You can’t always have what you want

This entertaining diagram that I saw on LinkedIn this morning touched a chord.

Interfaces

Like all good humour it makes a critical point, or perhaps even several points.

It certainly typifies different approaches. Apple’s fanatical insistence that anything can be achieved with a simple interface. Google’s equally fanatical insistence that everything can be achieved with a simple search interface. And the common application development teams resigned insistence that you can just throw all the data capture onto a page and call it a business application.

The thing is that often Apple (who routinely make things incredibly difficult by trying to make things too simple) and Google (who make things undiscoverable by finding everything) often overlook that fact that some business processes are actually complicated.
The Einstein Principle applies (http://www.c2.com/cgi/wiki?EinsteinPrinciple).

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Pressure Ulcers and Link Abstraction

PU Pathway

The full pressure ulcer pathway in a single, side-scrolling application

At best, the idea of pressure ulcers (a particularly nasty form of chronic wound which costs the NHS billions of pounds every year) and link abstraction (a technique for disconnecting the source from the presentation layer) are uneasy bedfellows. You rarely find, if ever, them referred to in the same breath. In fact a Google search for that phrase comes up with exactly no results.

h9991533_002

Nevertheless it’s an interesting technique and worth sharing in this brief blog.
Health professionals are used to using sophisticated clinical pathways to guide them through delivery of complex clinical intervention. These pathways of a product of years of research and learned debate, leading to a consensus view on best practice supported by evidence, tools and protocols. Doctors and nurses need to understand and use these, however there are many of them and is unrealistic to expect everyone to know them all equally. So of course there is a role for technology-based solutions and the emergence of iPads and other tablet devices has made this an attractive way of providing rapid access to appropriate clinical pathways at the point of need.

A project we delivered for a major NHS Trust in the North of England sought to provide a rich, easy-to-use and interactive pathway for management of pressure ulcers (hence the title) with links to PDF documents and external resources and tools. The challenge is that these external sources were often not under the control of the trust and so embedding a URL into the application for each item of external content run the risk of the external content being moved to a different URL and that would require the application to be recoded. Definitely not something which makes for a sustainable and valuable application.
So the trick I’m sharing with you today is link abstraction. We built the application using HTML running within SharePoint, though other content management systems should work equally well. Our approach was to create a SharePoint document library for the links (yes, a document library not a list) and use the LINK TO A DOCUMENT content type.

image001Each of these virtual documents in the library has its own URL and used that link within the HTML of the application that we built. However the virtual document itself is simply a pointer to another URL. By giving the users access to this library they are able to update the secondary link without the primary link changing, thereby abstracting the real target from the application target. Job done!
It’s such a simple but powerful technique that I thought it should be shared.

If you are interested, here’s some information about the Pressure Ulcer application and further reading on pressure ulcers themselves.

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Fun with Windows Phone 10…

I might be a rarity, but I rather like Windows Phone and recently upgraded from Windows Phone 8 to a shiny new Lumia 950 running Windows Phone 10.

The Windows 10 interface on Windows phones is excellent and far better, in my ardent opinion, than either the Apple or the Android offerings. criticisms around the apps remain valid regrettably, but that’s mostly down to Microsoft’s failure to engage the marketplace properly (though Windows phones do sell 30% of the volume of Apple phones, so is not exactly insignificant). The integration with the st of the MS ecosystem outstanding and the phones are reasonably priced.

Custom Ringtones… GRRR!

However Microsoft remain far from perfect in some of their decisions and one which has been plaguing me for several weeks now has been the fact that they broke custom ring tones etc. in the last major update (The one before OS build 10.0.10586.218). The update deleted all the custom ringtones on the phone and made it surprisingly difficult to add new ones.

I thought I had tried everything, and spoken with Microsoft several times as well as perusing the Microsoft help (which is either incomplete or simply incorrect) and many forums. Although many people have struggled with this issue, solutions were few and far between

After extensive investigation and testing using two different Lumia 950s running the latest version of Windows phone 10 (OS build 10.0.10586.218) I can provide the following insight:

  • Ring tones must reside in the Ringtones folder (and it seems that this folder must remain on the phone not on the SD card though I haven’t tested this extensively)
  • MP3 and WMA files are supported. WAV do not seem to be usable. I haven’t tested anything else. 
  • The one CRITICAL requirement is that you MUST copy to the Ringtones folder from your PC over USB. Every other approach I’ve tried, including Bluetooth, download from OneDrive, copy from SD card using the Files app, etc. has failed.
  • The following make NO difference whatsoever to whether the file will or won’t appear in the ring tone selection drop-down (personalisation, sounds, ringtone)
    • Genre (ignore any advice about this needing to be set to a genre of ‘ringtone’)
    • Sample length (ignore any advice about this needing to be set to 40 seconds or less)
    • Bit rate (I had this running with bit rates from hundred and 128 to 320 kbps)
    • Metadata (it seems to largely ignore all the metadata in the file header, though there is something slightly odd going on and it seems to extract the track name correctly even if it has a leading track number in either the file name all the track name)
  • You cannot create folders within the Ringtones folder and use  these to organise ring tones and alerts;  anything within a folder  is ignored.

Once you have added ringtones in this way in then select the ring tone from Personalisation, Sounds and the Ringtone drop-down; your custom sounds will be at the bottom of the list and there is no way to remove the undesirable built-in tones.

 

Custom notifications for texts  etc.

Exactly the same rules apply  for notifications, except  that they are added by going into  Manage App Sounds at the bottom of the Personalisation, Sounds  screen.  You then click on each app that provides notifications and select your  notification sound.  Since there is no way to tell  the length of the sound you’re selecting, you may wish to change the notification sound names to something like “alert-soundname”

 

The Alarms App bug

My final observation is that  the Alarms App ignores  the sound you select  through the application. However my big discovery is that you can set the alarm sound exactly the same way that you set notification sounds  (see the previous paragraph).  Clearly this is a bug,  but it’s good to have a workaround.

 

Conclusion

This investigation has cost Microsoft one returned under warranty handset, with Amazon providing me with replacement handset no questions asked (because they provide excellent customer service). This has at least allowed me to do some diagnostics and prove that it was not a hardware issue; it is something which occurred following the latest OS upgrade, though Microsoft have been slow to admit it.

So,  what we learn is that Amazon have outstanding customer service;  Microsoft very nearly build great products but badly lack the attention to detail that their fruity rival used to  benefit from and that they are surprisingly poor at disseminating knowledge of issues and resolutions through the community, to their support personnel or keeping their web estate updated  with changes.

I hope all this helps people out there.

 

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Power Pivot data model optimisation

More great BI advice from the ever dependable Mark Robinson

Source: Power Pivot data model optimisation

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The changing shape of modern intranets

I talk a lot about the five pillars of enterprise intranets: Content, Communication, Collaboration, People and Process; in the past we were the first company to develop a solution accelerator for enterprise intranets. This became our Hadron 8020 portal and attempted to serve all those needs and act as the one place that users can go to carry out the organisational activities based on the way these five pillars interact. However times are changing, Microsoft have evolved their technology and, in the process made the overall technology landscape more complex and fragmented; this is beginning to have a knock-on effect on what’s needed from Hadron and other modern intranets.

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Microsoft to open UK datacentre at last

A stimulating day at Microsoft’s Future Decoded yesterday, with a variety of genuinely interesting speakers, including Martha Lane Fox ; Sebastian Coe, Mike Stone and more.

After a year of constant and often surprising announcements from Microsoft, the key news this time is that they are to open a UK data centre next year, hosting Azure and Office 365.data-centre

The new UK-based datacentre is said to be opening from late 2016, though it sounds like the MoD will begin using it sooner than that.

At his keynote speech at the Future Decoded event in London yesterday, CEO Satya Nadella stated that  customers in the UK would at last be able to store data within the country, allaying fears (even I not actual legal impediments) around governance and data protection.

In addition to Microsoft Azure and Office 365, the UK datacentre will support Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online sometime afterwards. Microsoft will also offer Azure ExpressRoute to provide customers with the option of a private connection to the cloud.
“At Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more. By expanding our datacentre regions in the UK, Netherlands and Ireland we aim to give local businesses and organisations of all sizes the transformative technology they need to seize new global growth.”

Nadella added that the new local Microsoft cloud regions will enable data residency for customers in the UK, allowing data to be replicated within the UK for backup and recovery, reduced network distance and lower latency.

All we need to know now is where in the UK it is as there remain legal boundary issues amongst our great nation’s countries.

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Putting people in their place

Assuming the provocative title has piqued your interest into reading the first paragraph, then let me explain… I actually believe that people are the heart of an organisation, but organisations are more than just people.

Of course there are all the elements of WHAT an organisation does, HOW it does it and a whole bunch of very important stuff about principles, culture, purpose – the WHY of an organisation (see the excellent talk by Simon Sinek: http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action).

However organisations are also shaped by more physical considerations WHERE they are and how their departmental STRUCTURE manifests itself and these interact strongly with people. In short it is important to address people, place and department. As we become more flexible in our working habits, as we collaborate more commonly outside our immediate colleagues and with boundaries of our working locations becoming fuzzy this sense of people, place and team is increasingly important; it impacts the logistics of our working days and it affects our tendency to collaborate effectively within the culture of our organisations.

We have seen may attempts at staff directories, from the horrendous paper versions of old to digital directories, whether provided through Outlook, web portals, CRM etc. However, almost without exception, there has been little effort to link people to the teams and departments they work in and the places they are most likely to be found. There is an interesting blog by Phil Crofts on the subject of creating and maintain directories here

Even small organisations have this need – in my ~20 person company we identified 8 distinct locations, 15 functional teams. In larger organisations these run to dozens or hundreds. Small or large, knowing about the physical ‘shape’ of the organisation and how their colleagues are placed in that shape is an important part of the sense of community; it’s also handy when planning meetings or making travel plans.

Hadron Connect - places

Although traditional staff directories often list departments and even have location addresses, these do little to actively connect the dots, showing how People are part of teams and work in places; how Places host Departments and are clustered or distant from each other on a map; how Departments are concentrated or diffused around their team members and office locations.

Who we are and what we do may not be defined by where we are and who we are with, but these certainly have a strong influence. Perhaps we should be treating it seriously, surfacing this information in our organisations beyond the scope of a simple directory and reflecting on what it means for our What, How and Why…

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