My current contract is at a top-secret governmental organisation (just one more contract job, then I'll move out to the country, try my hand at some remote working and other rural pursuits ;). Not surprisingly the security policy is very strict:
* Can't install programs * Can't change the screen resolution * Can't install fonts (no profontwindows for me) * Can't enable “Group similar tasks on taskbar” * No Recycling Bin * No Instant Messaging
Most of this is understandable (though screen resolution ?!?), but I am a Free Range Freelancer, and for too long I have roamed out in the wilds, installing nefarious apps willy-nilly. However, as the saying goes “necessity is the mother of circumvention”.
First up is PortableApps – Free Open Source Software for Windows, adapted to run from a USB stick so that you can take your favourite apps with you. I love it; there's even a PortableApps menu which sits in your System Tray :)
And then there's XAMPP – Apache, MySQL and PHP! On a USB stick! This means I can set up a test server without filling forms in triplicate. Plus it's easy to install and configure.
Finally I have stumbled across Google Talk via the Google Mail page. Any contacts you have with a Google account and chat enabled (which is about, er, 3 people that I know!) can send you little instant messages in discrete boxes. It's useful to know that you can use a web-based chat client if everything else has been locked down.
And finally finally, just to balance out the headline, I have been writing a lot more web content recently, and have started writing in Markdown, a plain text markup syntax. It's quick to learn, easy to read and there's an online converter which spits out HTML. My friend Michael said “grud on a stick, it's like slicing raw munce”. But I wouldn't listen to him…