Thursday, August 25, 2005

End of the dog days

Slowly, slowly, working life is coming back to normal as the dog days of August come to an end. At least some clients are now back at work - though France remains stubbornly on holiday, and the UK isn't too far behind.

But one project has been signed off this week, another has stepped up a gear, and a third is set to come up to speed after next Monday's Bank Holiday. The slight snag is that one client still has huge expectations of getting a piece written, designed, printed and dispatched by mid-September, but hasn't actually put up anyone to deliver a brief yet. Still, that's what weekends and evenings are for.

One of the dilemmas facing Leapfrog at present is how to deal with one client demanding tactical comms help when what they really need is some fundamental work with their leadership team to define, align and plan around change. We could stick in there and deliver smart looking media - but media that has no credibility. Morally that doesn't feel right and will do no good for either our business or the client in the long run. But at our level of operation cash-flow is king. So do we sacrifice short-term gain? At this stage, my heart and head are saying one thing, but the business bank balance is saying quite another. So no decision yet.

Finally, while I still hate AOL, I was able to complete the modem drivers upgrade yesterday. AOL had put a solution in place. It wasn't perfect, but I was able to work around it - using two of their three suggested steps and part of the other. However, it still makes me angry that they are steamrollering customers into an upgrade with poorly-written flaky software at the heart of the process.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

AOL service???

I've wasted most of my day today. wasted it trying to upgrade a modem driver with a piece of crap purporting to be an update from AOL. Oh, it'll happily uninstall my old drivers, but will it replace them with the new ones? No it bleeding well won't.

So I try it a couple of times to make sure I'm doing the right thing - with the same lousy result. Each time I have to recover my system - and the whole operations wastes about an hour or so. So i get back online and go to AOL's wonderful Live Help. Now it's not easy or quick going through all the steps I've done to pinpoint why the software won't load, but I try - and get kicked off Live help. So I try again, same result. The next time I'm given useless information - and then logged off entireley. And the fourth time, when i start with 'please don't log me off' - i get logged off.

So I ring AOL Member Services - at 7.51p per minute. After 25 minutes of going round in circles I'm told to log off, put the phone down and use a dial up to connect to my account and redownload the same piece of software that hasn't loaded from two other sources. CRAP ADVICE - and suffice to say it doesn't work.

So I try to get an online complaints form....but guess what, you have to rind custmer services for that. So I did, over an hour ago. It took seven minutes and five seconds for them to agree to send me a complaint form....and it still hasn't arrived!!!

Why am I bothering with this upgrade? Because they told me I have to do it before the 31st or my broadband reduces in speed to 128kbps - about a third of my current speed.

I hate AOL.

Monday, August 22, 2005

The phony war

One of the essential changes I needed to make when I left corporate life and started my own operation was to ban the Monday morning blues. From way back in my schooldays I'd hated that feeling that used to seep in some time after lunch on a Sunday: that feeling that said there were five working days ahead. Back then it was the dread of Latin, Maths and Chemistry and in my working life that morphed to a general low feeling that my time was over for another week and that the following five days would be at the command and control of whoever my boss happened to be at the time.

Of course, so often the dread was misplaced. I largely enjoyed my corporate career and it was only the last couple of years that brought me back to my Sunday/Monday blues. Anyway, when I was setting up Leapfrog, I made sure that there would be no way that I'd ever have to waste my Sunday afternoon and evening worrying about Monday.

These days, Monday morning is my time. Unless I have to, I try not to schedule client meetings into this time - and certainly don't demand the 8.30am 'team meetings' that used to unduly put the pressure on all concerned in my last corporate role. With the globalisation of work and the fact that we're far less office bound than ever before, there's no reason for Monday morning to have any special significance.

Of course, August is the most phony of working months, and I'm glad it's coming to an end. While I despise the Monday morning blues, it's good to have some shape in my working life. That shape goes out the window in the dog days of the summer when everyone's either away, just about to go or has just come back. Projects crawl along at something less than a snail's pace and decision making is as drowsy as the weather. Roll on September. Roll on the working week.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

And now I'm back...

...not from outer space, but from a great break in Ireland.

It's rare to go to a place that truly matches - or even surpasses - expectations, but Kilmokea House, nestled on the Wexford/Waterford border managed it majestically. My latest non-professional picture was taken in Kilmokea's renowned gardens.

We've had a week and a bit of lazing, eating too much, playing a bit of tennis, driving around Leinster too much (with a couple of forays into Munster) - and celebrating Sophie turning five.

Last night was a bit of a downer on the way home. The ferry was two hours late in which meant sitting on the Rosslare quayside from before five until about half eight in the evening. Luckily we managed to wangle a free upgrade out of Stena, but still didn't hit the road until nearly half eleven at night (I hate reversing down steep ramps on ferries...!). Some 238 miles later we arrived home just shy of 3.30 this morning.

I'm knackered now, but am stress free and raring to go.....after a dad and son bonding day at the cricket tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

On the national features pages....

Well, we made it to the Indy's motoring supplement. Text only in the on-line version, but with a picture in the printed version of today's Independent.

If you want to read what Rory and I had to say about Aston Martin's DB9, check out