Steve's blog

A blog about what's going on in 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.

ESWC 2006 Day 1

Well here I am trying to focus on the screen to give a summary of day one from the European ShareWare Conference 2006 here in Cambridge although very tired at present so the spelling and grammar are probably going to be even worse than usual.

Well first of all if you were at the conference then Hi and if not, well shame on you as you are missing a very interesting and informative conference.

This is the first one of these I’ve been to so I was unsure as to what I should be expecting, how many people would be their and all that. Numbers were good today, a nice big turn out but no to large that it was difficult to see/hear, although given this is a Europe conference then I guess that actually very few of the micro ISV’s/ShareWare authors have come along.

I think calling it a ShareWare conference is selling it a bit short as today covered SEO, email marketing and goggle adwords which were really interesting to me for both my web based products (Dollars to Pounds exchange rates and as well as windows applications (i.e. Dinner Timer for timing your cooking), where "ShareWare" tends to conger up the thoughts of a standalone application that installed on your computer.

All the talks from today were very interesting, some to know as background and to be aware of for future developments and others for here and now.

I was pleasantly surprised by Thomas Wetzel’s talk of “Grow your Google Adwords account successfully”, I’ve used Adwords for some time now and whilst I’m no expert I did think I understood a fair amount. I learnt a lot from Thomas’ talk, not least about his analytics tool for adword tracking which I’ve downloaded already and I’m about to go and play with. I also learnt that I’m not alone by loosing money with adwords, although to be fair I did expect this from the way I have it configured and how I want to attract customers.

I was also very impressed by the presentation Sinan Karace from InstallAware. Installers are the first thing your customers get to see of the product for windows applications and it’s critical for the success of the product that it goes better than just OK. At other companies I’ve worked at I’ve purchased the well known installer that is a competitor to InstallAware, which I ended up having to use to create installers for the applications I had written and I have to say how much I hate that other companies installer application and upgrade pricing!. InstallAware’s product looks really good, having written installers I know it’s no stroll in the path and to see the examples and the flexibility of the InstallAware product I was impressed. I shall be downloading that very soon and running it through it’s paces, their pricing also looks very impressive and a much more friendly upgrade policy!

I couldn’t end the post without mentioning Bob Walsh of My MicroISV and author of Micro ISV, From Vision to Reality of which I am half way through, this is a great book, full of useful links and interesting interviews. Anyway, it was great to see him talk in person, and very interesting as well. You may also want to check channel 9 as their are a couple of interviews with him under the micro ISV section (sorry no link, it's a nightmare to navigate channel 9, maybe I'll post the links in my next post when I have a little more time).

I’m looking forward to Sunday’s presentations, although dreading the 9am start, I mean, a 9am start on a Saturday and Sunday I’m a night person and this is one major shock to the system!

Book Sale Directory Service.

A few days ago LRABooks launched Book Sale Scout, a web based book sale directory.

This looks like a great service to locate book sales, unfortunately for me it appears to be USA specific at this time, but then if you could see the books piled around me in my flat you might say it’s for the best!.

Check out more details on the Book Selling Online blog post and the follow up article reviewing the launch.

I have to say, being a programmer, developer, software engineer (or what ever other name you wish to use) I was a little disappointed to see their programmer getting some flack for a few of the early bugs.

No software application is without bugs (OK, maybe NASA have a couple of bug free apps, but most commercial stuff will have a few thrown in for free). Whilst us developers do our best to keep them out I personally believe it is ultimately the job of the tester to make sure the application is fit for purpose and operates in an acceptable manner.

Many small companies go without software testers, especially one person micro-ISV’s, but where ever possible someone other than the programmer should test the application before it gets released, us developers are too close to the code to be able to test properly.

So whilst I’m not surprised Book Sale Scout had a couple of bugs I am disappointed that the poor programmer got the blame so freely and not the tester or who ever decided to release the application.

Anyway, rant over and done with, check out Book Sale Scout it looks to be a promising resource for books and I wish them all the best success.

Also if your into selling books I can highly recommend Steve Webber’s Selling Books blog.


European Shareware Conference – Hope to see you there.

The 2006 European Shareware Conference is being held up the road from me here in Cambridge, UK on the 4th and 5th of November. I naturally signed up as soon as I found out. It looks like quite an interesting schedule even if it does start way to early on a weekend morning for my liking!

Anyway, I’m very excited as this will be the first shareware conference I’ve been to and I’m looking forward to meeting lots of other ISV’s in the same boat as my self and learning lots of new skills (fingers crossed for marketing and sales!).

Hope to see lots of you there,