14 April 2017
Week 225 was… not quite what I had in mind.
On Monday, owing to client availability, I rejigged the week to do some Longcrag work. I spent some time working on the site, and running packaging tests.
Longcrag is mainly small electronics kits. They come in a number of bags. What I’ve been doing is the work to confirm how many bags, and what goes in each bag. I don’t want confusable parts in the same bag, and I’d like to keep bag count down, and confirm they all fit in the outer packaging. So I did a dry run for one of the kits. This helped me understand some processes I could put in place to speed up making up the kits later.
It also helped confirm how many bags I’d need, and that yes, the labels I’m using will stick to the small bags just fine. And it helped me work out how to draw up packing sheets, so it’ll be easy for me to make up each small bag for each kit in bulk. A bit dreary, but now out of the way – and much better to have foolproof instructions and references for repetitive tasks, rather than forgetting or getting bored.
And then I went home, and by the time I got home, I was a shivering mess and I went to bed for, effectively, the next three days.
I mainly write about the straight up work of work here; I have a personal site for other sorts of writing. But to write weeknotes honestly this week, I thought I’d acknowledge out loud what happened: I was ill.
Not a bit sniffly, and not tired from overwork; viral and sweaty and no use to anybody. And the only thing to do is to speak to clients, who are all understanding, because they’re people too; remember why we the rates we bill should afford slack both between gigs and derisk time off when we’re unwell (because otherwise, they’re unrealistic); and work on resting properly so we can get back to work.
Back in the studio after the Easter break. Hit the reset button, carry on.
09 April 2017
A few breakthroughs on a few projects today.
Over on Selworthy, I wrapped up our support for exporting to SCC – a closed captioning format that’s particular common in broadcast and DVD environments. It’s been a challenging project: the specification is hard to obtain and decipher; when you’ve done that, the format is obtuse and not designed to be human readable, meaning it can’t be eyeball tested; various implementations to use as references we’ve found vary wildly in terms of quality; and, because it is designed around broadcast devices, a caption takes a varying amount of time to ‘buffer’ dependent on its length. This documentation has been my yardstick, if you’d like some glimpse into my brain for the past few weeks.
Anyhow: we’ve got an end-to-end solution, and I’m pleased with that. Gnarly, character-based programming.
I also spent some time fettling some customer issues, and the dev team spent a little while setting ourselves up with a Continuous Integration server. To wrap up the week, I diagnosed the source of most of our issues with IE11 support – though it’s going to be a little while before that will be entirely resolved.
On Gisborough, I spent some time pulling together some illustration and motion graphics. It’s not my strong point, but at the very least we have something testable, and something that could act as an animatic for an animator to work from. We also finished up a first pass at the third of the three documents we’re creating. This one turned out to be somewhat necessarily long, and also a little tangly – so I prototyped a quick pass of it in Twine, breaking it down into its fundamentals and making the links within it more obvious. This was a hit with our writer, who tidied it up in its interactive form, and we’ve got that to show the team as an alternative next week.
And finally: I wrapped up all the ordering on Longcrag with a slightly large order from Eurocircuits. Large because, though we’re ordering a decent number of boards, it’s actually a small number each of eight different items. Still, that’s in place, and should be here in a week or so. Then all that remains is making up the kits… and then triple-checking the documentation, finishing up the website, taking press shots, etcetera. Busy busy. But exciting! To cap it all, some rather nice marketing collateral arrived, and I did a quick quality-control run on all the knobs to check they had their set-screws.
And that, I think, was enough for Week 224.
04 April 2017
- Gisborough marched on: we finished up a set of revisions to the previous week’s work, and started thinking about how best to illustrate it all.
- I spent some time on Selworthy cranking on a finishing up a particularly challenging file exporter. Despite an initial working prototype, I spent some time tidying up the code and making it much more compartmentalised: easier to test, and also easier to extend in future. I also spent some time trying to fix some strange import errors from other tools, when we tried to load these files into them. I compared ‘golden’ output from another tool with our own, and comparing notes as to what might lead to the issues we’re seeing. By the end of the week, I’d tidied up a lot of my own output and had improved our export files no end – but the inexplicable import errors were still to be dealt with
- With all the components for the first of the Longcrag products here, I fixed them up in their production packaging. The good news is the packaging works well and looks good. With the first 20 products packaged, I spent some time starting work on building a website about the products, and ordering various pieces of merchandise and collateral. The final few components arrived from various distributors, so once the final PCBs arrive, we’re into packaging up some kits – the products are self-assembly – and making sure our documentation is good to go. Exciting, and a little nerve-wracking, to see it all coming to life!
29 March 2017
Another busy week, so time for more codename confetti:
- Over on Gisborough I cranked out some HTML prototypes ready to be tested, as well as taking a quick second check at the language in the second prototype. Later in the week, I went over those tests with the team and we began to plan what would be coming next and taking stock a bit.
- On Selworthy, I spent some time remembering how useful integration tests are for testing complex workflow; Capybara really does make life a lot easier. This helped test some of the new code I’d been writing around sending alerts to our Slack channel when specific criteria are met. I also spent some time working with our new tech lead who’ll be taking over from me in due course.
- Components started arriving for Longcrag, some with attendant customs bills – I’ve learned a few lessons about shipping companies this week. I laser-cut some panels for a new prototype, and ordered the first production PCBs for one of the products.
- Finally, I tightened a few screws on Walbury all ready for a second round of tests.
And we’re out!
20 March 2017
Lots going on, so more bullet-point weeknotes:
- Gisborough begins to take shape. Alex, our content designer, has been working with me on picking some topics and then asking me questions to find both the stories we want to tell, and the way we want to tell them. That’s been challenging in all the best ways, and by the end of the week, she’d found an angle and an arc, and we were shaping up for our first prototype and test.
- Over on Selworthy, I finished up rebuilding our developer tools. I also spent some time working on our internal administration tools: adding some more detailed metrics and notifications for administrative users, and starting to touch on the beginnings of some Slack integration.
- The first of two deliveries from China for Longcrag arrived – 200 cables with a male end and a female end – and I cut them all in half. The packaging also arrived, and a quick packaging test felt and looked good. Onwards.
- I spent an afternoon with Erica fettling the Empathy Deck – aka Holmfell – and discussing some new features I’d add in due course.
- And finally, Wapley had its first test in the wild. It sounded from Richard like it went well; as a result of that, I wrote some quick additions to improve the user experience and make debugging it in the field easier.