoint / keynote and present it to camera. The visuals will be the slides, with an occasional inset of my talking head in the corner.

Whilst it would be fun to set up a couple of cameras, the right lighting (I have the kit) and a full blown audio/video studio, this would be overkill. I want something simple, easy to use that produces decent quality audio and visual output.

The good news is that there are options. The bad news is that none of them are iPad-centric.

I transferred the MacBook Pro to my desk. Complete with external peripherals.

However, clamshell mode takes the camera away – which I need. So now the machine is open, front and centre on my desk. The external display comes in handy, meaning that I can keep a script on one screen, while presenting on another. I still enjoy my iPad, so that sits alongside its bigger brothers.

My lovely, minimal, focused workspace, now looks like a hacker’s workstation.

However – it will work, and I will find ways of reducing some of the clutter. Inevitably, part of the solution will involving buying more stuff.

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Members 83. Yikes. Spikes.

Oh crap.

Covid 19 numbers have taken off here. I wrote last week about concerns over there being six cases reported in a day. In the last seven days, we have had ninety five.

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Working Tools 41. Customer Hostility

Why do tech companies hate their customers so much?

Remember aspirational me? The one who had his iPad Pro on a boom arm. The premise of the iPad Pro is that it can handle pretty much anything. It almost can. Almost.

My desire to have the screen mounted on a boom depends on the ability to use the machine with a keyboard and/or other input accessories. Start prodding at a boom-mounted screen with a finger quickly gives you back-ache and the wobbling screen is not an elegant look.

Some apps, like this one, Ulysses, work perfectly with no touch. Microsoft Excel? Not so much. Google apps? Don’t get me started. Certain web applications, not quite. Of course, if one thing that you need doesn’t work – the whole setup doesn’t. Who wants to get angered every hour or two by an application not delivering on the touch-free option promise of iPad Pro?

Is it unreasonable to expect Apple, Google and Microsoft to work together to ensure the best possible customer experience?

On 1857, TJ made the mistake of asking about Smart Tech. There followed an hour plus of me shouting at the internet.

I’m sure that you have noticed that the world, pre-Covid 19 at least, had become a much smaller place. People are mobile, travel extensively, and even go live in different countries. Seriously. They do. I do.

Let’s take TV as an example.

Here’s what I’d like to do.

  1. Turn on my TV (big box, full of tech, connected to the internet, in the corner of my sitting room.)
  2. Be presented with a menu of the content that I have paid to have access to, and a menu of services or content that I might tempted to consume.
  3. Select some content, pay for it, and watch it.

For example, if I want to watch the Premier League football then in the UK, I would subscribe to Sky TV. As I don’t live in the UK, I can’t subscribe to Sky – because of complicated rights agreements and conventions. Effectively, a Cypriot broadcaster has purchased exclusive rights to the Premier League in Cyprus – so I should go and purchase a Cypriot system to watch English TV with graphics and commentary in Greek. In reality, I’m not a football fan, so I’m not bothered. However, I do enjoy cricket and golf. No Cypriot broadcaster is willing to pay for the rights to golf and cricket. Surely then, I should be able to pay Sky for access to those two sports?

“I’m afraid all Sports are bundled together, Sir.”
“That’s a pain, but never mind. I’ll pay the full fee, nobody here in Cyprus carries golf.”
“Cyprus? You can’t watch our TV in Cyprus, sir.”
“Why not?”
“Football rights.”
“But I don’t want to watch football.”
“Sorry.”

This type of story is repeated across multiple services. I’m not allowed to watch the BBC outside the UK. Even though I still pay the licence fee that funds the BBC.

There are ways around these restrictions. One can use a VPN to trick these companies into allowing you to pay them – or one can subscribe to third-party services who provide this content through means unspecified.

In effect, the content providers themselves have created the market for piracy of their own content.

The world’s gone mad.

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Members 82. 2020 Reboot

I’m back.

Our mini-vacation to Casale Panayiotis was fantastic. We did almost nothing, but chilled, talked, ate, and hung out in variations of bubbly water.

The story behind Casale Panayiotis is beguiling.

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Living the Dream. 87. Hobson’s Choice

As I write, Cyprus is, mostly, out of lockdown. In terms of day to day life, there are very few restrictions. However, restrictions remain for visitors coming here.

Countries are in one of the three categories. A, B and C (everyone else). A is countries where Covid-19 is deemed to be under control, and people may enter freely. B is countries where people must produce written evidence of a negative test, completed within 72 hours of boarding the flight. C, no flights.

The main tourist markets for Cyprus are the UK and Russia. UK is currently C, but will be B from August 1st. Russia is category C.

The great hope for tourism revenue was that from next month, legions of Brits would flood in and spend money, giving the economy a shot in the arm. Negotiations began with the larger tour operators.

Negotiations appear to have gone as follows:

Tour Operators (TO): About these tests…

Cyprus Government (CG): Yes?

TO: Do you need them?

CG: Of course, we have been very successful in suppressing the virus, and we don’t want to let up now.

TO: Thing is, tests are a bit of a pain.

CG: Hmmm..perhaps we can help. What’s the difficulty?

TO: Tests in UK are limited to those people showing symptoms, elective testing has to be done privately at a cost. 

CG: Well, we have been talking to the hotels here, about funding…

TO: Sorry to cut in – but it’s also difficult to get tests guaranteed within the 72 hours

CG: Perhaps we could find away to perform the tests on arrival…

TO: Sorry to cut in again. Look. Let us be direct. Spain doesn’t need a test. Greece doesn’t need a test.

CG: True, but…

TO: Will you drop the test?

CG: After a period of review, it is of course possible that…

TO: Will you drop the test NOW?

CG: As we explained, as things currently stand…

TO: We’re not coming. 

CG:

TO: Bye.

CG:

I am summarising, I daresay that many more words were used to arrive at the same impasse.

The Tour Operators have troubles of their own, and I imagine are desperate to rescue as much revenue as they can from a much curtailed season. If that revenue is from Spain or Cyprus matters little. Tests is one more headache. I guess I see where they are coming from.

The Cyprus Government position is horrible. The economy is haemorrhaging money and the tourist sector is crying out for help. On the other hand, Covid is no joke, and importing a second wave in the name of commerce will come across as cruel.

I’m sure that in the background, talks are taking place to find the quickest way to open the market and maintain virus-limiting measures.

In the meantime – residents are, for the first time in decades, reclaiming the beaches and tourist hot-spots.

Talking of which – I’m off to a mountain-spa.😁

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Members 81. Do less. Sleep more.

Surely there’s a book titled “Do less, Sleep More”?

I did find some articles on how to sleep less and how to hack your sleep, on a site that was selling multiple oils, potions and powders that would turn me into Superman.

Snake oil, anyone?

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Going Solo 24. A whole new world

I didn’t see that coming.

Late February, I was in Rome to watch some Rugby and introduce my wife to the eternal city. As a side benefit, I was meeting a client for lunch.

He had come down from Northern Italy, and was extremely concerned about something called a Corona Virus.

Shock

Lime. Speaking with clients, it was clear that their revenues were going to be decimated, if not wiped out, for a period of time. I elected to get ahead of the curve, and agreed invoice-holidays. I saw no advantage in demanding payment when clients were hurting.

Loggedoff. Royal Mail has maintained service throughout the lockdown. We were able to make some adjustments to fulfilment to maintain social distancing, and keep the business ticking over. We moved to minimise cost, hoping that we could tread water until the threat passed. So far, so good.

Podcasts and writing. These are entirely remote. Podcast audiences have taken a hit – as often people listened on their commutes. However – the podcast is not about revenue.

Bottom line, I have taken some hits, revenue-wise, but the businesses survive.

Opportunities

The world has changed, and changes still. In change is opportunity.

Lime will provide support that is remote. Getting people together in a room seems alien now. Webinars, video calls are the new normal. There will be savings on travel, on venue hire, and the logistics for gathering entire teams in one place. Some of those savings accrue to Lime. Always an incentive to innovate.

Customer support for Nero’s Notes is wonderful. The site is more than a shop – and I will redesign it to reflect that.

Brexit. Remember that? Some might argue that there was never going to be a trade deal, others say that Covid-19 should be cause for a delay of the UK’s exit. Current thinking is that the chances of a no deal are increasing. I’m British, with an extensive network of contacts in the UK, with expertise and experience in financial services, and resident in the EU. That has spawned an opportunity or two.

Resource Investigation

The key to managing as sudden and complete a change as this, is communication. Talk to people. Check-in with people. That smart device you have? It makes phone calls too, you know. Call people, chew the fat. Find out what’s happening in your sphere. That’s where you’ll find opportunity. Quite apart from that, you will feel better, and the person you call will feel better.