Using Google Forms for feedback gathering

For some time now Google is running Google Forms service which allows anyone to create web forms using extremely simple creator. Just log in to your google account, go to documents to try yourself:

Then follow on-screen instruction, there’s nothing that can cause any trouble to anyone. When you save the form, you will get email with two URLs – one to the form itself, second one to Google Spreadsheet which to which all data typed to your form will be saved. Clean and easy!

I’ve used Google Forms to gather  feedback from my recent presentations and I’m more than happy with results. I’ve created anonymous forms with no required fields not to put any pressure on responders. The turn-over was higher than expected, I got both positive and negative responses. Some people used “other comment” field to provide their email.

My tips for using Google forms for feedback gathering:

  • use open questions
  • ask for positive and negative sides separately “what did you like… / what didn’t you like…”
  • if you had several separable parts of presentation, ask for each part separately to make the answers more straight forward
  • do not make fields required – you will see that most people will fill all fields without you pushing them!
  • make the survey anonymous
  • add “other comments” field

Good luck! :)

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Agile in practice

On Thursday I gave presentation for Java Users Group in Lodz about implementation of Agile methodologies in real projects in enterprise world. The presentation has been interrupted frequently with questions and has been followed by interesting discussion. The PPT accompanyingthe presentation can be downloaded here (in Polish):  Agile w praktyce_public.

The most important observations and conclussions so far:

  • There’s huge gap between wikipedia style theory and real world practice
  • There are tons of obstacles in implementation of agile processes
  • The benefits of Agile are enormous!

I need an excuse to investigate some more and prepare English version of the presenation – I hope some event like unconference will be comming soon!

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Disabling VT-x/AMD-v in VirtualBox on Ubuntu

VirtualBox on Ubuntu has an issue preventing host waking up from suspend. This issue is marked as resolved, but unfortunately it’s still present in 3.1.2 r56127 running under control of Ubuntu x64. The workaround for this issue is well documented: disable VT-x/AMD-v support. Fine, but… the option is greyed out in the settings:

To change it, you have to go directly to vm configuration file and change enabled attribute in HardwareVirtEx to false. After the change CPU node should look similar to:

      <CPU count="1">

        <HardwareVirtEx enabled="false" exclusive="true"/>

        <HardwareVirtExNestedPaging enabled="false"/>

        <HardwareVirtExVPID enabled="false"/>

        <PAE enabled="true"/>

      </CPU>
Now restart VirtualBox and you’re done!
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Windows 2003 server password recovery on VMware ESX

Having too much systems to work on has one small disadvantage – there’s a hell of a lot of Administrator and root passwords to remember. And yesterday happend what was meant to happen for some time  – I forgot an Administator password for one of my Windows 2003 Servers. For obvious security reasons (I had no pencil on my desk) I haven’t noted password to this machine anywhere.

The server is running on my company VMware ESX server and I decided to hack into it. VMware Infrastructure Client has great ability – it let’s you share your local CD (or .iso image) to the server. I don’t need to say more, do I? ;) Yes, it is so simple.

So, here’s a step by step tutorial how to reset Administrator’s password on Windows 2003 server running on ESX. Prerequisites:

– VMware Infrastucture Client

– Permission from system’s administrator (don’t be naughty!)

– Live CD with your prefered password tools (I took http://pogostick.net/~pnh/ntpasswd/ 3MB only!)

Disclaimer: The procedure below can destroy data on your server, use on your own risk! I don’t take any responsibility of the damages you may cause trying to runt the procedure (or any of its parts).

1. Stop the server. I had to shut down VM image, not good for file system, but I had no choice.

2. Edit preferences of your image to enable remote CD drive:

3. Change boot options to set boot delay

My image has been set to boot from Hard Drive first. I had to go into bios settings to set boot order. I’ve also set 10s delay on booting to give myself time to connect CD image – on power on it’s unconnected.

4. Power on machine and set up boot order

5. Connect iso image. Quickly, before system start booting :)

6. See system booting from CD, use your the tool to reset Administrator password.

7. Enjoy!

Hint:

It was impossible on my machine to set new Administrator password using ntpasswd. I had to use option to blank the password.

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Home audio system – solved!

I’ve been struggling for quite a time with setting up home audio system that can play my mp3 collection (about 8500 files) without need to turn my computer on. I failed to find reasonably priced audio system, so I bought LG 2.1 Home Theater system – HB354BS, which can play mp3 from usb drive. The sound it produces is really nice – solid base, clear trebles, powerful medium range – more than enough for me!

The HT system has one issue – it supports only 1999 files per drive. This is nowhere near my requirement, but I found out that it treats partitions as separate drives. I split my usb drive to four partitions, which gave me space for 8k files. 500 files had to go away (sorry Andrea Bocelli and some scene mp3 stuff), but now I can listen whatever I want (currenlty Tracy Chapman – Mountains O’Things)! :) With my TV off (and computer on, but I can close the lid and the music will be playing!) :)

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Amazon and youtube?

Yesterday I spent a night listening to Avril Lavigne on youtube. How comes amazon.co.uk shows Avirl’s CD’s as “Customers with Similar Searches Purchased”? Is google selling my search history data??

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Nice bed & breakfast near Cardiff

This weekend I had a real pleasure to stay in absolutely pleasant bad and breakfast near Cardiff – Pantre Tai Farm. I knew that the place will be good from my first talk with Mr George one the phone, when he told me how to get there – “Do you have sat nav? This bloody thing will get you to the middle of forest, you definitely don’t want to go there”.

Pantre Ta Farm is quite big, it has six bedrooms. The room we got was rather spacey, with walk-in wardrobe and roof windows. For me, living in life polluted areas, seeing sky in the night was real pleasure. Internet connection was fast and reliable. The only thing I can complain for was TV – 14 inch lcd hanging high on the wall – you want to take binoculars to use it comfortably ;)

The really strong point of this place was the breakfast. Freshly cooked by Mr George it was really delicious, one of the best I ever had (I wish I asked how he prepared mushrooms…). But not only the food was great, Mr George sat with us and started to talk with us. He suggested some places we should visit, we talked about Wales and why it is so hard to move to Wales when you’re not Welsh yourself.

If you want to stay near Cardiff or Newport, I highly recommend Pantre Tai Farm.

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3G is rubbish

Some time ago I’ve started dreaming about three year long travel around Europe. My current position let’s me work from home, Caravans are cheaper than houses, so I thought I could travel on weekends and work during weekneds from any place without even letting my customer know where I roamed. I imagined how great will be to spend winter in Italy or Portugal and summer in Norway!

When holiday time finally came, I took laptop and a 3G Huawei USB dongle from O2 which I keep in case of my home broadband failure. I’ve connected it during our first stopover in small hotel near  Newcastle, bought access and went on line. It was somewhat slow for first minute or so and then the connection felt down to GPRS. It was going up to 3G, then back to GPRS. Memories of 14.4 came back, it took me an hour to find a B&B for next stay.

Next night we stayed in beautiful capital of Highlands – Inverness. I decided to share my joy on facebook, I’ve opened my laptop. Green led on modem was showing there were no 3G signal, but EDGE was available with signal strength 4 on 5 . But connecting was basically all it could do – with losses at 80% I had to gave up.

Our last destination was a nice B&B near Portree on Isle of Skye. There was no point checking if the connection will work – mobiles shown no coverage at all.

It seems my dream has to wait unless I’m ready to live in a caravan somewhere near London. Or London. Or maybe London…

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goto introduced in PHP 5.3

I’ve been reviewing list of changes in PHP 5.3 and one thing captured my attention – for some reason they decided to add “goto” in PHP. I won’t even bother to look for rationale after that decision, I can bet it looked like:

– should we add goto support in PHP?

– no, it’s bad!

– yes, it’s useful when you don’t abuse it!

– if you can’t code without goto, you’re pathetic caricature of programmer

– real programmers KNOW how to use goto properly

And so on for 5000 posts…

At least they added some small advice from xkcd on their goto manual page

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