Move to

Posted on May 10, 2008. Filed under: Personal |

Just letting you know that I have moved this blog and web site to a new platform.

You can go to the site directly here:

And you can still subscribe to this blog via RSS here:

Occasional posts will still end up being posted here, but the majority will be over at the new site.

Thanks for reading.


Click here to go to the new site now


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REVIEW: Premium Economy on Air New Zealand

Posted on April 28, 2008. Filed under: Personal |

On my recent trip to the MVP Summit I flew Premium Economy class over to the US. Premium Economy is new for Australia-USA trips and is only available via Air New Zealand (to LA) and JetStar (Star Class to Honolulu) as far as I know. Qantas will be offering the class later in the year.

I thought I’d give a quick review of how Premium Economy stacks up.

I’ll break this in to 3 main areas: Staff, Stomach and Seat.


I’ll start with the staff – because this is generally the first experience you have with an airline. Check-in staff were OK. Not great, but not bad. They were helpful but not outgoing. I was wondering whether I’d be allowed to use the business class check-in lines, but no – stick to the economy lines (it may be premium economy, but it’s still economy right?). No problem, the line wasn’t long and the staff were efficient.

On board staff were a different story. I was upstairs, and we had two main stewards covering our section. One was bland and average, the other was bordering on annoying. He sported what I describe as a bored look of disdain on his face and seemed to be concentrating hard on doing the bare minimum his job required. I asked for him to repeat the selection of drinks and he gave me the ‘bother, bother’ look and simply handed me an orange juice. Not to worry – people like this are usually reflecting some kind of internal issue – and I suspect are not representative of the airline in general.

The Customer Services Manager (ie the bloke who hands out US entry cards) was a different story. Super helpful, cheery, and outgoing. If only he and the bored one could have shared some energy and come to an equilibrium…

I’m glad I waited until the flight home before posting this, so that I could include the return experience, on which the staff were better. Much better. The lovely Tracy looked after us efficiently and thoughtfully, all the while coordinating with her colleague. The Customer Services Manager was freakishly happy and cheerful just like on the flight over – they must have come out of the same factory 🙂

[As an aside, the best staff – at both check-in and on board – that I have experienced were with a little airline called Sunshine Airlines from Minneapolis to New York (and back). Virgin tends to have good, happy staff on board but their quality of check-in staff can be unreliable in my opinion.]


On the food front the meals were surprisingly scrumptious. They were well prepared and had good quality ingredients (no tough & chewy chuck steak stroganoff here). I have no complaints about food at all, in fact I’d say it was better than expected.


This is the main point I guess. For me, being over 6′ 3” leg room is pretty crucial. On the long haul flights I need two main things –

  1. To be able to stretch my legs out
  2. Neck support

I’m pleased to say that on both counts the Premium Economy seats are satisfactory. They aren’t fantastic, and if you’ve flown business class then you’ll certainly be pining for those Skybeds. But then again, the fare is less than half that of a business class ticket, so I wasn’t expecting wonders.

The important thing is that I could sleep fine and thus arrive at my destination well rested. Sure the business class seats have all the comforts, but as long as I can sleep comfortably I’m happy. I’ve flown plain economy to LA before and – excuse my complaining – it was hell. On one flight I had the exit row and thus adequate leg room, but the lack of seat height really took its toll. I spent the first couple of days nursing a sore neck. For a gangly bloke like me I need to have neck support. Even those inflatable neck supports aren’t very helpful, because they don’t have anything to rest on…

But all that changes in Premium Economy – the leg room is extensive, the seats are higher, they lean back further and they have the neck support. Note that although they lean back further, they don’t recline that far, and no where near what the business class seats do. Sleep is definitely in the seated position. Also, the seats don’t seem to be any wider than normal, so you tend to find yourself bumping against the arm rests.

Using a notebook or laptop is easy in these seats (no problems with posture and hand position) and they have power sockets in most seats (2 sockets between 3 seats). The sockets take a variety of adapters. You may have to ask the steward to ensure power is on.

Below is 3 photos of my Premium Economy seat on the flight over from Auckland to LA (on Air New Zealand).

 Air New Zealand Premium Economy seat - easily use a laptopAir New Zealand Premium Economy seat - plenty of leg room to stretch out Air New Zealand Premium Economy seat - the head rest extends up for another 10-15 centimetres

And by comparison here’s 2 photos of the plain economy flight from LA to Seattle (flying Alaskan Airlines). To be fair, domestic aircraft tend to have tighter seating than the international ones, but generally not by much. My knees are ‘resting’ on the seat pocket in front. And if the passenger ahead decides to recline, it gets very painful. I find it very difficult to use a notebook in these seats. I have a Dell D830 with a 15.4 screen and whilst not a huge footprint, I could only use it by awkwardly angling it on my stomach. After an hour or so it becomes unworkable in my opinion. Smaller machines may be more versatile. And there’s no power in economy on most domestic craft.

Alaskan Airlines economy seat Alaskan Airlines economy seat

I made it to LA happy and refreshed, and was out the plane pretty quickly.

[I then had to wait in the customs line for over 2.5 hours and missed my connecting flight – but that’s another story.]

Overall, but predominantly based on seating comfort, I give the Air New Zealand Premium Economy experience a rating of 7/10.

Here’s my rating scale guide:

1/10 : Flying plain economy in a non-exit row, in a middle seat

2/10 : Flying plain economy in a non-exit row, in an aisle or window seat

3/10 : Flying plain economy in an exit row, in a middle seat

4/10 : Flying plain economy in an exit row, in an aisle or window seat

5/10 : Flying  plain economy in an empty row and they let you lie down across the seats

6/10 : Flying Premium Economy, in a middle seat

7/10 : Flying Premium Economy, in an aisle or window seat

8/10 : Flying Business Class, in a middle seat

9/10 : Flying Business Class, in an aisle or window seat or in the new self-contained lounge beds

10/10 : Flying First Class (not that I ever have)

Or, put another way, I don’t dread the flight. Heading overseas, facing a 14 hour flight in economy is something no-one looks forward to, and I’m no exception, I definitely dread the inevitable pain to both legs and neck.

But I’ll happily fly Air New Zealand Premium Economy again, and will even look forward to the flight – which is perhaps the most telling point.


Bonus traveller tip: New Zealand airports (eg Auckland) accept USD and AUD at most stores and cafes. You probably know this of course, but it was a nice surprise for me, especially since I only wanted to buy a bottle of water.

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A quick catch up with Frank Arrigo

Posted on April 21, 2008. Filed under: Microsoft, Personal |

There’s plenty to talk about after the MVP Summit last week. But that’ll have to wait. For now, you can either read the shenanigans courtesy of Schnubbs’ blog, or… you can watch this quick 2 min video where a bunch of us caught up with Frank Arrigo. Can you believe he’s been in Seattle for 9 months already? Time flies.

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DISCLAIMER: Being as open as possible

Posted on January 6, 2008. Filed under: Personal |

This is a disclaimer post that I will refer back to from other posts.

Last updated: 06 January 2008

Opinion only

Anything you read on this site is my own opinion and not necessarily endorsed, agreed to, or even known about by friends, family, employers, etc.

If I ever represent the opinion of some one else, it’ll be clearly noted.

Well Duh! – Original thought is rare

I’m not the first one to have thought most of this up, especially when it comes to tips or code samples. So, if you come across something that is embarrassingly obvious, years old, or just plain ‘well duh’ then don’t be concerned. I probably just found it, and using the (possibly presumptuous) logic that ‘if I didn’t know about it then others probably don’t either’ I’ve popped it on here.

When I show tips, chances are they are something you’ve already been using for years…

I’m new to most things

I’m always playing with stuff that is new to me, but possibly not to you (eg VSTO). Rather than go on about what a newbie I am, I’ll simply be putting out stuff as I work through it.

Hopefully it will be helpful to someone else that is in a similar position. But please don’t misconstrue it as me pretending to be an expert in anything.

Often wrong

Making mistakes is a pretty normal part of life. As long as we learn from them, they can be helpful. That said, I’ve made so many mistakes and stuff ups it isn’t funny. The post you just read could be one of my latest…

Thus, take everything here with a grain of salt, and please let me know if I’ve botched something – I’ll be very thankful and quickly correct it.

And at times I’ll no doubt be guilty of writing posts that are little more than ‘Ignorance parading as opinion’.

Comments become posts

I suspect most people don’t read the comments on blogs (I know I rarely do), so it is likely that you will see comments left by others (perhaps you) end up as a future post. I’ll aim to acknowledge the original commenter but may not always get the chance to.

I get free stuff

Because I’m a Microsoft MVP I get some free stuff from time to time, usually in the form of software licenses. The advantage of this is that I can review, try out, use and play with stuff that I might not otherwise get the chance to.

As such, I recommend stuff that I like.

Focus on positives

Life is too short to complain about all the bad things, so I tend to focus on the positives. That doesn’t mean I don’t have the occasional rant, or highlight something if I think it can be improved. And it also doesn’t mean that I write about how everything is really great.

Generally, if I think something is good I call it, and if not I don’t say anything.

Microsoft is my main area of interest

Most of my posts are limited to the Microsoft realm. This is simply because it is my area of interest. So, if you hear me going on about how a certain product is the best of it’s type, chances are I mean the best of it’s type within the Microsoft world. There may well be better products in the Java, Unix, Mac, Sun, AS400 worlds – it’s just that I am not covering those communities in my posts…

And finally…

So there’s no misunderstanding, here’s a few things about me:

I am married. I work at Elcom. I used to work at Talman. I run a user group. I am a MVP. I am friends with a number of Microsoft employees. I am religious. I have a temper. I have an ego. I wish I was smarter. I am lucky.

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PERSONAL: Welcome to 2008

Posted on January 6, 2008. Filed under: Personal |

I’ve had a nice two week break over the Christmas and New Year period. The first week was spent on chores, family events and generally unwinding. The second was spent reading and thinking, and catching up with a few close friends.

Now, I just need another week to do all those technology related projects I intended to get finish…

I decided to avoid email and blog reading over the break, which now means I have a ton of great posts to get through. I’m sure there’s been plenty of interesting news updates.

Instead I toyed with twitter a bit, but am still undecided on whether it is worthwhile or not…

The break is coming to an end – back to work tomorrow.

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HAPPY: Michele Connolly – Happiness Strategies – Why being happy matters

Posted on November 8, 2007. Filed under: Personal |

I’ve mentioned the amazing(1) Michele Connolly(2) previously, but that was before she had even finished her first How NOT to be Happy series. Now with 62 posts under her belt, I’m *happy* to report her writing just gets better and better.

Whilst some of her posts are laugh out loud funny, and others are pithy, research based insights, there are also thought provoking ones like her series on the Philosophers of Happiness.

My favorite so far is this post on mind tricks.

She even has one for the geeks.

But the best thing is how she treats happiness with respect – it isn’t just some ditzy, hedonistic fluff, instead it is about the realities of happiness, primarily through the positive psychology lens, and how happiness is good for your health, relationships, and even the economy to name a few key areas.

Subscribe to the Happiness Strategies blog

And you can sign up for her monthly newsletter ‘The Happy Times’ on the site as well.

She has also started a Happiness group on Facebook.

Michele is new to blogging, but has taken to it with gusto. I’m keen for her to gain a bigger audience – if you think her stuff is worthwhile, could you help spread the word?(3)

(1) Disclaimer: I am married to Michele.

(2) You won’t find Michele talking about this, but I wish more people knew: Michele was awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Academic Excellence last year at Macquarie University. She also won an Australian Postgraduate Award scholarship (and $60K!) to progress her research into a PhD. However, she declined the academic path, and has instead this year been writing a book on Happiness Strategies – with the sole aim of equipping people to be happier, higher-achieving contributors to society.

(3) A year from now when her book is on the NYT Bestseller list and her blog is read by absolutely everyone, you can sit back and feel *happy* that you were part of the early readership that helped her become known. 🙂

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PERSONAL: Why have a link blog?

Posted on October 27, 2007. Filed under: Blog, Personal |

A few people have asked me why I now have a link blog (URL here, RSS here). There are a few reasons.

The main reason is the signal to noise ratio. Here on my main blog, I like to keep the S/N ratio pretty high. I try to consider posts carefully before posting them, and will generally stand by my assertions (unless proven wrong, in which case I’ll happily recant). I’d like to think that my main blog here has a high level of credibility. That’s why you only see a few posts here every week or so, and they include a variety of topics.

But over on my Link blog it’s a different story – the noise can be high. I call it my Link blog because that is what I primarily do – simple linking to things that I find interesting. It is often just a book-marking tool for me. And, I tend to rattle off pronouncements without too much thought (example). I’m full of opinions (aren’t we all) and am happy to trot them out on the Link blog. Already this month I have around 70 posts for example. The content is almost entirely technology related.

Additionally, adding my Link blog has been quite liberating. I have a huge backlog of partially written blog posts, all waiting for me to put in the necessary checking, consideration and review before posting on my main blog. The result: hardly any have seen the light of day, and probably never will. But now with my Link blog I’ll feel much more comfortable just pumping them out.

Thus, with those caveats explained, please feel free to subscribe to my link blog as well. I welcome comments.

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PERSONAL: On Leaving Talman

Posted on September 6, 2007. Filed under: Personal |

I finished up at Talman last Friday after more than 9 years with the company. It was a sad day. Having been there for more than half of my professional career, I have learnt, grown and gained so much, and become close friends with many of the team. Walking out the door for the last time was a strange feeling.

After deciding back in May it was time to take the next step, I sat down and discussed it with my boss, Talman’s MD. Together we worked out a plan for me to hand over everything and leave with minimum impact to the company. And now, approximately 3 months later, that plan has been completed. Currently I’m enjoying 2 weeks holiday before starting a new role on 17 September (more on that in a separate post).

To Talman, I simply say: thank you. It has been a wonderful experience, and I am deeply grateful for the trust, generosity and opportunity afforded me over the near decade I’ve been lucky enough to work there.

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SUPERB: How NOT to be Happy

Posted on August 1, 2007. Filed under: Personal |

I was going to wait until Michele had at least ten posts complete before linking to it, but with content like this, I’d be doing you a disservice not pointing it out now:

How to be Happy

Check out her Tips on How NOT to be Happy – priceless!

And there’s more to come…

Subscribe to HappinessStrategies here

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BLOG: Please update to my FeedBurner feed

Posted on May 15, 2007. Filed under: Personal |

 Just wondering if you could do me a favour…

I’m trying to get a better handle on my readership, so I was hoping you’d be kind enough to subscribe to my FeedBurner feed instead of directly point to the Blogger URL.

All you need to do is point your RSS reader to this:

If you are just browsing (i.e. not using a RSS reader) then you can also use the new URL, but it won’t look as nice as my page on Blogger.

[I’ve been trying to use Google Analytics for a while now put the results aren’t really valid for RSS readers, and they are mixed even for general browsing.]

Thanks heaps – I really appreciate it.

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PERSONAL: Happy Turkey Day

Posted on November 23, 2006. Filed under: Personal |

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the US. Being an ignorant Australian I knew very little about what the day celebrated. Wikipedia gives a decent overview here. See also the entry (some unverified) about Squanto.

Have a great day folks.

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PERSONAL: Black Belt Grading

Posted on October 26, 2006. Filed under: Personal |

I had my karate black belt grading tonight. And I’m pleased (relieved?) to report that after 6 years of training, countless cracked ribs, a number of leg injuries, and a broken hand (I had to have two titanium pins put in after I broke it two years ago in a sparring match) I’ve finally made it to black belt.

As anyone who has studied martial arts will know, attaining black belt status is only the start of the journey. It signifies you have covered all the basics and are now ready to commence studying as a senior student.

On a personal note, I feel great. I have been training upto 4 times a week for the last couple of months leading up to the grading. This is the fittest I think I’ve been all my adult life. But it has taken its toll – I have some pretty bad hip and knee injuries, and will be taking it a little easier until they repair.

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FUN: Maranatha puzzle

Posted on August 9, 2006. Filed under: Personal |

Looks like fun. Da Vinci Code, Holy Grail, National Treasure, all the usual suspects. Can’t wait to get a copy. I wonder if it has been solved yet…

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INSPIRATION: Sir Terry Matthews

Posted on July 20, 2006. Filed under: Personal |

I had the pleasure of meeting with Sir Terry Matthews this morning. Thanks to our friends at Ethan Group, Peter Metcalf (Talman’s MD) and I were invited to a small gathering (15 people) with Terry in which he talked about his background (btw the Wikipedia account is not quite correct – the real version is that a shipping company lost the crate of lawnmowers) and his then his thoughts on broadband, future trends and internet telephony.
This guy is remarkably passionate about technology and ‘winning’, and is a great inspiration for would be entrepreneurs.
He talked about the importance of timing with regard to technology and the need to be plowing money into R+D if you want to be a long term success.
Peter and I had a chat to him about the interaction of software and IP hardware and Terry’s assertion that there now seems to exist a new 8th layer of the ISO model above the Application layer which basically deals with Content.
As an interesting aside, I had actually forgotten about the meeting until I got into work this morning… in my jeans, jumper and casual shoes. There was no time to change so when we got into the city for the meeting I ever so casually strolled into the room where everyone else was dressed up in suit and tie. Rather than run and hide, I put on my best confident look and mingled with the other attendess (all high profile IT managers in big companies). Funnily enough people came up to me to introduce themselves, including Sir Terry who came up and shook my hand early on. I think people had me confused with someone really, really important (you know, the kind that is so important, that they don’t even bother to dress up for a meeting with a world famous billionaire…)

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PERSONAL: Meegos for me and Michele

Posted on July 20, 2006. Filed under: Personal |

Now that I’ve freed up a little, it’s time to catch up on all the important business and technical items. Serious stuff. You know, the kind that we serious manager types need to be addressing. And thus it was high time I got Meegos for me and Michele.
Here’s me all excited about Tech*Ed:
And here’s me and Michele looking really cute:
Thanks to Frank for pointing this out.

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PERSONAL: Help my wife for 30 minutes

Posted on May 10, 2006. Filed under: Personal |

Perhaps you can help… my wife Michele is doing research into happiness as part of her Psychology Honours Thesis.

Part of this is an online survey which asks about 150 multiple choice questions. It takes approximately 20-30 minutes to complete. It is completely anonymous.

If you are able to take part in the survey that would be a great help to her. It is fine for people living in Australia or overseas to do it (although see Ethics note below).

You can start here

A word about Ethics – the survey states it is open to people living in Australia. This is to comply with University Ethics requirements for the sole purpose of being able to provide a counselling phone number for you to call in case you are distressed by it (I'm not kidding!).

I've done the survey (after all I wrote the survey site) and can tell you the questions are totally harmless. So, whilst it is fine for people living anywhere to do it, Michele can't actually put that on the site (hence she 'invites people living in Australia'). In order to be ethically allowed to 'invite people living outside of Australia' she would have had to provide a global toll free phone number etc etc… which would have been almost impossible to have in place in time for the survey.

Bottom line: anyone can do it, but if you are worried you might get 'distressed' about a question that asks you how happy you are then perhaps you should give it a miss {g}.

A big thank you to you if you do take the time to complete it. I know 20-30 minutes is a big ask, so your help is greatly appreciated.

The results of the survey will be posted in November this year – I'll let you know how it goes.

(btw I am aware that the site can render a little funny in FireFox – it is fine in IE though)

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