As a Dyspraxic, my working life can be tremendously challenging.   I forget things easily., I struggle to prioritise tasks and generally lose my way in the hive of activity that is my brain.

Which of course doesn’t mean that I’m incapable of doing the world, but as is written on a laminated keyring card, “I need time to work things out in my own way”.  And this is exactly what I do.So what I wanted to do in this short blog is share some things that really help me do my day to day work.  It might seem trivial to a lot of people but for me, it helps me feel within myself that I have done the things I need to do, to move forward in my work.

So what I wanted to do in this short blog is share a few applications that really help me do my day to day work.  Some of the things I say might seem trivial to a lot of people but for me, it helps me feel within myself that I have done the things I need to do, to move forward in my work.

WorkFlowy

The first thing I want to talk about is WorkFlowy. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without Workflowy or how I got by before it.  It’s simple, intuitive and does exactly what it says on the tin; It keeps my brain organised so I don’t have to waste time trying to remember things.

For example, if I have a Git project I want to clone to a particular folder so I can work as remotely as possible, I have an item on Workflowy for reminding me to do exactly this.

I have a list item to remind me to do this very blog.

I have an item with many child items for my business, for personal tasks, for work to do with my church and for important reminders to do with my Car.  I treat it as my personal organiser.  I can and will forget things very easily. As long as I have access to Workflowy, this is not a problem.  Just seeing an item on Workflowy is enough to keep me ahead of the game my workflow ticking nicely.

Luckily 250 list items a month is all I need at the moment to keep me going, but I’m very meticulous in my nature and if I needed to, I wouldn’t hesitate in signing up and making full use of this web application.

Evernote

Evernote was the first of my 3 featured sites that I came to know about that I consider absolutely vital to my workflow. When I say first I mean it has been part of how I work for a number of years.  I’ve always needed notes to help retain information and this is a simple way for me to to do.  Practice helps of course but it isnt always that easy for me.

What I like about Evernote is that it syncs well across multiple devices, so as long as I’m connected to the internet, I always have the latest version of my notes.

With Evernote, I can write reminders, thoughts and important things to remember and write code snippets. Anything I’m struggling to remember (a common occurrence) but is important is available for me to read in a set of organised note.  It’s also available on the cloud so takes up no space on my computer.

I’ve always to write things down when I have lists of things to remember. It’s a while since I took this to heart.  Now it’s become a huge part of my workflow

Keepas.info

Keepass is a Godsend. As I write this I have passwords for 236, websites, databases, logins and customer areas.  236. And there’s no way I can remember them all, nor would I want to set all these passwords to automatically log in.

Instead, I commit one password to memory and have access to all my used passwords in an organised database.

With Keypass, all I have to do is remember one password with the only tradeoff being the convenience to simply to the chosen website and login.  With that time, that minor inconvenience simply disappears. Working this way saves me time and a lot of headaches. I thoroughly recommend this and the other apps mentioned as part of your workflow.

I’d love to hear about what works for you and what you wou;d recommend. Feel free to comment below.  🙂

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My views as Doctor Who casts a Time Lady for the first time!

There’s a famous quote that gets bandied around Whovians everywhere at times just like this from Colin Baker, the 6th actor to officially play The Doctor. It goes

“Change my dears, and not a moment too soon … I am The Doctor, whether you like it or not”

The Doctor changing his appearance is a staple of the show but difficult for loyal fans of one incarnation to get their heads around, let alone characters who experience such a thing in the show for themselves. But this is what happens; when The Doctor comes to the end of one natural life he is able to extend it with incarnation and become a brand new man.Regeneration is nothing new to Doctor Who though. It was first brought in simply as a way to keep the show going in the 1960’s when William Hartnell’s failing health meant he could not keep going much longer. It was a clever way to explain his absence. It was a time of massive change but equally, it has one of the amazing aspects of the show that has kept it going for so long. It’s part of what makes the show unique.

Regeneration is nothing new to Doctor Who though. It was first brought in simply as a way to keep the show going in the 1960’s when William Hartnell’s failing health meant he could not keep going much longer. It was a clever way to explain his absence. It was a time of massive change but equally, it has one of the amazing aspects of the show that has kept it going for so long. It’s part of what makes the show unique.

What is different about this regeneration?

Well, unless you’ve been living in The Doctor’s Blue Box you’ll have heard by now that by Christmas, we’ll have caught a glimpse of The Doctor’s very first female incarnation as Jodie Whittaker becomes the first actress to take on the role.

This as caused ruptions of a massive scale in Doctor Who fandom. Indeed it was a change I didn’t think I was quite ready for and in my heart of hearts didn’t’ want. What I wanted was to carry on the line as it has always gone, of a strong, quirkly, madman in a box, male lead as The Doctor and I wasn’t sure how I would take to the change of a female Doctor. I say this because I am a person that doesn’t react to change very well, particularly of this scale.  I just prefer things they way they have “always” been.

So I will hapilly admit I was a little disappointed when the news was confirmed; for a number of reasons. Firstly, as I mentioned my preference was to keep a male lead, secondly the moment of anticipation had gone. It also seemed to confirm that the press had to all intents and purposes leadked the identity on the evening before intended transmission.  Wouldn’t it be great if, male or female, the choice would have been someone everybody had missed?

I can’t exactly say I’m 100% behind this choice after I’ve made clear it’s not what I wanted, but it’s too late for any of that now.  The fact that I’m uncomfortable with this change is no reason in itself to not do it.  The idea has been mooted not so often and so strongly that it was only a matter of time before it came to pass. It’s no longer about what I think, or want and I certainly don’t believe it’s the end of the show. It might well be the end of the show as we *know* it. Jodie Whittaker won’t be the last woman to take the role but we haven’t seen the last man as The Doctor either. My point is, it’s just another change in the mythos of the show that fans are either going have to like or lump. No proper fan can turn their backs on the show before giving this a chance to work.

Now that we know it is happening, it’s no longer about what I think, or want and I certainly don’t believe it means the end of the show. It might well be the end of the show as we *know* it. Jodie Whittaker won’t be the last woman to take the role but we haven’t seen the last man as The Doctor either.

My point is, it’s just another change in the mythos of the show that fans are either going have to like or lump. No proper fan can turn their backs on the show before giving this a chance to work.

I don’t necessarily think it’s something that has happened all too late or that it is “about time” we had a female doctor. We’re talking about a role in a TV show that has amazing history and a show that evolves naturally. And I don’t think it’s a thing to be celebrated either.  I’m not leaping for the stars because this has happened and saying “about time, this is 2017”.  If anything we should be treating this as equally as well and as good as if it were another man taking on the role. Of course there was always going to be a first time and for that reason it will always be noteworthy but this is baggage that, if the casting is indeed right, will be shaken off very easily.

Let’s not ring the TARDIS’ cloister bell for the death of Doctor Who just yet. Let’s give Jodie a chance. She deserves it as much as any male Doctor and I believe true fans of the show will do so. We may not all be fans of this change but the least we can do is give this a chance. In time, I believe that even those strongly opposed to this casting will come round to it.

Good luck, Jodie Whittaker! 🙂

Short Blog: Staying focused with a Dyspraxic brain

With my Dyspraxia I can often have a complete lack of focus.

There’s only so much room in my head to cope with the myriad of thoughts, jobs/tasks, hopes, dreams, fears, random memories that go through my brain without it all turning into meaningless clutter. Which all means what I do next on a given day can get lost while I try to work out what is necessary information and what isn’t.

Enter Workflowy.

Workflowy.com is an absolute Godsend for my brain and I’m so pleased it was recommended to me. I’d encourage anyone to use it whether they’re Dyspraxic/Dyslexic or otherwise of non neurodiverse mind.

If kept up to date (and I do try) I, it can help me refocus my mind and get working on what needs doing now, what is important and what things can wait. If I can read the stuff in a simple, organised and accessible list, I don’t have to worry about remembering them and obsess over things so much. If I’m not worrying about the things themselves I have more room to prioritise and get on with things.

This afternoon I too was unfocused and didn’t know what to get on with next. With Workflowy I was soon on my way again, Until I decided to sidetrack again to write this post, but I’ll forgive myself that. 😀

Those “am I cut out for this?” moments

Am I cut out for this? Why am I even bothering? How can I prove to a client or an employer that I am capable of producing their brief if I’m not capable of doing the simple things?

These are questions I ask myself frequently.

I’ll get the positive bit over with first of all.

Yes, I am cut out for this. I am bothering because I am doing the thing I love the most. I am capable of more than I give myself credit for.

I love making websites and writing code and I love learning more about how to do it better than I was doing it yesterday. I love learning about what’s out there. But more often than not I am finding myself going back to old ground just to refresh myself on what I have learned.

I have to remind myself and retrace my steps just to keep myself on a level playing field with the rest. That’s not me putting myself down. It’s just the way it is. And I’m not saying either that neuro-typical people don’t also struggle with learning coding; taking in what they have learned and having the confidence to put it into practice. But I’ve got what others have in spades.

Let me tell you all what has happened in the last few days that has made me question my abilities yet again.

An Android I was attempting to load a view (or a screen) from the home screen of an app I was learning to develop. There was a problem that not only prevented the screen from loading. It requited one piece of code for each button that loaded the screen.

The answer to the problem was staring me in the face but I couldn’t see it.

In a separate JavaScript project I had a React proptype (i.e. a property of a component in React.js project) declared as a number but was being read by React as a String property. And I had no idea why since the property was clearly defined as a number property.

The answer to the problem was staring me in the face but I couldn’t see it.

In both cases the answer was simple and really was staring me in the face, just screaming “Come on Jonnie, this is easy, work it out”.

But I couldn’t. My brain was just not latching on, no matter how many times I went back and forth through the project. I needed help and the answer spelled out to me by a second pair of eyes.

Of course, asking for help when you need it is never a bad thing. But moments like those, are crushing. The realisation that the bugs in the program were entirely your own doing and easily fixable. And so much time was wasted before finally seeing the light.

This is why sometimes I question whether I’m the best person for this. Because I lack the ability to think outside the box enough times and clearly look at a problem.

There’s only so many times you can look at an error message and fail to read between the lines and take the right action based on what it says.

I do have an “excuse” so to speak for these issues in my Dyspraxia as it influences so much about the way I think and see things but it doesn’t make things feel any better when the self doubt kicks in.

But that’s what makes us all stronger isn’t it? The collective experience of our failures and low moments.

I continue to be motivated by my goals. To learn to be a better developer and programming thinker; to build my business and achieve my dreams.

Tale of a Dyspraxic

It’s been a while since I posted a Dyspraxia blog (or any blog come to think of it), but a sequence of events happened to me in the last hour or so that prompted me to write.

Nothing hugely exciting but in some ways infuriating or amusing depending on your point of view.  So I thought I’d share as I think within the post, is a nice little insight into what goes on in my head when I’m feeling particularly… Dyspraxic…. which to be fair is probably more often than I let on.

 

Tales of a Dyspraxic.

Told of an errand to do imminently. Which involves posting a package to return at the nearest post office. And pick up and pay for a prescription (not for said Dyspraxic).

Mutter some incoherent things half to myself, half to giver of errand that vocalises the world of wonder going on in Dyspraxic’s brain.

Drive to local Post office. Place large package on appropriate weight scales. Look for bank card as item does indeed require paying for. Realise bank card is not in wallet. Realise wallet is at home as one had taken card out to pay for something else earlier and forgot to put back in wallet.

Drive back home. Return package home, look for card, and wrap up package further as advised by Post Master. (n.b. package not wrapped by said Dyspraxic).

Realise Dyspraxic unable to answer security questions from the PostMaster as has no idea what is in the package. We decide, after 2 phonecalls home with no answer as the box is from Amazon it is probably going to be okay.

Pay for package.

Drive to Doctor’s surgery. Get to Doctor’s surgery. Manage a sentence and obtain requested prescription.

Walk to chemist. Walk passed Chemist. Walk back to Chemist. Give cashier prescription.

Instructed to fill in one form for prescription item.
Instructed to fill in second form for prescription item.

Chemist has no card facility to pay for receipt. Something to remember for next time.

Walk out of Chemist to look for cash machine as instructed. Walk wrong way to cash machine. Walk correct way to cash machine.

Withdraw £10 of own money.

Walk back to chemist.

Advised prescription is £8.60 of 2 items each.

Walk back to cash machine.

Withdraw £10 of own money.

Pay for prescriptions. Time to go home!

I do hope you have found this tale enlightening, entertaining and informative :p

Likewise!  🙂

Switch, Dyspraxia and other things….

Friday the 3rd March was a pretty good day. It was the day, Nintendo Switch finally came into my life. 🙂

It’s a great console and yes I will attempt to write a review to this blog but I’ve also made some links to Dyspraxia that I also want to talk about.

I’ve been saving my pennies for this day and the day finally came. I believe I’ve made the right choice.  Switch represents the future of Nintendo.

I read a lot of reviews and comments about Switch. That it’s merely an update to the 3DS and doesn’t match up to anything they’ve ever done on the home console market or anything the PS3 or the XBOX has ever done. That it’s too much money to spend based on its specs and that it’s not good marketing to charge for the online service. Also that sales will flop because the only decent game is Zelda which is also available for the Wii U which is coming to the end of its days.

I’m here to say that the Switch is worth it. Absolutely worth it.

It’s small, lightweight; the JoyCon controllers are a Joy (no pun intended) to use and although I haven’t really utilised it yet I can attest that games really do seamlessly switch between TV and the console itself.

It’s such a shift to the way I’m used to console gaming. The Wii U worked in a similar, but I didn’t have the time, money or inclination to get it. While the dock stays in front of the TV, the unit itself, the console is completely independent and can be taken anywhere. This allows for unprecedented freedom to play the very best games, anytime anywhere, provided of course you have the battery life. Games of the power of any console of its generation, on the move.

For me, it’s an absolute winner and a selling point that will eventually be driven home to consumers

Price

I paid full price for Switch and I was very happy to do so. In fact, I think I’ve been quite lucky to get my hands on one for launch day. I missed out on a huge saving with the independent games hardware website GameSeek and told myself I’d be happy to wait.

But since I was going to town anyway to do some banking, I thought I’d take my chances at Argos and thankfully I was able to secure my reservation, to the surprise of the cashier in the store it has to be said. But I really do believe it is and certainly will be worth the full RRP.

ZELDA

Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an amazing game. The sheer size of it is, and there’s no other way of putting it, breathtaking. The Hylian world is akin to the size of a small country and I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say that.

Everything about the game is on the money. Script, visuals, sound production all blend together seamlessly to create a beautiful game.

Zelda isn’t everyone’s favourite game necessarily but the franchise has surely contributed to some of the industry’s greatest games. But in my experience, they’ve all followed the same formula. This one takes all the elements that made the game great but removed some of the shackles to create a complete free open world experience. I do miss the days of Z targeting but each new game gives the Link character a different natural skill. I’ve sometimes wished Link would be able to climb more mountain peaks and other mountain areas. Breath of the Wild sees us scaling the highest peaks of Hyrule, trek long distances, take a leisurely swim and even learn to hunt game. It’s up to you to find creative ways to make your way across the puzzles and dangerous of Hyrule.

Dyspraxia Vs Switch

The gaming world has come a long way over the years and Nintendo has tended to be the first to embrace change over the years. In the last decade it was Nintendo who stood out with their motion sensing Wii offering. But when the Switch and how it would work in the teaser videos I had a feeling my Dyspraxia might cause me one or 2 difficulties.

You see, if you have good coordination (like I don’t) I have no doubt you can seamlessly and quickly dock the JoyCon controllers in and out of the console as demonstrated in the trailers. It seems not for me.

It’s always difficult when learning something new but I find the process to be a little less straight-forward than perhaps the average person. When replacing the JoyCon I can never get it in the slot first time, needing 2 or 3 attempts to do so. The Switch itself fits fine inside the dock but rocks inside so I’m never sure it’s correctly linked to the TV. Whether this is by design or I’m not using it correctly I’m still not sure.

And don’t get me started on finding the HDMI input for Switch on the TV that I use without a remote for it… but that’s clearly not the fault of Nintendo 🙂

Dyspraxia also comes into play throughout gameplay as I’m slow to react to various situations in the game. I’ve committed “suicide” in various situations because my brain says press one button and my hands do another. There’s nothing wrong with the control system of the game as I can see the logic with how it is used but all too often action happens quicker than I can react, and as with everything in life I have to concentrate as hard as ever to perform in the game.

Not that this effects my enjoyment of the game. I love Switch, I love Zelda and I can see that over the years to come we are gooing to have good times together 🙂

My opinion of the Nintendo Switch

When it comes to Nintendo, I believe I write with a considerable bias. I’m a Nintendo guy through and through and lived a lot of my life believing that the very best there was in gaming was only available on a Nintendo console. Of course, Xbox and PlayStation have a LOT to say about that and rightly so.

The NES, SNES, N64, even the GameCube and Wii hold some special memories for me. Even I though fell out of love with Nintendo a little bit when I had constant trouble with Wii Remotes… and then life stuff like going to Uni and work got in the way So I found myself giving the Wii U a miss.

So now that you know this, it’ll come as a little surprise that I want to defend Nintendo’s latest offering, the Switch.

The first we knew that Switch was a thing was back in October with a 3 minute trailer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5uik5fgIaI

Whether anyone gives the Switch a chance is up to them and I don’t expect anyone to be swayed just because of what I say, but I would urge people to give it a chance and not to dismiss it so easily even before they get their hands on the console.

People are making some very compelling points both positive and negative. But I think the true USP of Switch is this…

You can play the same game both as a Handheld as well as a traditional console game

I’m looking forward to being able to play Zelda on the move, by all accounts simply be seamlessly removing Switch from its dock and I have all the benefits of the console game, albeit for some compromise on power in the palm of my hands.

I seem to recall some scorn poured on the Wii when it was first announced. I just hope Switch wins some people over in the same way.

Hardware-wise, Nintendo consoles have always lagged behind. I don’t think Nintendo even tries to compete with Microsoft and SONY in those stakes but seeks to find a niche their own way; whether it be through exclusives or breaking a new mould as they did with motion sensing with the Wii.  It finds it’s own way to stand out as it’s doing with the Switch.

Nintendo isn’t going to take back control of the gaming industry any time soon so the casual gamer may feel a little underwhelmed with what Nintendo are trying to do.  But as a Nintendo fan I think the exclusives will be worth it.

It’ll never be as powerful as the big 2 consoles out there, but it will be more powerful than the Wii U.

So what about the line up then? The main players are all there, not necessarily at Launch… but for me that’s okay. There’s more third-party support than the Wii U saw  I’m very pleased that reports that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild would not make it to launch day were unfounded.  Not only does it look like a visually stunning game, the sheer size of the Zelda open world is brearthtaking.  This instalment of the series does away with the usual formula but I have a feeling this is a gamble that is going be a massive payoff.

This instalment of the series does away with the usual formula but I have a feeling this is a gamble that is going be a massive payoff.

Mario’s back!  Mario’s Odyssey is looking like a fun addition to the franchise. Not that I know much about it than it’s fun looking trailer.  I’m more keen to chat through Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

One of the criticisms I’ve seen about the official lineup is that some of them are Wii U titles.  I think it’s a little unfair particularly on Mario Kart.  I know it’s based on the Wii U title but there are new aspects to look forward to like new tracks, characters and items to go into the game, and it’s all brand new for those who didn’t pick up the Wii U.

I’m pleased that EA Games are supporting Nintendo again and I will be picking up a new Fifa Football game.  I’ll probably have to settle for a “Nintendo” version of the game but I’m happy with that.When I bought my PS4 a few years ago I did it with the sole purpose of getting this “proper” version of the Fifa game. Too many times in the past I bought Fifa for the Wii and wondered why I wasn’t getting features as advertised. Because EA didn’t support the game on Nintendo as it did for XBox or Playstation.  This time I’m going for the game with an open mind.

When I bought my PS4 a few years ago I did it with the sole purpose of getting this “proper” version of the Fifa game. Too many times in the past I bought Fifa for the Wii and wondered why I wasn’t getting features as advertised. Because EA didn’t support the game on Nintendo as it did for XBox or Playstation.  This time I’m going for the game with an open mind.

And that I think is at the heart of my argument for Switch.  Give it a try and keep an open mind.  It won’t be the best console out there and it’ll never claim to be. But there’s quality out there to be played if you’re willing to but and stick with it.