Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Contracting... the begining of a new era for Nenya Web Solutions

My apologies for not blogging lately.

Times have been hectic with submitting my site for final exams etc. I'm pleased to say that both the Home Learning College and the ACITP (Association of Certified IT Professionals) liked my website and gave it a Distinction for Level 3 web design.

Now, I'm ploughing my way through CIW foundations and starting a contract at the same time.

I spotted this lovely opportunity on one of the IT recruitment web sites, read the job spec and thought I pretty much ticked the boxes. A quick phone call and on-line submission of CV and covering letter and I have an interview which took place yesterday morning.

I haven't had much experience of interviews over the past 15 years as I've worked for the same employer for all those years.

I managed to keep my nerves under control and was well prepared when I went in and came out feeling I'd given a good account of myself and whatever happens next would be out of my control. I didn't expect to hear anything for the rest of the day as there were other candidates being interviewed in the afternoon.

When the phone rang and it was the recruitment agent on the line, I had my diary ready in the hope of a second interview date, but it was not to be... because I was being offered the job. Talk about a jaw dropping moment. It takes a lot to render me speechless but I was lost for words.
I haven't signed anything yet and am waiting for the paperwork to arrive for my final approval but I think I'm back in the game again at last.

IT training, manual production and e-learning content development and deployment- just my cup of tea.

The only little cloud on my horizon is that this is the very last term my youngest is at primary school and I'd hoped to start work again in the autumn. I wanted to be there for his last sports day and prize day. I may have to negotiate time out to attend these little milestones.

I will try to keep this blog a little more up to date than it has been of late but that will require some monumental time management on my part :-)

In the meantime, I'd better crack on with learning how CGI scripting works!
Oh joy!


Monday, 18 May 2009

Been a busy bee...

Since I last blogged... and complained bitterly about Toy r Us, things have moved on apace.
The whole Toys R Us thing has finally resolved... amazing what you can achieve when you start publicising your complaints. A real person actually telephoned us to sort out a refund. We ended up buying the correct Bakugan from a seller in the USA on E-bay and the process was much smoother and definitely faster too.

On the professional front, I was fortunate to be able to attend the very first European conference run by Articulate... a fab software company for e-learning content design and deployment. I picked up loads of hints and tips for future use. Now I just need to generate enough income to be able to afford an upgrade to Studio '09!

In between all this, I have completed my web design course and published my site for my finals. The College and the ACITP examiners get together and mark your work against their criteria. The results arrived on Saturday morning. I haven't felt this nervous since I went to get my degree results years ago. I got to the bottom of the certificate and let out a shout of triumph which scared the dog and the kids. Ooops!
Well it was worth the hard work ... a distinction! I'm still grinning and planning to celebrate all over again this weekend when our family goes to centreparcs for a well-earned treat. I'm picturing myself in the hot tub with a glass of nicely chilled champagne.

However, before I get there, I need to complete some work with PHP and MySql - a voyage into the unknown for me. I have a Dummies Guide to help me :-)

Must go a read up on what to do after making the database and tables.

J x

Friday, 24 April 2009

The perils of on-line shopping.

I can honestly say I have never been more disgusted with a company as I am with Toys R Us(UK) on-line!
The whole sorry tale begins on the 4th April 09, when we finally tracked down a Red Dragon Bakugan Brawler for my son's Easter treat. He got such a great school report we decided he'd earned it. He was very specific about the colour and type, as they are at his age.
Joy of joys, the description on TRUs site fitted the bill. Nowhere did it say "contents may vary". So we bought and paid for it on line and were informed by e-mail that the toy would be dispatched within 4 working days. So far so good. Chris waited and waited every day till on day four the postman rang the doorbell to deliver the long-awaited item. Put yourself in the shoes of a small boy, excited at the thought of opening his prize and playing with it. After all, Toys R Us has said it would be a red dragon. Now imagine his distress upon opening the package to find a green one! He tried to put on a brave face but I could see his bottom lip trembling.
Well, I thought I'd drop them a little e-mail outlining the issue and asking for a way to send it back and for the warehouse to dispatch the correct item.They dutifully responded with an automatic e-mail saying we would be contacted within 48hrs.
48 hrs later (8th April09) an e-mail arrives saying how sorry they were and that they would send us a return code in the next 48hrs to put on the package for us to send back to the warehouse, then they would send out the correct item.
We waited....

and waited....

and then waited some more before sending another e-mail. And you've guessed it... another auto response saying they will be in contact with us within 48 hrs. We've since reported them to Trading Standards, who've been equally silent on the response front.
To summarise... we have waited for ten working days (yes I remembered to account for Easter Bank Hols) and still nothing.

My advice... STAY AWAY FROM TOYS-R-US UK site if you don't want to have your kids disappointed.Their customer service centre for on-line shoppers is diabolical. As my son put it... "they totally suck!"

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Definitive definitions...

OK... I slept on it and tried to come up with something to put into the e-learning page I'm currently writing.
I checked out a few sites... (thanks Scott for sending in some links) I have come to the conclusion that there definitely isn't a definitive definition of e-learning! Just when you think you've got it nailed, you find people using an amazing variety of technology to learn and it's changing rapidly.
I think I'll give this a little more thought before I commit to print.

In the meantime I've spent most of the day in the outdoor office typing away like mad. The nail polish has taken a bit of a beating... must learn to type more gently when I'm getting carried away with a subject. My current project is almost finished and will go into live test phase sometime tomorrow. Fingers crossed everything looks like it should do on Firefox, Internet Explore (I hate IE6), Safari, Google Chrome etc. I'll soon find out if my clever wee html coding has worked to get round the worst of the IE bugs.

That's all folks!

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

The importance of taking a fresh air break

Today my two little noise merchants returned to their schools. I feel sorry for their teachers!

Peace and tranquility returned to my office. I did miss having them around to remind me to take regular breaks and walk the dog. Fortunately the dog has an impeccable sense of time and knows when to lean her head on my knee to remind me to take her out. During her walks I usually find that my mind goes for a wander and comes up with some great ideas or solutions to earlier issues.

Thank goodness for the walk today. I managed some fantastic problem solving during the first mile and was more than ready to get home and try out my newly discovered solutions... the best bit is they worked.

Maybe we should give ourselves permission to take a decent break away from the desk/office. It's no good playing solitaire... you need to move away from the desk and away from the computer screen for this to work well. If anyone asks what you're doing, you can honestly say you are busy with some creative problem solving.

Today's decent achievement came in the form of producing a basic training package which can be adapted to suit any company using only PowerPoint and Articulate Presenter and Quiz maker. After a few tweaks here and there, it was ready to test...could I make the presentation start on the click of a link on my website. The trick is knowing which file launches the presentation and making the link point to the correct file. It's not immediately apparent which of the many files does this but I'm pleased to report that I got it right first time. Victory dance round the office!

The bulk of work I have left for this current project is to create content for each web page. I have tasked myself with working on a definition of e-learning... I shall sleep on it and let you know how I get on tomorrow. I have a sneaking suspicion that there isn't a definitive definition. Let me know what you think...

Monday, 20 April 2009

The Joy of working from home on a sunny day :-)

It's the last day of the holidays here and I'm taking full advantage of the sun!

My two children are sitting at the patio table doing homework before returning to school tomorrow. Seems such a shame that the weather is going to pick up as they go back. Still, at least I can make full use of long extension cables, decent wi-fi connections and a parasol to keep the laptop cooler and the screen visible.

Given that I'm outside, I will not be recording any narration for my latest training package until tomorrow morning, after the school run. I will be checking through for the usual typos and run-times for all animations.

Tomorrow's blog will be a little longer and more work orientated with plenty of added sunshine :-)

Monday, 6 April 2009

De-clutter your presentations...

Have you ever been faced with too much information on a PowerPoint slide?

I know I have... and I always wondered how I'd re-arrange the information if it was me in charge of the layout.

Well, with a bit of practice and much tinkering around with all the menu buttons, I came up with a simple solution, using the same number of slides, or even fewer, but maintaining the reader's interest at the same time.

Below is my guide to de-cluttering presentations.

This is an example of a busy slide....

Each bullet point contains useful and/or important information.

By the time a reader makes it to the end of the bullet points, they will likely have reached information overload... and this could be only one of many slides!

The information could be split over two slides or we could use one slide and make clever use of Custom Animations applied to objects.

Directions are based on PowerPoint 2007 and the goal is to make text box 1 appear, then fade, with text box 2 appearing second.

You may find it useful to print out this page before you start.

Step 1

Create a Title and Content slide e.g. “A very busy slide!”

Step 2

Create two text boxes and type three bullet points into each as shown below. Text box 1 is already selected as shown below (it has a solid blue outline).

Step 3

With the text box selected, click on the Animation tab to open various options. Click the Custom Animation button. A task pane will open. This is the area where you can adjust the timings, speeds, delays etc and preview your handiwork.

Click the Add an Effect button and make your choice. Bear in mind the audience you are creating the presentation for and use appropriate animations.

(animation task pane)

Step 4

To have the selected text box appear shortly after the slide opens, select Entrance, then Fade. The text box will gradually appear on the slide.

Step 5

To have the same box fade out again, click on the text box to re-select it (making sure the outline is solid blue), click the Add an Effect button but this time select Exit, and then Fade.

Text box 1 will appear and then disappear from the slide. Since we would like our audience to have the time to read the contents, we need to adjust the timings of the second animation. Clicking the drop-down arrow of the selected animation will open up further options, one of which is Timing...

Click Timing... and set the animation to start after previous (ie once the fade-in has finished) and delay to 10 seconds (you may need to make this longer depending on how much information there is to read)

We now have two animations associated with text box 1. The final part of editing this slide is to add an animation to the second text box.

Step 6

Click Add Effect button and select Entrance and then Fade.

Using the Custom animation pane make the following adjustments to this animation. Set the animation to Start After Previous. This means that the appearance of text box two will start after text box 1 has faded out.

The end result is that text box 1 appears, then slowly fades and text box 2 appears and remains on the slide.

This is just the beginning...

For the more adventurous user, there is the option to use Motion pathways to guide objects across a slide... a topic for another blog post.