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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Amore Ampache

I have never really got the mp3 craze – there are so many ways in which they just don’t seem that immediate and easy. I can’t play mp3s in my car, for example, unless I change my car / get a new stereo / get an FM transmitter,  and also spend time loading whatever mp3s I want onto whatever media I have. I can’t just grab a couple of CDs off the shelf as I head for the door. MP3s can’t be lent to a friend so easily – even technophobes can generally cope with a CD. I also can’t browse them the same, because browsing a list of folders or titles just isn’t as visually accessible as browsing a shelf, so I don’t happen across albums I’ve not listened to for a while. So I’ve dabbled with digitised music a bit, but never really took to it.

Then I met Ampache.

My husband decided to set it up, so I didn’t have to worry about installing and configuring the software, or uploading the music. I just get to use it – and use it I do! Suddenly mp3s are immediate, accessible, almost tactile. From any web-capable device I can access my entire music collection in a couple of clicks. I can play whatever I like at my desk through my headphones, or on the sofa through the netbook. If I get into a conversation with a friend about a particular song or obscure artist, I don’t have to go trawling YouTube, I can just fire up Ampache and play it to them.

I often get put off media players and the like because they have fussy, fancy interfaces that get in the way of what I want them to do, which is play media and nothing else. Either that, or they’re just clumsy in how they open albums or handle playlists. Ampache seems clean, streamlined and obvious. I’ve seen players claim they can find songs by artist, album, genre, etc, but none that I’ve tried really seemed to be able to do that – or at least, not in such a quick and easy way as Ampache does. I’ve also not seen one integrate album art in such a seamless, useful way as Ampache does in its listings, and the non-intrusive random offerings in its “album of the moment” section.

Above all, I get it now. I know I’m late to the party (I often am), but I finally get mp3s.

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It’s generally accepted that maternity leave is a bad thing for careers – there’s up to a year’s gap in your work history, you’ll have forgotten lots of stuff and failed to keep up with changes. Add in that you’ll have lost touch with all your important contacts, and at the end of it you’ve got a demand on your time and energy that means work will never be able to take first place in your priorities. It looks pretty bad, doesn’t it? But it doesn’t have to be that way.

I found that for the first half of my 9 months away from work, I was pretty much incapable of anything even vaguely like work. “Baby brain” was in full swing – I was so forgetful that leaving the oven on became a regular occurrence – and the birth itself was messy enough that I needed counseling for a minor form of PTSD. In the second half, however, I was craving the kind of mental challenges that work provides.

I was involved in a family-oriented charity project that needed a website, and I saw a possibility: I could write it. I’d have to learn HTML and CSS, but that sounded like just the challenge I was looking for. It was something I could do as and when I had time and felt like it, and I could drop it at a moment’s notice if my baby needed me. So I took to spending nap times immersed in W3Schools tutorials and hacking at code. In a few weeks, I had a working website and a working knowledge of (very) basic web design. At the time, it scratched the itch and it did a good thing. I figured that was it.

Then I went back to work. Over the following year, work changed a lot – my department was shrinking, but another was growing, and I moved across and up. Our online database product was being re-developed, but nobody was updating the help files. Everybody that could do something about it was far too busy doing the developing, or doing their day job, to take on an extra mammoth task. Then I saw a possibility: I could write it. I already knew basic HTML and CSS, and if one of the techies could provide a file with the corporate headers and such already in place, basic is all I’d need. The first revision is now available to individuals across nearly two hundred customers.

Instead of coming back to work out of touch, distracted and unfocused, I came back with new skills and enthusiasm that I would never have had if I’d not gone on maternity leave. My company are benefiting enormously from this, in many ways beyond the up-to-date help files. So it seems maternity leave hasn’t killed my career – it’s advanced it.

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