I have a lovely, trusty little laser printer which has served me well over the years – a Samsung ML-1510. I was a little disappointed to see that there weren’t modern drivers for Mac OS X for it, until I discovered SpliX. Lovely set of CUPS drivers, restoring my ML-1510 to full usefulness in a matter of moments 🙂

Sharing in case anyone else has a need for a Mac OS X driver for the Samsung ML-1510, or indeed a number of other Samsung printers — there’s a full list on the project page.

Over the past few years we bought a flat and then a house. Some recent conversations IRL and on Twitter reminded me that I never wrote up the tools that we used when househunting. A number of these sites were useful when doing so — please do let me know in the comments if there are others worth including in the lists.

First Things First: Financials

  • Use a mortgage calculator to check what you can borrow and what your repayments will be. Remember to factor in utility bills, council tax, etc into your affordability calculations.
  • Calculate what stamp duty you’ll need to pay and investigate what your conveyancing etc costs are likely to be. Searches, fees, etc, all add up! If it’s your first time buying, then check out MoneySavingExpert’s very comprehensive guide.

Understanding the Area

  • The excellent UpMyStreet used to be my go-to for understanding an area, since it included ACORN data (type of people living in a postcode), crime, affluence, education level, etc. Sadly they were acquired and their functionality doesn’t seem to have been included in the new owners’ own site.
  • However, the MousePrice Area Guide feature gives a fair amount of information and I particularly like their heatmaps.
  • Check My Area is another decent resource, giving affluence ratings etc.
  • If you want lots (and lots!) of detail, then the Office for National Statistics’ Neighbourhood Statistics page is for you. I find the Neighbourhood Summary the most useful, but if you really want to crunch some numbers, they’re all here.
  • If schooling is important to you, then find Ofsted inspection reports to judge whether those in the area are right for your kids.
  • For detailed crime stats, Police.uk plots them on a map and lets you filter by category. Really helpful to judge the relative seriousness of the crimes in the area — for instance, in student areas there might be a lot of “unsociable behaviour” but this might be OK if the violent crime / burglary rates are much lower.
  • Lastly, Walkscore is an excellent little site that helps you understand how easily you can get what you need within walking distance in a particular postcode 🙂 A much more advanced version of the “nearest pint of milk” test!
  • UPDATE: Good point from Chris in the comments: broadband availability matters too! The maps on Think Broadband are useful and if you want to see the sort of packages and speeds available, then the USwitch broadband checker is a decent start.

Searching for Specific Properties

  • Zoopla is one of the better sites, with good map features including the ability to plot a very specific area that you want to live in.
  • Mouseprice again is useful and has a REALLY useful (if a little glitchy, certainly in Mac Chrome) heatmap search option — useful for seeing in colour which areas are likely ex-Council or similar if you’re looking at an area you don’t know so well yourself.
  • PropertySnake lets you search for properties that have been discounted and also shows how long they’ve been on the market for. Sometimes indicates a buyer who’s holding out for a price they won’t get, but sometimes shows those properties that are a good investment if you’re willing to put the work in to modernise them etc.

Making an Offer

  • Before you get too excited about that massive bargain you just spotted, use Homecheck to see whether the discounted price is due to flooding, industrial contamination or similar. Postcode searches are free, but if you want to get very specific property level advice I think you need to pay. Remember you’ll have to get this sort of search done during conveyancing anyway, so use this as an indicator but don’t shell out loads on searches.
  • Check that there aren’t any planning permissions already granted that will impact the property you have your eye on by finding your local Planning Authority on Planning Portal.
  • Check what council tax you will pay by first finding out the Council Tax Band and then checking the local council site for the actual tax band costs.
  • OurProperty is good for finding what the specific property previously sold for. Though of course you can’t tell from this data what improvements have been made or additional lending taken out against the property, it’s a decent starting point to understanding the context of the seller.

(Cross-posting from Geek | Manager)

Principles of Project Management cover I’m pleased to announce that one of my own projects has just come to fruition. My new book, The Principles of Project Management has just been published by SitePoint. It’s a short book aimed at folks like myself who have come from a technical background and are increasingly finding themselves in need of project management skills — whether to officially take that role or to help make the hard work they put in as developers or designers actually mean something, by ensuring the project is delivered properly.

The book was expert reviewed by Kevin Lawver and Drew McLellan who both did an admirable job of ensuring that the content stayed applicable to all sorts of projects and teams, both big and small. They also bravely took on the role of managementese-weeding and survived with remarkably few lasting scars 😉 Drew has written some thoughts on the book on his own blog. I thoroughly enjoyed working with both Drew & Kevin, as well as the team at SitePoint.

If your interest is piqued, then check out The Principles of Project Management book page or download a sample chapter.

In the interests of full disclosure, I would highlight that all the links are affiliate links — i.e. if you buy the book via that link I will both be able to track it and get something back 🙂

When I went to Bucharest, I had quite a lot of travelling, sitting in airports and so on, which gave me the opportunity to read Getting Things Done at last. Reading a hardcopy book offline is something I don’t often get around to these days, which is unfortunate — in fact doing so more is one of my resolutions for 2007!

To be honest, GTD didn’t change my life. Not because I don’t think it’s a great system, but because it didn’t teach me anything particularly new. I have always had something of a … busy … life. During my degree, I was doing a full-time course and working 4 part-time jobs for MOST of the duration. Even at school, I did the equivalent of about 10 A-Levels in my final couple of years, in addition to writing & directing plays, taking part in science, maths and language competitions and playing waterpolo and hockey. That level of different activities to be juggled teaches you very good time management and a host of stress management coping strategies 😉

As a result, I already had a lot of the GTD strategies nailed. However, the two key things I learnt from reading the book were:

  1. Everything I was already doing for work/academic, I should just extend into all areas of my life. Compartmentalising is not always useful.
  2. Contexts are a great tool for making todo lists even more useful.

Taking on those two adjustments, I now have a process I’d call GTD Lite. The fundamental tools are a robust todo list, a rigorously updated calendar (covering meetings, deadlines and future-date reminders), a project list and regular review of all the above. I also use little habits like email blitzes, feed blitzes and urgent/important prioritization to keep it all moving quickly.

All in all, I’m glad I read the book — it was a great reminder of what works for me, what doesn’t and what can bring stress relief even if it can feel like more “process” work.

For others interested in GTD, I’d recommend:




Screenshots-I-Broke-Google-Browser-Sync

Originally uploaded by meriwilliams.

Seems that I might be over-abusing Firefox. I had over 250 tabs open today and when I tried to install Google Browser Sync, it completely bombed…