Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Remote Pairing Day 3

Pairing from my house, using my broadband today. Took extra time to get set up, because I didn't have an office all squared away. Not yet. We're working on it. Today it's the dining room table for me.

I was concerned because we had a late drive last night and didn't get as much sleep as usual. I didn't make the agreed upon rendezvous online, so my partner was left waiting. Again. This cannot be a pattern for me. This whole experiment is dependent upon us being able to conduct meaningful work from a distance. Tonight, more sleep, sooner waking. I don't want to flip a bozo bit.

This morning, I tried using WebEx and skyping from my Ubuntu box for video. Skype installed okay, but will not use my logitech webcam. Ekiga will do that, but my partner apparently is firewalled in from stun servers and can't connect with Ekiga. That's two or three programs that we can't try because of that. Maybe we can get the admins to open a port or two for us.

WebEx was mostly okay, and the company already has a relationship there. Connections weren't too laggy and sharing control was not too trying at all. Fullscreen mode was useful and clear, and I could see the cursor in text mode. We moved to 255-color mode to save bandwidth but it didn't really change anything for us. It was overall a decent experience as long as I didn't use my mouse's scroll wheel. If I used it, the app would immediately scroll all the code off the window. It would take huge jumps.

With the skype disappointment, we decided to go voice-only with google voice and video on the Windows box. That worked well enough, because we want the screen-sharing to be fullscreen anyway. I didn't really miss the video.

The other thing I learned was NOT to use a bluetooth headphone for this. I could hear just fine, but as with every other device I've tried to use with bluetooth, my voice was a mess. It was messy and broke up. I've never had satisfaction from any of the bluetooth devices I've used. The other end always says it's muddy, broken, and underwater. I've even tried the jawbone devices and Libby said it was awful. So it's all-wire for me.

We got into the next phase of our work and found that the inheritance tree didn't really support our work. We have some architecture-type work to do to move ahead. Nice. It's a good thing, I think, and I'm learning the app better all the time.

Insert lunch break here

In the afternoon I brought in the good chair from the to-be office, put my laptop up on a stand so it was at eye level, and actually was working without discomfort. I was enjoying the changes, though I noticed the system was getting more and more lag.

Mid-afternoon my network went wonky. I looked at the router and found that there were about ten users other than my family's computers. It was about the time my son got home from school, so I'm betting that everyone around was using my wifi. I don't begrudge casual usage, but When I start getting disconnected from my workplace, that's too much. I had work to do, and suddenly no bandwidth.

I popped into the wireless router and added a password. I also found some other settings in the router that were a tad distressing (like renewing leases every two hours!?). I squared those away. Eventually I got it set up on WPA2 and all my devices connecting, and life was good, but that was well after 5:00. I hate losing a day to administrivia. My wife (also an internet junkie) hated the the router reboot multiple times in order to take on new settings.

In the meantime, though, I have a feature that is less than half done, and I really want to finish it ASAP. It's really a couple of simple functions right now, and a skeleton for a database gateway object to support it. Code coverage is good, code and test are nicely refactored, and we're a short distance from getting it done. I really want to make tomorrow the best day ever.

Lessons Learned

If you're going to remote, guard your bandwidth.

Also, if you spend time in Ubuntu, make sure you have the system tray in your desktop panel. I ended up wrestling with wifi-radar and other stuff before I realized that the networkmanager applet (nm-applet) was more competent and already running. I didn't see it because it was in the system tray (which wasn't present on my desktop). Sigh.

On the first day in any new location, I suppose you should expect to have troubles with the local environment.

Lag is your enemy. I can't imagine how frustrating this must be on the other end, waiting for the screen to scroll or the keyboard buffer to empty from my side of the wire.

Forget bluetooth. Or at least try it out with your partner before relying on it. I can't say all bluetooth headphones stink, only that all of them I've tried stink. Stick with wires.


Today started the morning with WebEx for screen sharing and used the google voice and video for voice only. It worked pretty well. In the afternoon we used TeamViewer limited-time preview for screen sharing, and the google voice and video application. At least as often as we were able to stay online.

We attempted to use yakkle and ekiga but we had corporate firewalling issues. We may have to get them to open some ports (stun servers, udp) so that we can try these other products. I would like to see us using something free if possible. I don't need remote pairing disincentives.

I'm not currently set up to screen share from my Linux box. I would really like to see that happen but I am willing to call an end to net tech adventures for the week.