Design Patterns for Modern Life

Optimal strategies for a better life

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

I've ripped my CDs to iTunes... what do I do with the CDs?

The Londonist asks a timely question. Just what am I supposed to do with all the CDs I've ripped? Do I give them away or sell them and hope my hard disk never crashes? Do I back up my hard disk first? Do I store them?

I live in London... space costs money... My CDs would fill a decent proportion of a mini storage locker.... about £10 per month. Arghhh! I thought this whole thing was meant to save me money....

Monday, March 27, 2006

Can deliberately sending tourists in the wrong direction be good for them?

London Undergound's Waterloo and City line will close for six months on Saturday. Suddenly the fact that I'm working long term in Ipswich doesn't seem so bad.

The attentive reader will notice the bizarre route advice given in the advisory I linked to. It says:

"At Waterloo, you can take the Bakerloo or Northern lines to Embankment and then any eastbound District or Circle line to Monument. The reverse of this route can be taken for return journeys."

From a rational commuter's perspective, this is quite clearly insane; the Northern to London Bridge to get the Jubilee is clearly a quicker route. However, it is also congested. Were all Waterloo and City line passengers to move wholesale onto that route, I suspect civilisation would break down and there would be dried-fruit-fights in the catacombs (search for "Cranberry").

So, by sending some people out of their way, a greater good is achieved.

Just make sure you're not the loser who takes the longer route... go to London Bridge!!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Dear Architect...

Ben Thompson writes to ask for my advice on a pressing optimisation problem:

"Whilst in Bologna on a customer project, I wish to visit the fantastic San Luca sanctuary for a splendid view of Bologna city ... I know the walk is approx 3.6 km plus a 10 minute taxi ride from my hotel on the other side of town. Given that sunrise is approx 7am, and I am not required to be back at my hotel until 9am for a pick up to go to work, is it socially acceptable for me to go for an early morning excursion to enjoy the cultural delights of the city? As I see it the only risks here are:

  1. Upsetting my customer due to unforseen tardiness (let's face it: if this were to happen they'd probly just shrug their shoulders and light another fag)

  2. I might tire myself thus rendering my capability at debugging IBM's XMS client for .NET less than optimal.

What dya reckon - worth the risk ? Can Design Patterns for Modern Life help me in this quandary ?"

Ben will be pleased to learn that this blog can, indeed, help him with his predicament.

The key to the solution lies in the following observations:

  1. Taking the excursion will require Ben to arise at an earlier time than normal

  2. He has a definite arrival target: 7am

  3. There is a deadline by which he must arrive back at his hotel: 9am

  4. He is cheap (we can assume the "pick up" is a colleague ferrying him to the client for free)

Ben wishes to optimise his costs, his exposure to the views (a picture in a book will not do) and the satisfaction of his client. I was tempted to facetiously recommend the application of the visitor pattern (ho ho) but, instead, draw his attention to the wise words of Donald Knuth: premature optimisation is the root of all evil.

That is: his mistake is to worry too much. He should ask himself how many times he has visited the tourist delights that South Hampshire has to offer (Portsmouth, Southampton, etc) and how jealous he felt when visiting colleagues told him of the excitement they felt when they saw them for the first time.

Accordingly, Ben should apply the Record Set pattern in the following manner:

  • do take the excursion; you will regret not going

  • take lots of photographs. Ensure the date and time will be etched in the corner of every image in that silly yellow font

  • pay for a cab directly to the client afterwards

  • in the time you save by not returning to the hotel, upload the photos to your laptop

  • set the collection of photos (the record set, if you like...) as your screensaver

  • ostentatiously ensure it is playing when your cigarette-smoking, espresso-drinking colleagues and clients arrive for work

  • use it as a discussion point around which you can build a deeper and longer-lasting client relationship

  • job done!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

My work here is done

If my dripfeeding of tube hints and tips has failed to satisfy, perhaps this can be of some assistance...

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

London Waterloo to Winchester in the morning

If you need to be in Winchester for 09:00, the best train to take from London is the 07:35 Weymouth train from Waterloo. This is a remarkably reliable service (both in terms of its punctuality and its spooky preference for leaving from platform 11 - some brave souls board it and fall asleep before the platform has even been announced...).

The first problem is that is stops at Woking. I am sure Woking is a thoroughly pleasant place. I just wish fewer of its inhabitants would insist on taking the same train as me and making me feel guilty for being slow to offer up the seat next to me.

The second problem is that there are never enough taxis at Winchester station. It is this second problem, you will not be surprised to learn, that I will teach you how to solve. In short, you must be the first person out of the station. Thay way, even if there is only one taxi waiting, you are guaranteed to get it. How do you do it? Easy. You need to sit in the rearmost carriage (or the one next to it if you travel in cattle class, like I do). Furthermore, you must leave through the frontmost door of the rearmost first class carriage. (Got that)?

Once off, walk fast. Faster than everybody else. It's not difficult; it's morning and you're in Hampshire. Follow these simple steps and you'll only have me to beat. I trust, as a matter of common courtesy, you would yield :-)

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Getting an iPod repaired outside of warranty

I bought a fourth generation 40Gb iPod sixteen or so months ago. I've been very happy with it and regard it as an excellent purchase. I have suffered none of the battery problems that seem to have afflicted so many users and have not been overly upset by Apple's DRM technology (although if I had thought deeply about it, I'm sure I would have been).

However, my days of happiness were brought to an abrupt halt in February when my iPod developed a fault: it would no longer synchronise with iTunes and various tracks would refuse to play. The culprit (as identified by a rather unpleasant clicking noise) was the hard drive.

I had chosen not to invest in "Apple Care" and so was resigned to the possibility of having either to buy a new one or pay £166.29 to have it repaired since I was outside the 12 month warranty period.

However, 16 months does seem an extraordinarily short time for an expensive electrical item to last so I thought I'd check out my rights. Interestingly, the Sale of Goods Act has something to say. So I thought I'd give it a go.

I bought the iPod from Micro Anvika on Tottenham Court Road so my contract was with them (and not Apple, one should remember). I must admit that I was expecting some resistance to my request for a free (or discounted) repair so I took along a letter.

Here's what I wrote:

21 February 2006

Micro Anvika
245 Tottenham Court Road
Your Neference: xxxx
Invoice Number: xxxx

Dear Sir,

I purchased an iPod and an iPod mini from your store on 10 October 2004 (sixteen months ago).

The iPod has recently developed a fault which prevents synchronisation with my PC. I have tested on two separate computers and believe the fault is due to a defective hard drive on the iPod; it makes an unpleasant clicking noise when I plug it into any computer.

The Sale of Goods act requires that goods sold are of satisfactory quality. An aspect of quality is durability. Sixteen months is unsatisfactory for a product as expensive as this.

I enclose the original receipt and the faulty iPod. Please can you repair the iPod.

Please note that I have moved house since purchasing these items; the address on the invoice is out of date. My current address is as above.

Yours faithfully,

Richard G Brown

The guy at the repair desk sounded sceptical but said they'd take it in and let the manager decide what to do. To my amazement, they called back the next day and said that, in the light of what I'd written, Apple would repair (or replace) it for free. I didn't even need to contribute towards the repair.

I picked up what seems to be a brand new replacement yesterday. Excellent!

So: the lessons here are: 1) know your rights, 2) be polite, calm but assertive, 3) buy your electrical goods from Micro Anvika: they don't screw you over and do what they say they will. Good job, guys!

The unexpected difficulties of getting to Old Street

My aged colleague Andy Piper asked an interesting question about getting to Old Street last week.

He correctly observes that there appear to be no good routes from Farnborough; they all involve horrific crowds, excessive numbers of changes or the use of train lines that will not be running for a large portion of this year.

He suggests various options and I must admit that I find it hard to identify any that are superior.

My advice, therefore, is to wait for the DLR to be extended to Charing Cross as he will then be able to take a pleasant walk over the Thames from Waterloo every morning in order to catch it. It will, of course, require him to lobby hard for a route that includes Old Street but there is ample time.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Welcome to design patterns for modern life