Simple Gnatt chart with Numbers for Mac

In my opinion Numbers for Mac is not as powerful or versatile as Microsoft Excel. However, this versatility of Excel is hardly required for my personal home use. This Gnatt chart here illustrates my point. I could use it to track any of the (fictitious) mini projects that I (do not) take up from time to time at home.

I use a nifty trick I picked up from chandoo.org a few years back, and “ported” it so to say to mac for numbers. Of course in comparison to Excel’s conditional formatting capabilities, Numbers’ conditional formatting is woefully inadequate. Nevertheless the end result is not that displeasing to the eye.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 21.41.05

  • First create a Project Overview table, with an estimated start date and estimated end date.
  • Now create the second table called the Gnatt chart table, start with four columns – Task, Start Date, Duration, and End date
  • The columns End date should contain the following formula =WORKDAY(B3,C3), i.e. the working day corresponding to the “duration in days” i.e. C3 after the start date, i.e. B3.
  • Add as many columns after this as you please, put a number to each of these columns. I tend to work with calendar weeks, so I have used calendar weeks. In this example 11 and above.
  • The calendar week columns contain the following formula =IF(ISBLANK($B3),,IF(AND(WEEKNUM($B3)≤E$2,WEEKNUM(DATEVALUE($D3))≥E$2),1,0))

This formula does the following

  1. If the “Start date” column is not filled then do nothing
  2. If the calendar week value lies between the start and end date, then put a “1” to the column
  3. Else put a “0” to the column (it could even be blank actually!)

Now you should see a table which looks like this.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 21.42.23

Firstly one must make the numbers “invisible”. Quiz time! How does one make a cell content invisible?

  1. Google it
  2. Set foreground and back ground colour to white
  3. Everything is always visible – it is all about perspective.
  4. Magic

Once you have done that, you can move on to the conditional formatting part of this little trick and add this rule to the “Gnatt chart area” to see the simple chart you saw in the first figure.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 21.48.45

And you are welcome!

Energy audit – saving 30% energy starting today!

My apartment’s electricity provider sends the electricity bill annually. This provides the opportunity to track ones energy usage once a year, unless of course you are the kind who records electricity meter readings every month. Just for fun.

This year, there was barely any improvement in my energy usage as compared to last year. My life style has been the same and I haven’t introduced any new energy saving schemes in the last year, so the annual bill made perfect sense. If only one would find satisfaction in perfect sense, no?

Anyway, since I had nothing else better to do this evening I decided to audit my energy usage with the hope of finding hidden potential energy saving avenues. Was not disappointed. Time certainly well spent.

What did I find out?

Only the bedroom was LEDfied, and the lights in the other rooms (CFL and incandescent) caused 20% of my annual energy usage. If I were to switch completely to LEDs, then the illumination’s contribution would amount to just 6%

The desktop PC and the WiFi router together were a not so glaringly evident culprits. My desktop computer consumed about 20%, and the WiFi router about 10% of the annual energy.

I am not a complete doofus – I mean my computer isn’t running all the time. It is configured to go to sleep on weekdays between 8 am and 6 pm. If it could be configured to go to sleep also from 12 am up to 6 am, then it would contribute to only 11% of my annual energy budget. Easy-peasy saving. The only investment on my part would be the time to reconfigure the computer.

But what about the WiFi router? Well, the answer to it is quite simply a programable timer switch which will switch on and off exactly when the desktop computer also switches on and off. The premise here being that I would need the internet and the computer to be available when ever I am awake or at home. Switching the router on and off at the right times would shave 6% off the annual bill.

According to my calculations these three tiny investments could lead to significant (ballpark estimate of 30%) energy savings. Well, so there is really no argument against applying these measures, is there?

Investment #1 Switch completely to LED bulbs

Investment #2 Enable (more) sleep on the desktop computer

Investment #3 Programmable timer switch to control the WiFi router.

Preemptive button replacement

Sewing a button back onto a shirt is a skill one must posses. I can sew a button to my shirts alright, but I’ve never ever been in a situation where I’ve had to sew a jacket button back to a jacket. It isn’t the same thing.

Since the button on my winter jacket has been threatening to pop out any moment, I reckoned I’d be better off pre-emptively fixing it. Only I didn’t know how. So I did what every body does these days – I searched for a suitable “how to” on youtube and found this gem of tutorial.

Thanks to the above tutorial I was able to go from these

DSC_0016DSC_0014

to these

DSC_0020DSC_0019

I don’t think I knew what a backup button was before today. One lives and one learns.

Would buying a new printer make sense?

For someone who prints at the most 20 pages in a month, does it make sense to throw out a half way reasonably working printer and buy another one? This is the question that has been nagging me for a while now, and I’ve almost nearly impulse bought one a few times in the recent past as well, so I need to answer this question.

I bought an Epson SX125 MFP a little over 4 years ago for a price I am pretty certain wasn’t a cent over 100 US Dollars. What attracted me to it back then apart from the price was Epson’s strategy to use separate cartridges for black, red, blue and yellow colours.

Over these years, I am certain I haven’t printed more than 600 pages in total and remember replacing the cartridges about 3 to 4 times. i.e. about 150 to 200 pages per change of cartridge. So, as far as the printer economy goes I am satisfied. I haven’t had to spend more than 40 USD per annum for my printing, copying and scanning costs.

However, of late I’ve had to run the “clean print heads” routine one too many times. If it hasn’t been used for more than one month (yes, that does happen from time to time) then the next time a document is queued to print it prints all the pages, as in total number of pages, all right, but significant parts thereof are barely legible. It is unable to handle horizontal lines in this state, rendering online tickets with QR codes more or less unusable. And I tend to buy my tickets just before heading out, so it has caused some pain. Cleaning the print head, I suspect, uses copious amount of precious ink – but the cost per page isn’t really pinching me in any way. Yet.

Changing the cartridges is not that easy either. In older models (of Epson MFPs) one simply had to lift the scanner bed and one had direct access to all the cartridges. Epson has Germanised, i.e. introduced unnecessary complexity where not necessary, this design in the SX-125. Now one has to lift up the scanner bed, and press a button on the printer and the SX-125 aligns the errant cartridge to a tiny opening from which only this cartridge can be extracted. Apparently the user does not know which cartridge to replace, despite them being clearly colour coded. Almost felt like my intelligence was being questioned the first time I had to change a cartridge. There was this one time about two years ago when I nearly murdered the printer for repeatedly refusing to align any of the four cartridges with this “slot” despite being out of ink. I think I learnt the limits of my frustration that day.

Touch wood, since that day I’ve only changed the cartridges a few times (one colour at a time, and I guess I have changed the black one more times than the others) since then, and haven’t had this issue again. So I am willing to let that one ugly episode fade away to a forgotten corner.

Printing wirelessly is in fashion now, and the SX-125 is from the pre-wireless era, so well – it loses on this point, right? No. Not really. In my small apartment, any printer I buy will always be placed next to the desktop – yes, I own a desktop. Hah. Ergo, wireless by association. I had to disable access point separation on my home wireless network though.

The only credible pain point – because I don’t have a suitable solution for it – is that double sided printing involves a certain amount of brain juggling combined with a liberal dose of luck or patience. But then, the printer doesn’t get used that often, so printing double sided, in this case, isn’t going to save any rainforest.

If I were to sell this printer, then no sane person would pay more than 30 USD for it. It being old and used and all that rot. So changing it would mean changing it to be purely keeping up with the Joneses.

And after this almost therapeutic session of writing, I am certain that exchanging the existing Epson SX-125 for a newer, better, shinier printer in the foreseeable near future is not the best of ideas, unless, of course, circumstances change drastically.

Postponing the ultra-book purchase

Brace up for my very real first world problem, the absurdity of which i didn’t comprehend until i was half way through writing this piece.

For the past few months I have been toying with the idea of buying a new laptop. My current laptop, almost four years old; its battery long dead; and it’s mobility a prisoner to its power chord, is not exactly the ideal device to be lugging around. On the other hand and to be brutally honest I do not need my laptop’s computing power when I am on the move. Most of the times I don’t even need it when I am at home.

You see, about two years ago, my wife worked in a land far far away called Hong Kong. Skype and Google talk soon became our primary mode of communication. In this period she developed a distinct intolerance for both my laptop’s dismal video quality and the never ending whining sound of its overwhelmed processor fan which would hijack the audio stream. I, being on the not-receiving end, didn’t care that much.

She argued quite convincingly that we, as in I, absolutely with doubt needed an iPad to prove to her that I did indeed miss her and wanted to show my face to her in HD, not let her forget the sound of my voice. So, I succumbed to her threats and logical arguments and caved in and got myself an iPad 2. Little did I realise the magnitude of my folly. (First world problems alert!)

For starters, I got lazy. I mean it. I could neither get around to typing my mails on the iPad, nor could could I get used to my e-mail service provider’s user interface. As a result, I was only browsing the Internet. Constantly. I got so addicted to the convience of the iPad, that I stopped using my laptop altogether. Earlier, when not talking to my wife, I would be doing something constructive, like reading a book, or perhaps even writing.I am now perpetually saddled with an enormous pile up of unanswered e-mails. I kept postponing all the tasks that needed me to use a keypad, like wishing friends by email, sending condolence messages, or just writing those keeping in touch e-mails. My friends all thought I had morphed into a bigger first class arsehole. I wouldn’t blame them, I had indeed become one in my own eyes.

And then, as any user of Skype on the iPad tell you, for a long time you couldn’t run Skype as a background task when you were using the video chat feature. Which meant hours and hours of me staring like a zombie into the iPad to keep my wife amused when she would be browsing the Internet on her laptop with my beautiful skypeifed face occupying a forgotten tiny corner of her monitor. I got conned.

Thankfully this predicament resolved itself when my wife moved back. The reprieve was however relatively short lived because earlier this year she started working in a city about five hours away by train. Not the most ideal situation for a married couple to be in, but we are trying to make the best of it. We visit each other over the weekends – one weekend it’s her turn, the next weekend it’s my turn.

So I find myself on a long distance train for almost 21 hours in a month. I would rather not stare like a pervert at the passenger sitting across me. The idea of reading a book enroute, I admit, is not such a bad propositon. However, my irrational subconscious gut feeling dictates that writing is the done thing. Never have done it on the train before, so I am quite certain it is merely one of those daft ideas that the gut likes to bully the brain into believing. However convoluted it may sound, under the guise of intending to prove my misbehaving subconscious wrong, I have been seriously contemplating buying a laptop. You know, one of those 1.3+ kilograms light notebooks they call ultra-books.

These little contraptions, cool as they are, are not that easy on the wallet, at least the ones with good reviews or specifications. It would be a costly affair if I did prove my errant gut wrong. I do not like non performing assets. Furthermore, I would then posses four computing devices – two laptops, one tablet and one phone. Big first world problem.

Wouldn’t it be great if the iPad had a reasonable word processing tool? Something more than the basic that preinstalled garbage called “Notes” could offer. So I used our old friend google and “discoverd” Textilus – the tool I’ve used to write this piece. Prima facia it looks like it could be the cure to my first world problem,  if I can get around to typing on the iPad screen. If I do find it usable, then I just saved that hard earned money that I didn’t spend. Maybe I will loosen the purse strings and go buy the premium version, if only to shown my gratitude. Maybe.

Update: April 2014

Author buys a Apple MacBook Air. No comments.

Why Notepad++

Now not many of you readers have had the misfortune of having made my acquaintance. Those of you that have, will unhesitatingly certify my selfish, petty, arrogant and miserly nature. It is with great difficulty that one stumbles past these character flaws to meet that alleged nice guy which my wife insists exists. Another minor character flaw afflicting me is this strong desire to write and a stronger desire for what I have written to be read, preferably by a sample of set of people not entirely comprised by just my poor wife. To quench this double desire, I started a blog a few months ago.

I wrote exactly one post, and then no more. I couldn’t cope with the delirious possibility of being able to publish to potentially the whole world at the click of single button. Heaven forbid someone else has exactly the same ideas as I and posts them more articulately a few milliseconds before me. Perhaps I am suffering from the Facebook-Twitter syndrome. In any case, the antidote to my irrational anxiety is to take the writing offline. I guess I am good at writing at my own sweet pace. The irrational me is convinced that this is the only way, no one else will have the exact same idea at the exact same time as I do. I will leave the psychoanalysis to my Freudian readers.

What is the big deal about writing offline you may ask? There are but a few options – Microsoft Word, Openoffice Writer, or Notepad/Wordpad to name a few.

Between Microsoft office and Openoffice Writer I would rather choose Microsoft Office because it is slick and intuitive and so much more aesthetically pleasing to use. However, as a card-carrying member of misers anonymous it pains me many times over that I must pay $190 or its equivalent to have the pleasure of writing in Microsoft Word. Sorry, not willing to do that.

Notepad is not really a bad alternative, except, I am not really good at spellings. I so desperately dependent on Microsoft Word’s spell-check that I am known to whine about not having spell-check while doodling in my paper notebook during meetings at work. At work I do use a geeky and powerful text editor called notepad++. Entirely free, quite slick, and doesn’t need much resources.

It never crossed my mind that notepad++ could be the medicine to cure my irrationality, until I was editing this xml file the other day and I noticed this red line underneath a word I had just typed in. The spell-check! And it does not cost me a penny! Yay! Now I could write at my own pace to my heart’s content in peace, with a very light weight but at the same time very flexible and powerful text editor.

If I were Good Guy Greg, then I would be donating some to the creators of notepad++, but…

Update November 2013

Author discovers Pages for Mac. Notepad++ moves instantaneously to the garbage bin.

Untouchable blood

It occurred to me yesterday that it was a long time since I had last donated blood, almost 10 years to be approximately precise, which in turn triggered my otherwise lazy brain cells to recall the following incident.

A few years ago a work colleague confided rather despondently over lunch that she had been denied the pleasure of donating blood at a local blood donation drive. I no longer remember her exact words, but the essence of the reason afforded to her was – she was Indian; Indian blood was not acceptable; and only European blood was acceptable. As a consolation she received a voucher to the local spa. If my interpretation of  her body language was accurate, this peace offering did nothing whatsoever, to assuage either the shock nor the humiliation of the rejection. She didn’t explicitly accuse anybody of being racist, but even today, I wonder if that is what she implied.  By the way, at that time she lived in a German speaking country.

As a rule, and mostly without exception, the Germanic psyche is geared to rabidly abide by both rules and timetables. Please note, I am not judging them, it is but a mere observation, just as Simha is an A-hole is too.

The Austrian Red cross explicitly excludes, for life, people born in Malaria prone areas from donating blood[1].

Malaria: People who were suffering from malaria or are in or born or grew up i.e. have spent more than three years in a malaria prone area are subject to a permanent exclusion

The last I heard, most of India was classified as Malaria prone, so I checked again, and have learnt that India accounts for 2/3 of all the malaria cases reported from South-East Asia [4]. Surprise, India is a part of South-East Asia.

Similarly, anybody who lived for three years between 1980 and 1996 in the UK is also not eligible due to Mad cow disease scares.

This small little google-research has reveled that a) you can get a hold of all kinds of information on the internet; and b) my colleague was rightfully denied her pleasure, because she was born in a Malaria prone area, and the rules indicate that people born or even lived in Malaria prone areas are never going to be eligible to donate blood.

Was my colleague too sensitive? Perhaps. Perhaps it was one of those numerous lost-in-translations that occur when two non-native English speakers attempt to communicate in English. I do not know. In any case, my belief that digging deeper does lead to you surprising answers is now reinforced.

Interestingly Europe isn’t the only one which is so picky about who can donate blood. For example, the American Red Cross society explicitly prohibits people who have lived for long periods in countries where mad cow disease is found, i.e. UK, from donating blood[2]. More controversially, gay men are still not allowed to donate blood. At all. It is the same story all over again at the Australian Red cross society [3]. The people who are not allowed to donate blood at all does make for a very interesting read, and it also raises questions as to why donating blood in India is so easy in the first place.

[1] http://www.roteskreuz.at/?id=633

[2] http://www.redcrossblood.org/donating-blood/eligibility-requirements/eligibility-criteria-alphabetical-listing

[3] http://www.donateblood.com.au/faq#faq_279

[4] http://www.who.int/malaria/publications/country-profiles/2009/mal2009_india_0023.pdf