Steve's blog

A blog about what's going on in Analysis UK...

Pound breaks the 2 Dollar point.

Today the Pound has broken the 2 Dollar exchange rate, this is apparently a 15 year high for the Pound against the US Dollar.

Don’t forget if you want to check out the exchange rate on your mobile phone or other mobile devices you can browse to, Dollars 2 Pounds for your mobile.

Screen shot from Dollars2Pounds showing todays rate above the 2 dollar point:

Pound touches 14 year high against US Dollar

The BBC is reporting that the Pound reached a 14 year high against the US Dollar during Monday.

I don’t have 14 years worth of data in the Dollars2Pounds exchange rate database, but here’s a chart of what the last 5 years looks like.

(Apologies for the Y axis label problem, Excel has decided not to allow me to show the full label – I have no idea why, I’ve tried allsorts).

I'm currently working on adding charting to, however this is in a big queue with lots of other things I need to be working on so isn’t happening as quickly as I would like – it’s also reliant on me finding a charting package that I like, and I’ve not had much luck so far.

If you want to play with a chart in Excel your self you can use Dollars 2 Pounds exchange rate history page and Excel’s Web Query.

From Excel select :
Data -> Import External Data -> New Web Query

In the Window that opens enter the Rates History URL.

Select the arrow pointing to the date title of the rates table, it should turn to a tick

Click on Import, select where to import the data to in the Import Data window and wait whilst Excel gets the data.

Your spreadsheet should now look something like:

Now, if like me your in the UK, it’s a great time to buy software, components, domain names and the like from US sources as everything’s practically half price!.

Please remember the actual exchange rates you receive from your credit card, money transfer or other currency conversion will differ from the rates published, please check the rate offered by the company converting your currency first and remember that conversions are an approximate indication only and cannot be guaranteed by Analysis UK.

Implementing GTD SOP #2 with the help of Dinner Timer Lite.

Once again Bob has a fantastic suggestion to help us get things done on his blog, the basics of GTD SOP #2 are that you spend 48 minutes working with an allowance of 12 minutes slack time every hour (although I’m hoping this doesn’t apply to 24 hours a day – although it sure feels like it sometimes!).

Every now and then I find another use for Dinner Timer Lite. Today is no exception, with some very simple modifications to the settings Dinner Timer Lite makes a great timer for GTD SOP #2 (IMHO!) - not to mention that the timer Bob recommends is out of stock at as I type this and Dinner Timer Lite is available as a free download!

Dinner Timer Lite is a free PC based timer originally intended to help me reduce the number of meals I burnt because I returned to the PC to work and forgot to set the timer in the kitchen or when I did it went off and I kept working thinking I would just do another 30 seconds when it was really 5 minutes extra.

Configuring Dinner Timer Lite for GTD SOP #2

From the main menu choose Settings -> Options.

On the General Options tab set the following:

Default timer run time : 60 min.
End point close warning time : 12 min.
Over end point first warning time : 4 min. (or as you feel appropriate)
Secondary over end point warning : 8 min. (again as you feel appropriate)
Stop all notifiers after end point: 10 min.

That has set up the timer to run for 60 minutes by default, warning me 12 minutes before the hour is up (i.e. 48 minutes after the start), then again warning me at the end of the hour, combined with two possible over run warnings at 4 and 8 minutes in case I keep slacking! – as if that would happen! and a stop at 10 minutes in case I have wandered away from the PC.

Naturally when you are working you don’t want to be clock watching but you might just want to see how long till you get some slack and at the same time it’s good when your slacking to see how long you have left so lets setup the opacity of the timer.

The settings here are :
Timer stopped : high visibility.
Timer running : Low visibility.
48 Minutes up : good visibility.
Time up : high visibility.
Over run slacking : full visibility.

Getting notified:

The current release version of Dinner Timer Lite features 2 styles of notification (future versions have some more notifiers currently being written).

Here are how I have configured Dinner Timer Lite :

Select both bubble and sound notifiers on the notifiers tab.

Click Bubble Notifier then the Edit Settings button to open the options for the bubble notifier.

From the top drop down box work your way through the various options, setting the Action as Run Once or Don’t Run where you don’t want a bubble to appear.

The text will appear in a bubble pop up from the system tray area when the appropriate event occurs.

Started : "Timer started"
Stopped : "Timer stopped"
EndPointClose: "Slack Time, you now have 12 mins slack time to surf and make a cup of Tea!" (This event is the one set to occur 12 minutes before your hour is up).

EndPoint: "Time to get back to work – remember to restart Dinner Time Lite" (occurs when the 60 minutes is up).
EndPointMissed1: "Stop slacking and get back to work"
EndPointMissed2: "That’s enough slacking you won't get anything done"

Naturally you may wish to change the messages for ones that are a little more motivational (or polite)!

Next set up the sound notifiers in a similar way. I would suggest you use a sound on the start event so you know for sure that the volume is working when you start the timer!

When setting the sounds use the Run Once or Run Twice Action options otherwise the sound will keep going until you stop and that would likely ruin your 12 minutes of slack time!

You can choose your own sounds if you don’t like any of the built in ones, they were chosen to get attention. Sound Rangers is a great site to get a variety of sound effects from.

If you don’t want sound notification or bubble pop up then unselect that notifier.

NB: sound configuration and notifier selection changes only takes effect when the application is restarted for Version 1.0

That’s it for configuration of Dinner Timer Lite, next let’s put it to use.

Using Dinner Timer Lite:

Returning to the main window we see the 60 min default value in the drop down in the menu strip. If you want to work longer (or shorter) change the time here, but you will still only get 12 minutes slack time (sorry!)

When you are ready to start working hit the Start button.

The timer updates to show the time remaining, the start and completion times and how long the timer is running for, as well as a progress bar showing oddly enough the progress through the hour.

The timer also updates it’s transparency to the low visibility state (not shown in the screen shot), clicking on the minimize button sends Dinner Timer Lite to the tray, hover over it to get the time remaining for the hour. When it’s slack time we get prompted with a balloon from the system tray and some weird noise from the speakers, then when it’s time to get back to work more balloons and noises!

When you’ve finished your slack and are ready to start back remember to hit Stop and then Start again to start the next hour. And if you were slacking more than you should have been the timer keeps counting past the hour so you know how much work you skipped.

Cooking dinner whilst working.

Naturally if you are like me and stick some food in the oven and return to the computer to get a bit more work (ok, slack) done then just start up another Dinner Timer Lite and set the timer to run for how long your food needs cooking whilst the other GTD SOP #2 timer is running, however be warned that the settings will now be to warn you 12 minutes before dinner is ready as the settings are global.

Other uses of Dinner Timer Lite?

If you have found Dinner Timer Lite useful for timing something that you thing others would also benefit from then drop me a line, post a comment or something and I will look to add details about it and see if some simple improvements to Dinner Timer Lite can make it a better product.

Demon regrade fiasco : Day 34

Today I received a very nice and apologetic letter from Demon in response to my complaint I sent them on Day 16. The letter basically stated that my comments have been noted and my suggestions will be considered along with a lot of the usual reasoning for the FUP.

One thing that gets me is I still don’t see how the implementation that Demon have taken for the FUP will work. It’s measured over 30 days, so month 1 you download everything in site, get all your Amazon unboxed downloads, update your Napster tracks, catch up with the latest updates on C4’s broadband download and BBC 2’s downloads, Sky by broadband so on and so forth and you can easily go well over the download limit, I get the impression I could just leave the PC on downloading day and night on my 6Meg (should I say, up to 8Meg) connection, then next month you get capped so you spend the month doing little and picking up your email, follow that with the month after then you could hammer the connection again.

Now if I was to do that the FUP would work for every other month but be completely pointless for the high bandwidth months. Now granted the FUP worked for me and got me onto a more expensive account as I’m sure it will have done for a lot of others, but this package is three times the regular package so I’m sure lots of people will save their downloads for every other month and rack up high bandwidth usage then, how is that going to help Demons other customers who share the exchange? I don’t think it is. If it was capped after the FUP limit for the rest of the month that would have a much more helpful impact on the other customers. Anyway, I’m sure it will all sort it’s self out.

Now just to help matters, not only did It take a total of 17 days from the date I ordered the regrade but had I have been a new customer I would have got a free modem and free installation and it would probably have been done a lot quicker, however because I’m a loyal Demon customer I got no modem and a £40 bill for the pleasure – Demon you sure do know how to rub salt into a wound!

OK, now hopefully that’s all behind me and I can get on with business and surfing, lets just hope I have no reason to contact customer support!