Obfuscated solution

According to this is the year everyone should learn to code. If this isn’t your year then it should be the next one or the next one, but most importantly, you should learn to code. Why you might ask? Well the video claims you will be tomorrows rock stars, you will change the world, solve problems, get all the millions of jobs being created especially for you and perhaps most importantly, receive free lunches at work.

They have the backing of some pretty big players in the tech world, from Microsoft and Facebook to Twitter and Valve. They claim that as companies they are crying out for more coders and that may well be very true, not like they have a vested interest or anything….

I have a big problem with this (and yes as a coder technically I too have a vested interest going on here). The problem is I don’t think coders are the solutions to the problems they talk about and to the problems we face in the future, I think people who can think are.

I will let you into the big secret that this video seems to avoid…. there are both good coders and bad coders. The fact that a bad coder can still code is evidence enough that code is not the final answer or even really, half the solution.

We live in an ever more complex world where problems and solutions are becoming so complex that implementing the solution has become the simplest bit. The hard part is understanding what the problem is and figuring old how to solve it. Now I get that learning to code can teach these things. It teaches you to break problems down, to focus on the system while at the same time drilling down into the specifics etc but it is not the only way to teach this, nor does it feel like the way that will reach the most people.

The reality is trying to encourage people to learn to code is the same as trying to get everyone to learn mathematics in the past. Yeah it is some way towards your goal of problem solving, but you won’t appeal to the people that need this most. The people this appeals to will already be coding anyway. Why not simply give people problems that need solving and then let them get on an actually try? Point them in a direction and see what happens. Let them find their own way into learning and then they can take some joy in it instead of being force fed whatever solution works for a few.

I once did a subject called maths. I hated it and found it complicated. Then a few years later I did a subject called reasoned programming. That on the other hand was great. The difference? The name.


Bright idea?

Last weekend when going to a concert/event at the church in Truro I saw a “prop” for lack of better description built by a friend which got me thinking. It was wooden cross with LED lights inside and a DMX controller to hook it into their lighting system. Specifically they were not just any old LED lights, but a tape strip with RGB LED’s all the way along.

While this is not a new idea to me; it was the first time I realised they were simple enough that I could do something with them. Years ago I saw people messing around with these things in their homes creating all sorts of lighting effects. While very cool (in my eyes at least) it seemed a little out of reach. They were all building custom controllers using more knowledge than I have.

It seems however that times have changed… A little bit of work in Google, a nod from my wife and I bought the following:

  1. 3 X 5M RGB LED tapes with 300LED’s (60/M)
  2. 1 X 6A controller complete with Infrared control
  3. 1 X [email protected] transformer

LED lights being tested

Close-up of the remote

The cunning plan is to put some edging round the ceiling of the lounge and stick these to the underside so they point down the walls on 3 sides of the room. Thanks to our walls being white this should let us change the colours of the walls as well as light the room up a little better.

Failing that they should at least look good at Christmas…


False economy

After recently writing about how I’m not always sure energy saving is always worth it I was reminded of an example of someone getting it very very wrong.

Several years ago when living in Brighton I was in a Superdrug store. It was the middle of the summer and it was pretty warm outside. They had signs up at the entrance to the store saying their air conditioning was not working and they were sorry for the heat.

Inside the store is was absolutely roasting, much hotter than outside. Around the store they had portable air conditioning units spread all over the place. Probably about 10 in total.

The real kicker though was these units did not have external exhausts. So while pushing cold air out the front they were pushing hot air out the back. What I love about this is with the extra heat generated by the device itself unless my basic understanding of physics is wrong they were actually spending a huge amount of money heating the place.


Is energy saving worth it?

I’m always finding people wanting to do their bit to save electricity… but some of the ways they do it don’t make sense to me. Further to that some of them are wrong and some of them don’t seem worth the trouble to me.

The following are things I have noticed or tips I have picked up over time.

  1. You don’t have to switch everything off at the wall. Electricity flows and if it has nowhere to flow to then it stops… If a device is doing nothing (and I do mean nothing) then it will consume no power. Kettle, toaster, electric heater for example all do nothing when not in use (unless you have something fancy with a screen on it).

  2. Turning off your ADSL router harms your connection speed. Your speed is negotiated between the box in your house and the exchange. The exchange tries to run you as fast as your line will take… but if your line keeps dropping out this is usually down to errors on the line which happen at your limit. As such it will slow your connection speed down to make sure your connection is more reliable. The more your turn it off the slower it gets.

  3. Never turn printers off at the wall. When you turn them back on they power cycle the cartridges wasting you more in ink than you probably saved in power. If it has a soft on/off switch use that instead.

  4. When running in standby it means your TV is ready to receive the guide updates as they are transmitted. Ever noticed your guide was not going as far ahead as it should. You probably left the TV off when the updates came round.

  5. Most devices are cheaper to run on standby than you think. Rough rule of thumb: for every 1 Watt of power it uses on standby you will pay £1 a year for it. So I am quite happy to pay £5 a year for having my TV guide up to date.

  6. Not everything uses what it says it will. Your TV might say it uses 100 Watts on the back, but this will have been calculated on specific settings. If you turn your brightness down from those settings for example it will consume less power.

  7. The most expensive devices to run are those that produce heat or have to move something heavy. So electric oven, dishwasher, washing machine, grill, electric heaters, immersion heaters. If you have an economy 7 tariff then your electricity could be about half the price overnight (normally 12-7am or 1am-8am). Running your dishwasher, washing machine and electric heaters most during this time will save a fair bit.

Can anyone think of anything I have missed?


The evolution of a workstation

I recently saw a blog post showing how someone’s desk and computer setup changes over the course of 10 years. While I have only been running my own machine since 2005 I thought it might interesting to go back and look at what I used to work with.

The only unusual thing is that when I first built my machine I was running dual CRT’s. If you keep out of a few specialist industries almost no-one was doing this (I have Thomas to blame for putting the idea in my head).

This is the original setup (AMD64 3500+, 2GB of RAM, 2 160GB disks in RAID 1 and a Gefore 5900ultra for those who care).

I ran that machine for just over a year before upgrading the RAM and adding a pair of 250GB disks.

Then another year after that I decided 2 monitors didn’t cut it anymore and CRT’s were far too large, heavy, power hungry and hot so I bought 3 new TFT’s. At the same time I friend built a custom desk for it to hold the monitors. Clearly I was less minimalist back then.

Unfortunately I only had a single graphics card then so I could only run one of them. Just before moving to Brighton I upgraded the core of the machine to have an Intel Q6600, 4GB of RAM, a pair of Geforce 8600GTS’s and a further 320GB disk. This is that machine in situ in Brighton.

Another year, another location, still Brighton but we moved house. Same desk and same basic machine. At this point heat started to become a real issue with all that hardware packed into one machine.

Then after another year in Brighton I moved into a flat in Plymouth with Demelza. Finally the machine made it out of my room and into a study. I’m not sure why one of the screens is off, I seem to remember it went through a few weeks of not working correctly.

Having put up with the overheating issues for long enough I finally bought the huge case I wanted and moved the whole machine to that. I did at the same time install a new CPU cooler and PSU as well as build a monitor stand to get them back to the right height.

Then we come to today where we have moved into our house and have a different study. The machine looks the same on the outside but underneath has become an i7 32GB monster with a primary SSD for good measure.

As to where it is going next… Well, the monitors will be the next thing to change. Having worked with 3 monitors for years now I can certainly say I am ready for more. The plan is to move to 4 main working monitors and perhaps use one of the old ones as a status monitor on the right. Who knows though, I am always looking for better ways to change my workspace to make my life easier… it just happens that more monitors is the solution that has worked thus far.


Need For Speed

Recently I wrote that I had finally changed lanes on the broadband superhighway and this was as to be expected, great. However there was a little bit of a nagging issue over (rather unusually) the upload speed. The download speed of 65-70Meg was great, no issues there, but the upload speed of 1.5Meg up ish was a little less than the more like 10 I was promised.

With this in mind I called BT to ask what gives. What follows is the call/event log I kept during the issue.

Friday 18th May – Fibre installed.

Friday 1st June – Engineer came out, was told the engineer wouldn’t need to visit the house, he came to the house, called and then left as no-one was in.

Tuesday 5th June – Engineer called, saw 2000k upload, agreed the issue was not here, asked for a profile reset to happen

Friday 8th June – Profile reset meant to have happened, no change. Told I had to wait 10 days for speed to come up (never did)

Sunday 10th June – case was re-opened not by me but BT.

Tuesday 12th June – Spoke to BT and they told me they needed to send another engineer

Saturday 16th June – Engineer came round and confirmed same issue.

Sunday 17th June – BT tech support started to raise issue further, started talking to Iain.

Monday 18th June – Daily updates from Iain (no change)

Tuesday 19th June – Daily updates from Iain (no change)

Wednesday 20th June – Daily updates from Iain (no change)

Saturday 23rd June – Engineer tried to come round, was out (were never asked if this call would be OK). Engineer also confirmed same issue at the cabinet.

Sunday 24th June – Spoke to tech support who went away and then told me the profile had been reset and it would take 24hours

Monday 25th June – After 24hours no change, spoke to Iain and he is pushing the issue again.

Tuesday 26th June – Text from BT saying the issue has been closed. No speed change as yet.

Wednesday 27th June – Called to confirm issue not closed. BT confirm this and it is still being chased.

Saturday 30th June – Morning – Spoke to tech, no progress, they are going to try and chase and ring back between 9pm and 12pm

Saturday 30th June – Evening – They have said they need to send an engineer to try a reset of the profile from the cabinet, if that fails then engineer will do a lift and shift. Their calendar was not working to book one in, said they would ring back, didn’t.

Sunday 1st July – They decided we don’t need an engineer visit to the house and are sending one to the exchange. They also claim that they will do a lift and shift “if needed”. I don’t hold out much hope.

Tuesday 3rd July – Call-back in the evening asking if there was a change. Speed test confirms slightly faster upload but nothing amazing and certainly not fixed. They are going to ring tomorrow when the exchange engineer should have visited.

Thursday 5th July – Called at 9:30am. They said an engineer should have called at the exchange on the 3rd so they are going to ask them what happened. Going to call back in half an hour.

Friday 6th July – Late evening, called for an updated as the last one failed to ring back. Seems their systems are still having issues, going to get someone to ring back on the Saturday. Suggests a lift and shift might not do it, may need a cease and re-setup

Sunday 8th July – No call back on the Saturday (massive surprise). Called first thing and asked for an update. Said they would get a support engineer out (open reach) to the exchange.

Monday 9th July – Signs of progress, upload seems to have gone up to 4-5Meg

Tuesday 10th July – Call from BT saying the work had been completed and to let them know if the issue was still there. They completed a lift and shift.

Wednesday 11th July – Upload speeds now at around the 7-8Meg.

For those not counting that is 7 engineers (1 install, 2 exchange, 2 failed (although one of them then went to the exchange) and 2 to confirm the error.

Total time to resolve the issue was 40 days.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m only kinda complaining. BT did say this was a very unusual issue from day one. Most of them had real trouble comprehending that this was an upload speed issue and not a download issue. The tech’s I spoke to were bar one all very good and helpful. The biggest issue during the whole process was BT’s internal communication between the tech teams and their engineers. Everyone understood the problems they saw, but every time new things about the issue were learnt there was trouble getting that information back to the right people.

All in all I am happy the issue is solved, and after maybe a 5min call they agreed to give me 3 months free service for my troubles, so all’s well that ends well…


New computer build

Last weekend I finally got around to updating the core internals of my machine. I normally follow a tick tock upgrade model where I do a major upgrade and then a minor. After the minor of new case, PSU and CPU cooler of last time this was the more substantial upgrade of the CPU, motherboard, RAM and the addition of an SSD. I decided there was little point in doing graphics this time as I’m no gamer and I had all I needed.

This first photo is simple for scale. The bottle is a 500ml one. This was the machine as it was before I started work on it.

This is the back of the machine as it was.

And all opened up ready for me to start taking things out and cleaning them.

This is having emptied the TV card (which I really had forgotten was in there and explains why I couldn’t find that for my dad recently), graphics cards and the motherboard tray. The whole process of removing all the old components and cleaning them took about 45mins.

This is now mid build. You can see all the old disks lined up on the right, the old motherboard setup at the top and the new one at the front about to have the CPU cooler on it.

A closeup of the CPU (Intel i7 Ivybridge 3770k)

Now with the CPU, cooler and RAM (all 32GB of it) in place.

This time round I wanted to do a bit of a better job regarding the cables. While this case is huge and really air flow is never an issue, I wanted to try. In fact the hardest thing about this case is the sheer length of some of the cable runs needed. At this point all the drives were in place (note the one mechanical left out (This was the last of the 160GB drives from my original machine)) and I was just starting the back cable runs.

Motherboard tray in place and basic motherboard power.

A closeup of all the front panel connectors on the motherboard.

All the drives in place. Top to bottom: 128GB SSD, 320GB, 250GB, 250GB, 1TB.

Build basically done. Drive cables a little messy, but all out the way and actually not as bad as they look here. Both graphics cards in place at this point. When I finally booted the machine up it seems I killed one of them. It certainly wasn’t working. For the time being my 3rd monitor is using the on-board graphics which is actually pretty good

More detail of the drives showing the cables a bit more out the way.

And finally the rear of the machine.


Changing lanes

Having spent 2 years living in Brighton in the outside lane of the internet superhighway I always knew moving down to Cornwall and the West Country was going to present some frustrations. I was not disappointed if you catch my point…

In Brighton we had 50Mb/s download from Virgin Media’s cable service. In the flat in Plymouth we had 5Mb/s download on a good day and on a bad day it hardly seemed worth turning it on.

Then we moved to Saltash (other side of the river) and received much the same despite moving to BT Business (for substantially better support).

Finally after nearly 3 years of purgatory in the slow lane we have finally been allowed back in the outside lane. All 70Mb/s of it that is. I almost forgot what it was like having an internet connection you don’t have to wait for. Multiple streams of high definition video is a start, but then combine that with services like Google maps where the maps don’t “load”, they’re just “there” and you start to remember what you missed. It is worth noting the upload is not where I think it should be and I will be contacting BT about that, but it is still a metric ton faster than anything else I’ve had.

New internet connection speed test

Even I with my job sometimes forget all the benefits speeds like this could bring when delivered to every household up and down the country. Why the government isn’t really pushing this tech as fast as is possible I will never understand. (Oh wait, too busy busting a gut to get HS2 out the door before we don’t need it from all the telecommuting).

All I can really say to sum this up is the country could not have these sorts of speeds fast enough.

As an aside it is also worth mentioning that Virgin media do actually provide their 50Mb/s service in both Plymouth and Saltash (unusually), however both the places we lived in were developments newer than virgin buying the network and as far as I can tell despite golden opportunities to put in new cable Virgin seem quite content making their existing network ever faster while failing to expand it. More fool them I say.


Catalogue of errors

You would have thought these days ordering a few things over the internet and getting them delivered would be simple enough… Well, turns out not quite…

Last Sunday I finally bit the bullet and ordered a good number of new computer components for my much delayed machine rebuild. At the same time I also ordered some harddrives for the NAS. When pricing it all up it turns out I could save (even taking into account shipping) about £90 by ordering from 3 different suppliers. So on Sunday I put the order together.

All the orders were told to deliver to work (which work doesn’t like but my manager said it was OK).

Monday morning first item arrived. It was the motherboard from ebuyer. As I opened it up something didn’t look right. I studied it a little further and then sat at my machine and looked a couple of things up. I realised I had ordered the one down from the one I wanted. I thought about it for a bit, considered keeping it and in the end after weighing up the pros and cons, decided to return it for a refund an order the one I did want. I booked a TNT pickup which arrived a few hours later and took it away. At lunchtime I put together a new order for the one I did want and added an extra couple of things I had forgotten (including a DVD drive for Demelza’s machine).

Tuesday morning the DVD drive arrived (all on its own). The impressive thing about this was it was the item ebuyer said would take the longest and it arrived 2 days before it was meant to.

Tuesday afternoon the two harddrives from scan arrived when they said they should. The other item that was also being delivered was the main order from overclockers. I could see from the tracking information that it should be at work by lunchtime. Then I noticed something on the tracking details. It was being sent to home. Home where no one would be in. I phoned up overclockers who explained they had to send it there because of the way it was being paid for… would have been nice of them to tell me that and not take a delivery address. By this time I could see the order failed to deliver at home.

I then looked at my redelivery options online. I could have it sent to another address, great I thought until realising I could only change it to within the same postcode (so same road). Not as helpful. I wouldn’t have had the chance to check this was ok with a neighbour. I then looked up where their collection location was. Turns out it was about 35mins by car out of my way so that wasn’t really an option. Then I spotted they had an option to deliver to a safe place so I ticked that and gave detailed instructions that there would be a plastic box behind the side gate with a padlock in it so they could lock it shut when done. I also explained it would be chained to the house (not that I was that worried, nothing ever seems to get pinched round out way, but they said it had to be a safe place).

Tuesday evening myself and Demelza spent about an hour sourcing all the chains, boxes and locks needed to create this secure location for them. As part of the delivery companys system I had to take the card they popped through the door and leave it in the safe place signed so they could pick that up at the same time.

Wednesday morning the right motherboard and assorted extras arrived 9am on the dot at work. The main order that was to be left in the safe place was due in late afternoon. So not much to see there. When I got home after work I discovered that they had indeed found the safe place as I had described. They had also taken the signed card out of the box. What they had not done however was leave the parcel in there. Nope, they left that with our neighbour instead and left a note through our door saying which one. While you would think this was helpful unfortunately said neighbour was then out by the time Demelza got home and didn’t come home all last night.

I can see how they were trying to be helpful leaving it with next door instead of outside, however I had provided a secure waterproof location and it wasn’t raining. There was no reason not to do as instructed. Because of this last night I could not install the new drives in the NAS and start building the array. A process which I fully expect to take 24hours and is something I cannot speed up. Now thanks to them not doing as instructed I have lost at least 24 hours assuming next door are back today. Taking into account I need to NAS upgraded before I can do backup’s of my machine and then I have to run the backups before I can rebuild my machine this may well have ruined my plans for a machine rebuild this weekend. I don’t have the time to do it in the week and the weekend after that is my birthday. I have yet to complain however I very certainly am going to.

As an aside I also have to complain to royal mail today because they also left a parcel at home yesterday. This is the new router for the great internet connection upgrade of 2012. Their note through the door said they left it in our “agreed safe place” which it turns out was right in front of our house in view of everyone going by. No Royal Mail, I had not agreed a safe place with you ever, however if I had it would not have been here, it would have been round the back of our house, not in plain sight! So if they think they have an agreed safe place it needs updating.

So all in all I am quite angry about all of this. If all the companies had done as they said they would and done as they were instructed to I would be well on my way to upgrading my machine this weekend. As it stands that may not be possible.


View’s of an ad man

The thoughts and opinions of this man (Rory Sutherland) should never be ignored. He has some very interesting good ideas which need to gain more traction in the government today.

The following should be his latest TED talk embedded, I advise you to watch it. If you have not seen him before I also advise you to take a look at this video:


A little bit crazy!

OK, it’s official, the new job is turning me into a new kind of crazy.

Not the good kind of crazy, the kind where you have great ideas that are a bit out there but still work, not even the crazy where people just leave you to it because you seem to make things work… just the plain old please stop me from scratching out my own eyeballs crazy.

I am now entering week 12 of my preliminary 6 weeks of travelling up to Portishead everyday. I always knew the first 6 weeks was going to be right on the edge of what I can deal with in terms of boredom, sleep deprivation and just plain crazy, but this is now pushing it too far.

At week 6 I was meant to have a meeting to discuss trialling working from home. That didn’t happen. Nor has it happened when I have harked on about it. At week 12 the office is meant to have moved 1hour and 10mins closer to home for me. Does it stand a chance of moving in 3 days… not a hope. Does it stand a chance of moving in the next 6 weeks… maybe but I doubt it. Has it even been announced to the company that this is what it meant to be happening… nope.

There were two things that were very important to me when I started here, working from home and the office moving a lot closer. Neither has happened and it is affecting me now.

I think this is a good company to work for, I think I can do well here… but if promises this important to me get broken how can I trust them going forward.


Gentle Upgrades

No particular news… nothing really of note has happened… just little things.

Today’s achievement (assuming this works) means my blog should now be coming back to Facebook. As is always the case I have tried to link my site together with the on-line services I use, creating a combined set of all my data that I control. When I first started a blog in 2004 it actually started on the Livejournal service. Having used that for a couple of years I decided to buy my own site at which point I wanted to bring the blog to my site (if only so I had some content). I exported my blog and brought it on-line at my own site. I then worked on a way of automatically posting between the two. Then when I started using Facebook I found that I could link notes with a blog. Facebook actually did all the hard work for you then taking an RSS feed and just picking them up as they happened. Late last year they decided they were too cool for that and shut down the feature (in that way that they do). So if I wanted to cross post to both Livejournal and Facebook it was up to me to write something to do it… Today is (again hopefully) the first day of my plan working.

In other news the house seems to be gaining some level of order from the semi chaos. Paperwork is now all in order, the loft has been organised, the garage is basically organised to the untrained eye and the house seems pretty good. Jobs are getting done which is always nice. Still haven’t got around to painting our bedroom but maybe that will happen next weekend.

What is most impressive about all this work getting done is that I am still travelling up to near Bristol everyday, leaving the house at 6:45am and getting home 8pm generally. This is leaving me feeling very sleep deprived and very annoyed at the lack of time I have to get things done, so to have achieved anything in this time is nice. Still, roll on an office move which should give me back hours 2+ hours in my day (2 real hours plus maybe another 1 or 2 thanks to getting more sleep) and roll on working from home for a few days giving me the chance to sleep 2 days in every 5… Still, until it all happens it is just a pipe dream.

As an aside, if you have read this far it means you might care about what I say. As I have been updating the tech behind my blog I should also mean I post more often as it will be easier for me to do so… so in theory, watch this space


All Change

OK, I know said I would do better at updating my blog and I know so far I keep failing, but I’ve been busy dammit! Maybe my blog is actually a really long term retirement project waiting for spare time…

To say the last few months have been a rollercoaster would not do them a shred of justice… Short version I have a new job.

Long version, the company I used to work for and worked for for over 2 and a half years went under. More to the point it was dragged under by a poor business deal which resulted in a lot of work which was never paid for. In the end the outgoings were greater than the incoming and the debts mounted to a point where there was nothing else to do but fold.

Clearly this was a very sad situation not to mention annoying. In fact this process of would the company go under actually lasted about 3 months so there was a 3rd emotion that crept in which was relief. At least we knew what was going on.

The downside was none of us really wanted to leave and we still had clients who liked us. The clear winner was to start a new company and do it right from the start. Easier said than done when you are trying to make money at the same time. This bumped along the bottom for a few months, sometimes making some real progress, but other time settling on the same mediocrity that led to the eventual death of the first company.

Then came the real beginning of the end. Shaun, one of the directors for the old company and also director for the new company got another job. Not because he wanted to but because he needed to. The new company was not brining in enough money to sustain everyone and he had an offer which he took. Originally it was belived that job would be remote and fairly short term so he would still be around to answer questions. As time moved on and he ended up in his new jobs office it became apparent he was not coming back.

As this became apparent I started looking for a new job. Without Shaun in the company my interest in staying was dropping. I was left doing his work and as the lone coder and it wasn’t fun anymore. I found a couple of jobs that looked interesting before finally having a conversation with Shaun about his new company.

A week later I had an interview which was actually more of a contract negotiation and they offered me very nice position as a seiner software engineer which I agreed to. Of course it wasn’t all plain and simple. The new job was considerably further away than where I was used to travelling. With that in mind part of my discussions the idea of remote working and they also mentioned that in the near future they are considering moving offices closer to me by upto an hour which would make my life much simpler again.

So where does this leave me. It leaves me 5 weeks into a new job, it leaves me 5 weeks into a 6 week period of travelling every day from which point I can start working from home. It leaves me sleep deprived and frustrated at not getting enough things done at home. It also leaves Demelza a little fed up with not seeing me. Most importantly however while a little painful now, I am well on the way to a much more sustainable long term career which pays me correctly for my skills. And of course I’m still working with Shaun which I do still very much enjoy.


End of year roundup 2011

I know it has been a while since I did one of these (2008 to be exact) but I consider this a good time to start them again. Bit late as far as roundups go, but better late than never.

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?
Get married, buy a house and lose my job.

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
As is the norm for me, I didn’t make any. That said, I have drawn a line in the sand this year regarding a pension. We have decided by the end of this year we need to both have them sorted.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Having said no to this question for years I can finally say yes. Elkanah, a friend from school did to a lovely little girl called Lena who we went to see over Christmas.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Again, thankfully not.

5. What countries did you visit?
Greece for our honeymoon (we were there between their recent financial issues so it didn’t have any effect on our trip thankfully).

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
Well the last time I answered this question we were not engaged… and I said I would like to spend more time with my girlfriend and spend more time travelling. It has to be said I would still like to spend more time with my now wife and I would still like to do more travelling. We have had a very expensive year (house and wedding not cheap) and I think for now I will just consider this year to be the “recovery year”. We are still planning on going out to France with my family for a week or so but that is it.

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
I would be a nutter if I didn’t say our wedding (June 4th)

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I think actually buying the house and at the very least doing some more grown up things. I still don’t think I’ve grown up, although I have got older. The house buying required me to understand and enter a world I have never got before with odd legal proceedings etc and generally I think I came out on top. Getting married I don’t actually consider to be an achievement. That was just a set of things that we set in motion. The achievement there is the couples who have been together for 30 or 40 years and built a life together. Also starting to show myself as having learnt something from years of woodworking classes and doing DIY with my Dad.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I’m not sure… There is no stand out thing if I’m honest. If I had to pick I think perhaps it would be being not prepared enough for the twists and turns the current economy may throw at us.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
As per usual, colds and alike, but nothing interesting.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
House… clearly. We also bought a new bed which while not that exciting, is a proper solid wooden piece of furniture which represents the beginning of moving away from tat and onto things that should last a lifetime.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Well, I normally become political at this point, so I see no reason to change that. I’m going to say something odd… I’m going to say for once the government deserves some kudos. While no shining light in the darkness and while still doing some pretty stupid things, I feel like there is considerably more common sense coming from Westminster this last year. Maybe in a year of hard times it is hard to say something wrong for them, but that is the general feeling I get. In an equally unusual measure I also want to see that our friend who made huge effort to come all the way down here for our wedding also deserve some recognition.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
I’m going to hark back to my normal the media industries. SOPA and PIPA are stunning examples of an industry that has sat on its arse for a long time, not innovated and now seeks to protect its failing business model through overpowered laws. Long may they fail and they learn the error of their ways. Also, stop trying to peddle 3D content… we are not interested.

14. Where did most of your money go?
A sodding house… Also, yes weddings are expensive, but it amazed me how much money gets spent on little thing that all add up that you never see coming.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Wedding, house and honeymoon (see the pattern?).

16. What song will always remind you of 2011?
Ellie Goulding – Your Song and Alexi Murdoch – Breathe. I’m special, I can have two… (Also, that is two times in a row I have done this and there have been songs with “breathe” in the title).

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a. Happier or sadder?
Happier. This time last year we were just in the middle of our moving out of our flat and into Demelza’s parents and all the stress that came with it.

b. Thinner or fatter?
I think about the same.

c. Richer or poorer?
So much poorer.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
I normally say slept and that is always true. I think I wish I had saved more.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Worrying about things like job etc.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
Between two families. Starting in Demelza’s parents and ending at mine. We also saw a huge number of friends when back at my parents which was nice.

21. Did you fall in love in 2011?
No, I stayed there.

22. How many one-night stands?
None. Still not removing this question simply for the numbering.

23. What was your favourite TV program?
Still the legend that is Top Gear. That said, love Big Bang Theory and Terra Nova is interesting too.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Don’t think so.

25. What was the best book you read?
Don’t think I have read anything this year… well, not that most people would consider a book anyway.

26. What did you want and get?
Again, married and a house.

27. What did you want and not get?
A stable job.

28. What was your favourite film of this year?
So many to pick from this year, Probably In Time. Didn’t see that many this year.

29. What was your favourite game of this year?
Didn’t really play many. I did very much enjoy playing Portal 2 with Jonners.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I was 25 and I went out for a meal with Demelza. I did then have my stag do down in Brighton and alike around the same time so that sort of counts.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
All of my projects being done. Not that that is possible given as soon as one is done another takes its place, but would still be nice.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?
Same as the year before with less t-shirts and actually a couple more nice shirts. Still a walking North Face advert though.

33. What kept you sane?
As always, Demelza. She also still makes me a little less sane, but generally net effect is positive.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy/respect the most?
I’m sure there was one from the year, but I just can’t remember who it was. That in itself is sad enough.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
I think the whole pension crisis got to me when the whole of the public sector decided it had a right to a not only a better pension than the private sector, but some private sector money to prop it up.

36. Who did you miss?
A lot of my friends from the South East as always but I’m fairly used to that and actually they are pretty good at coming to see us now.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
I am going to say baby Lena for being the first baby that I managed to stop crying instead of start crying.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011:
The best thing about a honeymoon is it gives you a break from smiling at the millions of people at your wedding.


Network attached everything

Our home network has finally made the jump from simply a set of computers going through a home router to the internet into something that better deserves the name “network”.

Up until recently our home network was made up of the following.

  1. DLink router connecting to the internet
  2. TV – Streaming content over DLNA from the computer
  3. 1 Windows 7 Computer
  4. Printer/scanner

To make matters worse our TV was connected via power line Ethernet (for the uninformed this is the same tech that plug-in baby monitors use. Signals are transmitted via the power lines in the building. The advantage is no need to run cables, but faster than wireless and you don’t broadcast out to the world (still not that fast though)).

Over the last month and a bit I have finally been bringing it all up to spec and adding a few more things to it (helped a lot by Demelza’s computer finally being fixed).

First I drilled a hole from our lounge into the floor below. I then ran a network cable between the lounge and the study, fitting wall sockets at both ends. I then mounted a gigabit switch to the wall in the study and upgraded our DLink router to a Netgear DG834G which is quite simply still the best router for the home.

My Christmas present this year (which I admit I have had early) is a Synology DS411j which is a network attached storage/webserver/media server/go make a cup of tea/everything server. It is now taking over the files on the network. It holds all the videos, music and pictures and can stream them to any device on demand (including the phones).

I cannot explain well enough how great this box is. Want to watch something from the TV on the box, just browse to it and hit play. Same for music. You can view a slideshow of your photos from there too. If I were to plug in some IP based security cameras into our network I could have it record the video from them and serve it to my phone if I wanted… It is a web server which for a web developer is a major plus (PHP, Apache, MySQL for the interested). Hell, for the really interested, it is just a Linux box, I can SSH as root to it and do what I like, install packages, stop services, mess with config etc.

I don’t even know where I am going with this other than to say my computing life is becoming awesome. I have a network running at gigabit, 2 machines connected to it, a TV that takes content, a server that gives it, a printer on the network and even two phones that can browse to files on the network and tell the TV to play them. And the best bit… it all just works with not a bit of Apple technology in sight (well, sometimes I let my Apple laptop come play)!