Two items today:
1. Over 300 shareware software programs available
Thanks for the superb responses of a few hundred programs to my request for shareware and free software. We are finalising the list and should have it out next week with a free CD or easy-to-download from the website. Much obliged.
2. Are we tilting at windmills with solar and wind energy?
I always admire engineers who practise what they preach. After my nuclear power article some weeks back and the...
Thanks for the inevitably bulging mail bag of responses to my previous newsletters. Some very thoughtful engineers. And as per the suggestions, I am trying to add more engineering oriented musings. Three items today:
1. Amazing collection of free engineering software
I am always amazed by the incredible collection of engineering software programs available for free; sometimes as a result of (expensive) government sponsored research or genuinely altruistic engineers out...
1. A response from last week’s blog suggested that I was denigrating women. It was unintentional and I apologise unreservedly.
2. Accountants are killjoys and engineers over-engineer
Most accountants are seen as misers and killjoys by engineers. They are seen to spoil the fun we engineers have in undertaking projects -they have an innate desire to measure and to ensure that we under spend on a project. On the other hand, accountants feel that we are obsessed with...
My good friend Bob Landman, a veteran electronic design engineer of fibre optic systems, was somewhat sceptical when advice came from a ‘so-called simpleton’. He was faced with a rather intractable design issue - he needed 850nm lasers to work on a data comms project, but did not have the required 850nm photodiodes to mate with them. His wife, lacking engineering know-how, suggested the photodiodes which Bob did have on hand - 1310nm! He originally laughed this off as it didn’t make initial...
Whilst trucking through Toronto this week (and getting sunburnt, despite it being October), I was intrigued by a recent problem between two of our offices due to the lack of proper communication. In this so-called connected world with email and mobile phones, communications between people are perhaps even worse than ever before.
A successful engineering firm is based on outstanding communications – both internally and externally; to clients and suppliers – something particularly...
I am just ruefully contemplating a damaged door frame in our newly renovated training facilities. Great design and building; but one of the new doors was secured to its door frame with a few small and ineffectual nails. Within the first couple of weeks of use it came adrift ruining the entire installation and creating a safety hazard. Nice one.
The Code of Hammurabi stated 5000 years ago, that “If a builder builds a house and the house collapses and causes the death of the...
Some of us get hugely remunerated for solving problems – an airline pilot for solving a problem which involves 45 seconds in his entire career as he wrestles a plane safely to ground, or Red Adair putting out oil fires, or the astronauts bringing Apollo 13 back. At the end of the day, as engineers, I believe problems are our stock-in-trade.
For some reason, we are taught that engineering is all about design and coming up with a nice construction - there is very little mention...
Two thoughts for the day.
1. Engineering blog comments.
2. One of education's greatest confidence tricks - lectures
1. Engineering blog comments
The comments continue to pour in. Thanks very much. I have placed them all up on my blog site at:
I am grateful for your comments. Thank you for giving up your time to read them.
2. One of education's greatest confidence tricks - lectures
Last week I was put through yet another mind-numbing engineering lecture with numerous powerpoints bouncing...
Three things today.
1. Nuclear Power
I had an overwhelming response to "Nuclear Power: To hell? Or maybe, just maybe...Heavenly Bliss?" Thanks very much. Some very interesting comments and some rather acid comments about my professed love for nuclear waste and the nuclear apocalypse. To a (wo)man, all the comments were biased toward an unerring focus on safety and looking after our wonderful environment. I tried to be neutral though and don't have an axe to grind either way. I...
Two things today:
1. Thanks so much for your ongoing stream of comments - every week, I typically get over 20 thoughtful and interesting comments from the 80,000 odd engineers and techies throughout the world who receive this note.. Please keep them coming. I really am grateful for your interest and enthusiasm. Please forward to all your compadres. Thank you !
2. Currently grinding in a tiny turbo prop over the Great Australian Outback, made me wonder about this vast...
Three things today:
Engineering training survey. Thanks very much for the incredible response here. Within short order I have had over 1600 completed surveys - I will make the results available to everyone in the next two weeks. Some very interesting and useful comments have emerged - I am very grateful.
We have hounded you too much with emails. The powers-that-be here have decided that we are driving you to distraction by sending you too many emails so we plan to send...
We ran a successful (based on numbers and responses at the end, so I hope I don't sound like a used car salesman here) conference on Hazardous Areas (Classifications and Equipment) this week. Very enjoyable meeting so many of my engineering peers who were so interactive, enthusiastic and knowledgeable. An enormous exchange of information done in the papers presented, the tea breaks and over a beer or two afterwards.
But one of the common gripes was still the despairing...
As I sit in our surfside beach shack contemplating the surfers riding yet another great wave in this stunningly beautiful but remote village in the SW corner of Australia, I've had a good chance to measure up being a mobile (working) engineer for a few days. But as my teenage daughter says so succinctly - It sucks. There are unreliable mobile telephone connections and no web access here (despite being on the best plan).
I recently purchased a ghastly and expensive state-of-the-art PDA...
After a few week’s gap in my musings, for which I apologise, I am firmly back on deck again. We have been developing a new software product for video conferencing which has drained me of every waking moment, and as you know with software products, budgets and time are rather flexible unless you actively intervene and drive them the right way.
Two things today. Firstly, my comments on the dearth of leadership in engineering and secondly, some interesting survey results...
We are closer to the end of the year. Did you achieve what you set out to do on the 1st January 2007? Perhaps you never gave it too much thought with all the day-to-day stuff going on. I am composing this over a few welcome coffees in Dubai after a missed flight (we’re doing a little hazardous areas roadshow in the region).
Thanks once again to all you wonderful engineers and techies out there who write to me. Your suggestions/criticisms and help is always gratefully...
Last week, we had to urgently collaborate in writing a short article with two other engineers – all of us on different continents. This was the most unusual experience in writing and editing an article in real time. Inevitably, I was on the road. The lot of an engineer, eh ?
The three of us needed to collaborate in writing the document so that the others could read through what I had written as I wrote it. Essentially ‘looking over my shoulders’. I jumped into Google Documents which now...
I remember clearly, when I was in my teens, experimenting with crystal radios and being quite excited with the first crackly reception of the local AM radio station. Or connecting my first telephone up between our shed and my bedroom (and spilling battery acid everywhere - much to my mum’s chagrin). Other moments of excitement were stirring all sorts of interesting chemicals over my Bunsen burner and looking with interest at the litmus paper turning red due to some strange, acidic mixture...
“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” can really gnaw at you. How can you make sure that you’re being paid what you’re really worth? Essentially your remuneration is based on the contribution you make to the business you work in. Other factors that impact on pay include: education, formal and informal training, technical experience, size of the company, responsibility level and the part of the country or world that you work in, and finally simply – supply and...
Recently I received this note from one of my colleagues. I have deleted company names for this purpose.
“Last week the XYZ company made me a fantastic offer that will provide me with the opportunity to gain tremendous experience and receive a dramatic increase in my salary. I pretty much signed on the spot and joined up. Today my current company made me a counter offer of a 38% increase. However, I have decided to move on - I gave the XYZ company my word.”
Having since discussed this...
Before I launch into another one of my musings (rants ?) - My very best wishes to you all for a great 2007 both in excellent engineering and naturally in your personal life. I had a magnificent break trawling through the rapidly dwindling African wilderness with my family, albeit on the one occasion being chased by a large amorous ostrich.
One of my readers (perhaps, more cautious than me), sent me an irritable note blaming for encouraging a culture of neglecting safety when the Montreal...
I know I am one of the major culprits here. I have an insatiable desire to keep up with everything happening in our engineering business. I am tethered to my mobile phone and email/web to ensure I keep in touch and track disasters and relatively good news alike. These can range from a training kit destined for Baku in Azerbaijan being lost in New York, to a course receiving outstanding reviews. My wife tends to turn a benign eye to these deviant work related activities of mine until I am...
Admittedly, Steve Wozniak (‘Woz’ to his buddies) of Apple fame is somewhat of an eclectic engineer and definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. Many engineering professionals would be decidedly twitchy to class Woz as “one of us”. My musings today are on why Woz should be considered inspirational to us – whether you be an engineer, technician or a member of Joe Public.
Most of you would have heard about Steve Wozniak of Apple fame, but here is a quick recap (thanks to Wikipedia.com). He...
We employ an eclectic mixture of experienced engineers, graduate engineers and engineering students both on permanent staff and on contract at IDC Technologies. We run many courses every day throughout the world; so I am privileged to have the opportunity to talk to the experienced old salts and the young enthusiastic engineering graduates itching to conquer the world.
But what infuriates me is the redundant content these young engineering students are being taught at college or...
I was intrigued by our logistics manager, Rosemary's pride and joy - Cedric - a 54 year old FJ Holden designed, crafted and built in Melbourne. Beautiful engineering of a car built to last; unlike some of the rubbish loitering around on the road today.
Once a team of accountants runs their ruler over your business, you can bet your bottom dollar that first they will be looking at the assets in terms of plant & equipment and stock in the warehouse. Second, they will then look at the intangibles such as software, trademarks and goodwill. There will be scant consideration paid to people – those ‘strange entities’ not on the balance sheet. Or if they are on the balance sheet, it will be in terms of liabilities such as pensions, health...
I watch my 12yo daughter with some bemusement when she expertly uses Google to search for information for her school projects. She is reluctant to use my favourite source of information – books from the local library. There is a massive paradigm shift that is occurring at present where people are using search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft to secure the knowledge, information and data they require by simply typing a request into a search engine. This is called fingertip...
Well; the great move to our new home up the road was (sort of) completed yesterday. To 1031 Wellington Street. Things had got untenable at our older offices with everyone sitting on top of each other or sharing desks and computers over the day. Hopelessly painful.
Thanks to young Miss Sumi MacNaughton for engineering the move with such panache. Lots of stress and sore backs but everyone jumped in with great enthusiasm.
It is a well recognized truism that science, engineering and technology are critical to economic growth for a country. So it is vital that we see a continuing flow of good engineers and technicians into industry. In 2001, the British Government commissioned an important study into "the supply of people with science, technology, engineering and mathematical skills". The report's findings highlighted a significant fall in the number of students taking physics, mathematics, chemistry and...
I am currently travelling with a roadshow, presenting short information sessions in various mining towns in the Australian outback. It has been quite fascinating to learn what is happening in these rural towns, particularly with the massive growth in China in mind.
What was especially striking, here in outback Australia, is the enormous demand for minerals and the incredible engineering skills shortage that has arisen as a result.
There is no doubt that the boom in mining and demand for...
Last night, we enjoyed a great evening with our two kids playing in a school musical evening. The one in a choir (much to his chagrin) and the other playing the violin. What struck me about these very young adults is their incredible ability to absorb knowledge and skills. Also their open ness to new concepts. As we have all heard before - like sponges. Over the past week, I have delighted in teaching my boy (9yo) the essentials of differential calculus. I believe when presenting in an...
After running an engineering conference with 80 odd engineers, in the beautiful surrounds of Sydney harbour and its yachts, I reflected on why some of the presentations were outstanding and others dull. The presenters were of a similar caliber with identical resources. The presentations which lacked luster used a plethora of powerpoints and words, often delivered in a monotone and all compressed into an hour – slides were thrust out to the bemused audience in machine gun succession. And...
Stop pouring your money into formal training without pausing to consider the other far more powerful options. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (1996), indicated that people learn 70% of what they know about their jobs informally. Not through formal courses. Or training workshops.
According to Jay Cross, formal training accounts for only 20% of what people learn at work. Was it wisely spent ? In many cases, I doubt it. Our experience leads us to believe that a two day short course is...
As engineers and technical professionals we are all trained to be logical and rational and rely on proven facts in making decisions. The approach with engineers is to vigorously apply the blowtorch to any concept which is rather nebulous and stick to solid engineering design practise. However as Margot Cairnes, an Australian leadership strategist recently pointed out: ‘This often means being conventional, boring and underperforming (when creating solutions to difficult problems). In a...
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