Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Perils of Laptopistan

I'm out in Laptopistan again today, this time in the principality of Starbucks, but not by choice. My power is out for the 3rd or 4th time since moving to the DC burbs, and in order to get any work done I had to get somewhere with Wifi. This Starbucks is packed, of course, with other people whose power is also out, making the internet access slow as molasses, and seating and power very difficult to come by. Fortunately, I brought a mini power strip, so I could add my laptop and Krystal's phone to an outlet without displacing anyone.

Anyway, my complaint is not so much that the situation is impossible, it's just small extra costs to this type of remote working:

- 20 mins looking for street parking in the snow = lost work time
- slow internet = lower productivity
- large latte = 4x the unit cost of coffee at home (which is better anyway, thanks to our Baratza grinder and French press)
- 20 mins spent waiting for a table = lost work time
- no power outlets available = additional capital goods required (power strip) plus the need to remember to bring them
- limited-time parking meters requiring movement of car after 4 hours = lost work time

If anyone at my office is reading this, don't worry, I'll make up the lost time, but my complaint still stands, because that cuts into my free time.

Anyway, obviously some establishments are better-suited to remote working than others; Peregrine Espresso is paradise compared to Starbucks, but it would have taken 90+ mins to get there this morning through the snow and non-working traffic lights. All of these complaints could be remedied by having access to a proper co-working space, so I suppose the best approach is to quantify these costs, find the appropriate break-even point, and seek co-working space at or below that price point.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Daily WTF: Financial Data Provider edition

A data provider that shall remain nameless (at least while I'm still employed at my current office) sends us daily CSV files. I was looking into a failure of the load of one of these files and noticed this... (values modified to protect the sanctity of the data)

[header row]
[first data row]
DAM, 0.2309674, 0.2309676,
POC, 0.000301957, 0.000301963,
* The [big data provider] Closing Spot Rates provided by [big data provider a] plc in conjunction with [big data provider b].The [big data provider] plc shall not be liable for any errors in or delays in providing or making available the data contained within this service or for any actions taken in reliance on the same except to the extent that the same is directly caused by its or its employees' negligence.

Thanks, [big data provider]! But next time, maybe you could shove that disclaimer someplace other than a file produced and consumed exclusively by machines, which happen to appreciate a specific format for their files, especially when said files are called, explicitly, Comma-Separated Values?