Our new flat: 4. The Move

I’m catching up on some blogging this week.  Yesterday I reported on the paperwork for our new flat.  Today, I take a look at how we moved in.

When you think about moving into a new flat, you often have an image of packing up lots of removal boxes and taking everything in a large lorry on a specific day from the old flat to the new one.

In our case, by the time we had the keys and could gain access to the new flat we had long decided that we were going to do as much as possible using our cars and then only have the “big move” for the furniture.  Some furniture we wanted to move in advance, to make the “big” day run more smoothly.

But first, we had to deal with our kitchen.

Before...

Before...

Although the rest of the flat had been redecorated, the kitchen had not, although it contained an almost new cooker and sink.  We needed a new kitchen, and so for the first time since being in Germany I went to a kitchen showroom.

Here modern technology played a big part.  Using the measurements that we had already made, we were able to plan our kitchen with 3D graphics, helped by an expert kitchen planner who certainly knew his stuff.  In fact, we quickly agreed on how to use the space available, it took a bit longer to decide on the colour for the cupboards and the worksurface.

Over the course of the next few weeks we – helped by our respective families – transported as much as we could between the flats, whilst trying not to hinder our daily working lives.  We took furniture apart and rebuilt it.  We put tables together for the office.

But perhaps the biggest job of all at this point was to re-tile the kitchen.  What should have been a simple job for my wife and father-in-law turned into a much bigger event when it was discovered that the wiring in the kitchen was not up to modern standards, indeed even potentially dangerous in some parts.  In the end, over the course of two weeks they re-wired, re-papered and re-tiled the kitchen.

After that we continued to use our spare time to move as much as possible into the flat, until, at the end of August, we shut down the business for a week and, with the help of both families and a friend, we moved our larger furniture and kitchen appliances into the new flat and slept there for the first time.

Not all of this went quite according to plan, though.  Our kitchen, that should have arrived in the third week of August was now not scheduled until after we moved in, so we made do with a coffee machine, a microwave oven and a fridge.  Water had to come from the bathroom.  But then, finally, on the last Friday in August, our kitchen arrived.

For around six hours two kitchen builders built, mounted, wired and plumbed in our kitchen.  At the end of it all we had a lovely fitted kitchen where everything worked.  We even had modern drawers that you don’t shut right up – you give them a push and they go in normally until, just before they shut completely, they brake and “zish” in slowly.

... and after

... and after

It was time to relax, but only for the weekend.  The following Monday the business re-opened and we had to catch up on all the phone calls and e-mails.  We had been worried that our phone line might not have been re-connected in time, but everything worked fine.

However there was still work to be done.  Most of our cutlery and crockery were still in the old flat.  Any spare time we had in the following week was taken up with moving things out of the old flat and into the new one.

Now, thankfully, that process is almost finished.  But that doesn’t mean that we can stop paying the rent just yet…

Looking back at Microsoft

With Bill Gates stepping down from his position running Microsoft, it’s quite interesting to take a look at how I have come into contact with their products over the years.

The very first computers that I had anything to do with came from Texas Instruments, Sinclair, BBC/Acorn and Research Machines – and none of them had anything to do with software from Microsoft. As it happened, some software for the Sinclair computers was written by Psion, who I later worked for myself.

But at some stage I came into contact with something called MS-DOS, although it may have been some form of PC-DOS on an IBM PC at the time. For many years that was probably the only piece of Microsoft software that I used regularly. At school we did have Windows 1.0 available and Word (for DOS) 5.0, but I don’t remember using them much.

Whilst at university my laptop (with 640K of RAM) ran on DOS 3.x, the university PCs and our computer at home ran on DOS 5.0 and Windows 3.1 or 3.11. It was not until I spent a year as a student in Germany that I really had much contact with Microsoft Office – Version 4.3 (ie. Word for Windows 2.0).

Ironically I probably had most of my contact with the inner workings of any Microsoft products during my time at Psion in Germany – usually working out why some file or calendar would not convert or synchronise with Microsoft Office products, or why the palmtop was not connecting properly to a new release of Windows.

These days the operating system has got much more complex – there is just so much to learn about Windows XP and Vista, not to mention and of the server operating systems. But with so much now web-based, the trend has reverted to simpler applications.

Products like OpenOffice.org and Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird have changed the way home users use their software, with Microsoft Outlook being something I normally only see in a corporate environment.

But whatever you may think about Microsoft’s software policies, there is one thing I definitely admire Mr. Gates for: unlike many IT managers out there, he started “hands-on” – he programmed computers, he wrote code for the company’s first products and grew from there.  He is not someone brought in “just” to run the company, but knows the background of what he is talking about.

When I look at what IT students study today and compare it with what I studied in the 1990s, I am sometimes horrified how little is taught about the “basics”.  I learnt how to structure a database and code it, I didn’t just click it together in a front end.  I learnt about how and why things happened, and what consequences actions could have.  I was studying at a time when memory was still a scarce and often restricted commodity – something many of today’s software developers would do well to remember.

I still have that laptop with 640K of RAM, no hard disc and a double disc drive. I serves as a good reminder of the days when finding a configuration problem meant looking from an INI-file and not searching the Windows registry. When you had to tell a word processor to start and stop formatting a piece of text, eg. bold, and didn’t see the end result until it appeared on the printer. When a backup of my data meant one or two floppy discs, and not one or two DVDs.

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