Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Looks good

I went and looked at that shared office space on Monday. I think it will suit me pretty well. There are some things that aren't so good, but it will be a massive improvement on my current situation and may even work out to be cheaper.

It's actually a bit of a find. Apparently the owners want to tear it down and build a block of flats there which is why the rent is so cheap. They can't give any certainty as to when it will happen but the building plans haven't even been submitted to the council yet. The other tenants have been there for up to three years and they seem to think the quickest anything might happen is 12 months or more.

The great thing is that it's just a quick cycle or bus ride from my house. I could also walk there in maybe 20-25 minutes.

The other tenants who I'll be sharing the space with all seem fine as well. They're your usual mix of hip young things with a graphic designer, fashion designer, web/graphic designer and an IT network support person. The office itself consists of several individual offices and a large common area. There's one less individual office than there are businesses so one person has to set up in the actual common area behind partitions. Being the last one in, that will be me. I'm not crazy about that but the area is quite large and the partitions provide a decent level of privacy. They've assured me that it's not a noisy work environment and that most of the time each of them is working away with their respective doors closed.

It's not in the best part of town, but I've previously had an office in the absolute worst part of town so I'm not too bothered too much by that. They were burgled earlier this year but since then the landlord has upgraded the locks and put bars on the doors. I think you'd still have to assume that it's going to happen again though and be prepared for it when it does.

The space will be available mid January and I'd like to be able to move in straight away. The cabin fever has been steadily rising here in my home office the last few weeks. I'm hoping a change of scenery, a less chaotic work environment and some people to talk to will help to restore some sanity and motivation levels.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Time for a change?

I was at a Christmas party for one of my tech support clients last night and was speaking to the graphic designer they contract work out to on occasion. She shares office space with a few other micro businesses about 2kms from my current home office. Apparently one of the other businesses is moving out in a few weeks time and they're going to be looking for someone to take his place.

I haven't seen it yet but it sounds quite appealing and the rent is supposedly ridiculously cheap. I'll probably go and take a look early next week and meet the other business owners. If it's everything I've been told, and she hasn't promised a lot, I think I'll jump at the chance.

Five years ago I had a home office and it's something I said I'd never do again. I went back on that promise last year to string out my savings as long as possible for Sydney. Against my better judgement I moved into a one bedroom unit and turned the kitchen/living area into a kitchen/office. In theory it was do-able, in practice...

An only slightly contrived photo of my current home office.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Not as bad as it could have been

I've had a hard drive failure in my server over the weekend. It's a Western Digital 120GB IDE drive (a WD1200JB-00DUA3 to be exact) about 18 months old. It detects fine at startup but just doesn't respond to any requests and causes W2K server to freeze during boot. It's a data only drive so I've pulled it out and the server now runs fine.

I had a little trouble with this drive a few months ago but it started working again after a few days before I had a chance to look at it properly. After that I moved everything important to another drive, or so I thought I had.

It turns out I didn't move my StarTeam version control repository. I can't remember why I didn't, I probably just missed it. It's not as bad as it sounds, I may have lost my revision history of Sydney but I still have all the current source code on my development machine. If there had been any publicly released versions I would have lost the ability to recreate those versions for support purposes (although my build procedure DVD backups would hopefully save me here).

If I had to suffer some data loss, this isn't a bad way to suffer it. I've put the drive off to one side and if I ever make my fortune I'll send it off to a specialist data recovery service to recover some personal files that are on it. In the meantime it's a wake up call to me to improve my backup procedures and based on the lightning doesn't strike twice principle I should be right for a while now. Of course if lightning does happen to strike twice I'll have to be very wary. These things happen in threes you know.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Lefty responds

If you were around last week to catch my hosting of the Carnival of the Capitalists you would have read about my misgivings with capitalism and my theme for the day of capitalism benefitting those who aren't at the top of the pyramid. There were several great postings and comments on both the topic and my attitudes so I thought I'd pick one in particular to respond to here.

Alex asks:

What is it with latter-entrepreneurs and disliking capitalism? Is it that you're trying to escape it (at least symbolically) by not working for an established business, or perhaps a worry about the lack of a guaranteed outcome in a capitalist economy? If the latter, you can take solace in the fact that history shows that capitalism alternatives don't offer a lot of safe bets either... ;-)

Snark aside, I'm genuinely curious. It seems like, if anybody, entrepreneurs - strongly self-motivated people with a vision of independent success - should be bigger fans of a system that lets them proceed however they want and keep their winnings than anybody...

I'm interested, and heartened, to hear Alex say there are other new entrepreneurs out there who think similarly to me in this regard. I can't speak for them of course but Alex's theories don't really ring true with me.

Certainly I'm trying to escape a particular lifestyle by creating my own. Rather than symbolically escaping capitalism though, I think I'm escaping the far more literal boredom that would follow with working for something I had no real interest in.

As for guaranteed outcomes, if I was worried about those I don't think I'd be doing this at all.

I think my dislike for capitalism is largely derived from guilt. I grew up in prosperous times and have never had to want for anything of real significance. I look around though and I see huge gaps between what I have as young middle class male and what basic needs others lack in both my country and elsewhere. When I look at the capitalist elites the difference between the haves and have nots is so monumental I find it obscene.

How could anyone be satisfied with a system that can produce such discrepancies and unfairness?

Note there that I did say "be satisfied with a system". I don't hate capitalism, and I don't have anything radically better to replace it with. I am however not satisfied with it in it's current form. I want us to do better, I want us to actively work towards bridging the gap between rich and poor and protecting the environment. I want us to do these things not just as flow-on affects but as primary goals, equal in importance to our current goals of making money and increasing shareholder value. To treat them as anything of less importance just doesn't seem very human to me.

...entrepreneurs should be bigger fans of a system that lets them proceed however they want and keep their winnings than anybody

I'm definitely a fan of a system that lets me proceed however I want, however I'm not such a fan of a society that has become obsessed with keeping their winnings to a degree that defies all logic. The term multi-millionaire seems non-sensical to me. What can you do personally with several million dollars that you can't do with one million? Plenty of things I'm sure, but are those things really that important?

On this point I'm speaking from some level of experience. To start my new venture I've dropped my salary to almost a third of what it previously was. It's now much closer to what I'd be getting on unemployment benefits than the average Australian's weekly wage. To my surprise my quality of life is pretty much unchanged if not improved. If my software is a success I don't really envisage changing my current lifestyle all that much. For me at least it seems what they say about a simpler life really is true.

So maybe that's what I'm really riling against here. Not so much the capitalist system but instead the capitalist societies that are our implementations of it. Everything looks great in theory, in practice we can always do better.