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Twelve South BookArc holding MacBook Pro

The turn of the Mac: switching from PC to an Apple MacBook

I recently purchased an Apple MacBook Pro for my business, Awdesign Digital, having used PCs for as long as I can remember. This was a response to becoming increasingly frustrated with my existing computers since going full-time self-employed in early 2019.

Up till now I have used two Windows-based machines: a desktop PC purchased in 2011 and an Acer Aspire laptop bought in 2013. While fine for day-to-day use, using Microsoft Office packages and web browsing, they aren’t really cut out for memory-hungry tasks like graphic design and video editing.

Opening applications that I use regularly, e.g. Adobe Illustrator and Premiere, can take several minutes, and from a cold start I found it often took up to 45 minutes to get fully up and running on a work day. With the MacBook I’ve managed to do the same in 90 seconds.

Read More »The turn of the Mac: switching from PC to an Apple MacBook
COVID-19 dashboard

Coronalypse Now: reflections on the COVID-19 pandemic

It’s been quite a few weeks, hasn’t it? With new phrases entering the lexicon like “social distancing” and “self isolation”, and a worldwide lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, everyday life has changed completely… for everyone.

Weddings have been banned, fast food outlets shut and major sporting and cultural events have been cancelled… someone really doesn’t want Liverpool to win their first league title in 30 years!

With news bulletins and social media feeds discussing little else, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by it all. And yet, for many confined to their own homes, the reality can seem very distant.

Read More »Coronalypse Now: reflections on the COVID-19 pandemic
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G Suite: free tools for nonprofit organisations

I have blogged previously about tools that can free workers from the office. In this one I will discuss G Suite, tools from Google that can bring a team together, whether or not they’re based in the same place.

History of G Suite

Google launched their G Suite products in 2006, offering their alternative to established Microsoft Office products like Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Since then, they have gone on to develop a wide range of tools, supporting online file storage and sharing, business communication, video delivery and online marketing.

While G Suite is usually a paid service, costing from just over £4 per user-per month, they have, for a number of years, made it available to nonprofit organisations free of charge.

Read More »G Suite: free tools for nonprofit organisations
Roof of the Scottish Parliament

Reconnecting: reflections on self employment

It’s now just over six months since I left Edinburgh Napier University and made the switch to full-time self employment as Awdesign Digital. I have come to recognise the many benefits of being my own boss during this time, including:

  • Flexibility: the ability to work whenever and wherever I choose (e.g. home, coffee shops, libraries and offices).
  • Variety: no two days are the same, with different projects demanding different solutions (e.g. website development, graphic design or video production).
  • Convenience: my daily commute has dropped from 70 miles to six feet!
Read More »Reconnecting: reflections on self employment
Awdesign business cards

Small steps and giant leaps: transitioning to self employment

Sometimes in life, change is considered, planned and expected; at other times it takes you by surprise as your personal circumstances shift. The latter happened to me this year as I moved to full time self employment.

I was fortunate, having balanced my main job at Edinburgh Napier University with freelance work as Awdesign for 12 years. My roles in each were largely similar, involving a broad range of digital work like web design and web analytics. This allowed me to utilise skills developed as a freelancer at the University and vice versa.

However, despite working as a freelancer for some 16 years now, I still had gaps in my knowledge on the business side of things that I had to rapidly plug when I left Edinburgh Napier. Below are some of my key learnings over the past few months and resources that I have found useful.

Read More »Small steps and giant leaps: transitioning to self employment
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Hotjar: an essential addition to your analytics arsenal

I have been using Hotjar in both my freelance and Edinburgh Napier work for about a year. Hotjar is an analytics tool that shows how users interact with web and app content, using tools like heatmaps and recordings.

Hotjar has been available since 2014 and is very simple to use. It offers a wide range of pricing options (including free) depending on the numbers of user visits you want to track and the number of reports you want to run at one time.Read More »Hotjar: an essential addition to your analytics arsenal

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Using technology to improve fitness

I’ve been overweight since I was at high school. Over the years I’ve made various efforts to shift the kilos and improve my fitness with mixed results.

My wife and I follow the Slimming World plan and are seeing positive results. We’ve also both been training for races in a bid to improve our overall fitness.

Losing weight or sticking to an exercise programme can be hard so I thought I’d share some of my experience in case it might help others trying to do the same.Read More »Using technology to improve fitness

Women using computers in the JKCC at Edinburgh Napier

Women into Computing section for Edinburgh Napier

I spent the last few months of 2017 working on a Women into Computing section for the Edinburgh Napier website.

The aim of the project was to promote Computing as an option for those either choosing their subjects when leaving school or considering a career change. As such, the Women into Computing section is aimed at both undergraduate and postgraduate markets.Read More »Women into Computing section for Edinburgh Napier

Harlaw Hydro year chart

Harlaw Hydro: a case study in collaborative working

In my post on flexible working in June 2017 I mentioned work I’d done for Harlaw Hydro. This community-based, crowd-funded hydro electric scheme has a small generator installed at the outflow of Harlaw Reservoir near Balerno, Scotland.

I was involved in the development of the Harlaw Hydro website used to raise awareness of, and funds for, the project.

With the pump in place, they were keen to display the power being generated.Read More »Harlaw Hydro: a case study in collaborative working