Tag: communication

An Honest WFH Experience – subjective routines

An Honest WFH Experience – subjective routines

In my previous post I highlighted what physical set up I use in order to get the most out of working from home (WFH). But that is only one half of it. You can have the best set up in the world, but that is no guarantee to successful remote working.
So here I’ll highlight the subjective/non-physical side to working from home which I believe makes it work, and work well.


I’m putting this one at the top of my list. Personally I think this is key to being able to enjoy working from home. You must enjoy your job, and coding is fun (when it works…), but if that’s it then even that can become dull. You’ll get those crap days where nothing works and if you only enjoy the coding, then where are you? 🌧 ⛈ 🌨

So what can you do? Make sure to say “Hi” first thing, just like you would in the office. Let folk know you’re there, and likewise say “bye” at the end of the day.
Note – I must do this more!

Get a Camera

Make sure you have a web camera. People are very expressive and as such our face can speak without speaking, the amount of non verbal communication you get over a camera is immense. Even for those that seriously dislike cameras, or if you feel your home office is a bit messy, ignore that and turn it on. Others will appreciate it.

“no more than 30 to 35 percent of the social meaning of a conversation or an interaction is carried by the words.”

Ray Birdwhistell The Kinesics Report

Casual chats

Work is never only about work, how many times would you walk past someones desk and say hello and have a wee chat about life? Or bump into someone in the kitchen and discuss what happened the other day while making a cup of tea.
Well, make sure you do this during your WFH days. Set up a time, at least twice a day to open up a video conference chat (Zoom is great) and do just that. Discuss what’s happening and listen to others.

Stick it in your calendar

As discussed above, in order to keep it up, you must put it into your calendar. Plan it out. These things will not just happen. We, inside our team set aside time for casual chats at least twice a day. May seem a little formal setting aside time, but if you don’t, then it won’t happen.
Conversations range from the weekend to what you may be working on and that’s a good thing.

Ultimately this is extremely rewarding as a team.

Don’t underestimate being a team, when things go wrong – and they will, when you’re stuck, when you’ve created a stinker of a bug, or broken the pipelines etc, being able to have a communication channel open will save your day and keep the team together.


Having your office in your house is hard. Are you ever away, do you ever switch off? Does the room where you work now turn into a no go zone after hours?
Now the following will depend entirely on your property – but do your utmost to create an office space. You NEED somewhere that you can shut off when you are done. Maybe if you don’t have space outside like myself for a shed/cabin, set up your desk in a room you don’t use. Maybe you stay with your parents or your flat mate is in the same situation as you. Swap rooms during the day.
Make your desk in that room, so once you are done, you don’t go back to that room.
Whatever you do, try really hard to find somewhere that you can close the door at the end of the day. So the livingroom will most certainly be the worst place! If you have it here, then you’ll not be able to have a relaxing time after a stressful day.

Hopefully that gives you a little bit of insight or ideas for your own WFH set up. Below is a small capture of the benefits and drawbacks that I’ve found when WFH.

What’s great

  • No travelling. This is great as I no longer have to pay Scotrail a small fortune each day.
  • I’m using my ‘extra’ time to do some daily exercise (… 😂, well almost).
  • Being at home for dinner with the family – kids really like this as well!
  • Having lunch/teas/biscuits brought out to my office 😎🍰
Time spent with family is a great benefit – much better than commuting!

What’s not so great

  • Missing my 50-60 mins travel each way where I can sit down and do my own thing on the train 🚅
  • Not being able to turn around and chat to colleagues.
  • Not being part of the bigger team/office.
  • Lack of community events.

An Honest WFH Experience – the set up

An Honest WFH Experience – the set up

An actual working from home set up! Not some manicured or cleaned up rig. But this is a functional, productive live coding environment.

Not the cleanest or slickest set up – but I really like it!

So the world is in lock down, or at least large parts of it are. Covid-19 has hit and in order to spare a complete meltdown of our health services we are all working from home where possible.

Thankfully developers have the ideal job when required to work from home (WFH). We can do our job from anywhere as long as it has some form of data connection – even that we can do without for a bit!

Location and surrounding don’t matter to dev’s

So getting to the point, what do I do that is different from others? I’m going to break this into two posts.

  1. My physical set up. (this post)
  2. My daily routine, with positives and negatives.

Set Up

Firstly, you may be used to having all your IT equipment paid for and purchased for you by your employer, and as such your home set up may only consist of a single laptop.

This will not cut it! From a personal view point, it will frustrate you, it will get you down, it will slow you down. This will ultimately lead you to become unhappy and stressed. Stress does not lead to good code and will lead you down a path to grey hairs and sleepless nights. 😉

Many screens keep context switching simple

Developers can earn a very good wage and purchasing a few screens or a desktop will not break the bank, think of it as an investment in you and your career. If your employer will pay for something then great! Take it, even the smallest of percentage gains in productivity will more than pay off and keep you happy.
If there is one thing that makes you feel good being a developer, it’s completing a task. The more you get done the better you feel.

It’s to easy to flip from being awesome to banging your head. A good set up will save you entering the painful state so often!

Ultimately a great, comfortable set up will make you more productive, contented, calm and happier, this is a win for all. The Covid-19 lock down is expected to be months, do you really wish to stare and a small 15″ laptop screen for 3-4 (maybe 8+) months!

I really can’t stress this enough – get yourself more visual real estate.


Microsoft mouse without borders – https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=35460

This is an brilliant piece of software and free! Sure I’d like it to do a wee bit more, but it’s free. So you’ve got your small laptop, but now taken the plunge to get something to handle a few more screens. Can you use both at the same time without the hassle of two keyboards and two mice? YES.

Install Mouse without borders, now you control both machines (it can do more than two as well) without the clutter. But why should you do that? Does it really gain anything?

Two machines

Main One

My main machine (tower pc) is for code, work, emails and all that involves day to day operations. The reason for this is so I can get a powerful graphic card, get one that will drive 3 or 4 monitors. If I had space I’d have 4, but 3 screens is enough 🙂

The actual tower PC doesn’t need to be a powerhouse machine, especially if you remote into a secure remote desktop, which means your machine doesn’t need to do any real processing. Your circumstances may vary, but in all my years I’ve never ‘needed’ a top of the range machine. I may have wanted it, just because, but never needed it!

Machine Two

The laptop, and this is key for collaboration. It is used for communication. Being stuck apart from your colleagues is hard, and when you are working on spec’ing out a system or creating new configuration for which you may not have all the required knowledge, then having someone to speak to and bounce ideas off is invaluable.

So start up a Zoom conference call, stay on it all day if needed, keep the face to face open until you solve the issue. You can screen share on your main machine while being able to see and speak on the dedicated communications machine.

Until you reach a situation where this type of communication is required, this may seem like overkill. But once you understand the value of communication, the easier this is and the more human it can become, the more you’ll understand that it is worth every penny. We are beings that like to communicate, yes even developers 😎 Use technology to make this as natural as possible.

Am I at home or my office?

This part is one where it will be very difficult for most to do if you live in a very built up area, but if you can then you should! In terms of mental state, being able to work effectively and the switch off at the end of the day, this one is a HUGE winner.

You need to be able to leave your house!

What? How on earth can I leave my house, I’m in lock down? Well you need another building on your premises. If you have a few spare square meters then you probably have enough room to build a shed. There are plenty of log cabin kits out there, again not very expensive, depending on what you go for.

A small cabin can set you back less than a £1000

Get one of these set up, get some power and some heat in there, add a bit of insulation and you are good to go!

Is it worth it? 100% it is. You walk out your back door, leave the home behind and you are now at work. The mental separation is so clear, and what’s more – do you have children? Yes, then yes you can close the door, no screaming kids to disturb that all important thought process. What’s more they’ll love it when they can come in.

Then at the end of the day, turn it off, close the door and you are done.


Space and screens

Get those two things right and you will be as productive as being in any office in any part of the world.

LocalConnection – AIR -> Flex (and back if you want)

LocalConnection – AIR -> Flex (and back if you want)

One of the long standing flex projects I’ve been working on is a tool for showing of various funds and fund videos with related PDF’s and graphs etc.  This is updated relatively frequently and due to various restrictions it’s not as straight forward to test updates as the client would like.

So what would be a good way to test a live flex app (which is static) that loads dynamic data. Well the idea was to create an AIR application that would be a visual editor for the data that would then send that data using LocalConnection, this would update the model in the live flex app and the new data would be displayed so that it could be checked.  All of this would be local to the clients machine as by using the localConnection you’re only changing the local data model and not the data on the server.

Sounds very straight forward, but getting it just right took a little while.

Here’s the basic on how. (open demo windows, run both apps and right click for source to get more detail)

AIR application

Flex application

1)    Create an AIR app that sets up a localconnection

2)    Create a byteArray of whatever you wish to send (I’m sending just text, but there is no reason why you couldn’t say send an image or similar)

3)    Split byteArray into chunks of under 40K and then send them across using localConnection

4)    At the same time create a flex application with a localConnection

5)    Let it allow the domain your message is coming from (start with * for testing if not sure, just make sure you don’t leave * in for any live version)

6)    Create a handler function that matches the name of localConnection send parameter that you set up in the AIR app

7)    Join the 40K chucks of data if necessary then do what you like with them.

That’s it, message received over and out :).  check out the source code for more details.

[ad name=”ad-1″]