2013, in review

So, 2013. How has it gone and what can/will I do to resolve the issues for the targets I've missed.

  1. Blogging - 52 posts in a year

    On this blog it was meant to be 52 posts of insightful commentary on the world and my impact on it. The 52 posts was a little optimistic especially with Emily just a month or so old at the start of 2013 but definitely achievable. The 52 posts was really an attempt at documenting some of my life for my future self and to no longer be a dark matter developer.

    Blogging as a goal is still important to me and after learning about the quantified self movement has made blogging a great first step to a more recorded life.

  2. Open source - Make at least 6 contributions in a year

    I love open source, it enables so much of the work I do. I write code in an open source language; the result will be served by an open source web server; and parsed and executed by an open source browser. That is incredible and I am actively encouraged to help but for years I've done basically nothing.. unacceptable!

    6 contributions, or one every two months was a reasonable target but has not come to fruition. StatsD accepted a change to the go client (it didn't even build!) which was amazing but one in a year is still pretty rubbish.

    My poor open source contributions is partly because at work - for the first of the half of the year - I was in a bit of a rut and working on a closed source platform doing things that the business had done before so rarely ran into issues. Although, that is a poor excuse; being a "9 to 5"-er has never been my goal although for most of this year that is all I have been.

  3. Exercise - gain 5 KG

    I am underweight; 26, 5'8" and less than 60 KG. I have two amazing people depending on me and I'm not looking after my self. This is ridiculous.

    Since leaving my last job I stopped playing football weekly. It got a little better, I started cycling to work towards the end of the summer but it didn't last. 16 miles a day was tough but getting easier even after only 3 trips. Since then the weather hasn't helped and I'm unwilling to cycle along busy roads in rush hour in the dark even if I have lights. I'm aware a lot of people do but I think you are too exposed in those more risky situations, one tired driver in the rain and you are toast.

    For about a month I attended a circuit training class but it seemed to only be frequented by the super fit and I learned quickly that I couldn't keep up. About 30 minutes into my first hour-long class where we had done more exercise than I had done in the past 5 years combined. I started to feel faint and water wasn't helping. So, I quickly left the class and proceeded to lose the majority of my lunch into the toilet. Pacing myself was something I was never particularly good at. Even after that first lesson, it didn't get any easier and after a month I realised I needed to start slower and with something that wasn't charging me weekly £6 for 30 minutes of exercise and another then 30 in the toilet.

To fix all these problems I just need to self-control and not just switching on some inane TV programme or browsing the web when I get home and have put Emily to sleep. So with a timetable and a little black book I should be able to crack this.

Every time I get an idea for a blog post, a way to make my life at work easier or a side project then it goes in the little black book. 5 times I week (everybody needs a couple of evenings off) then I will go into the book with the aim of striking one of them off the list that evening. If the task is too big to complete in a single evening then I will split it down. Then each subtask gets added to the list and will be completed in the normal fashion. Task priority will be evaluated each evening, when I come to take a new task. I will always take the most important task.

At work I now build on top of an open source platform so fixing some of my work issues will have to be solved by working in open source! Side projects and blog ideas always are on the edge of technology, strange languages and databases and being on the edge tends to lead to finding bugs. As long as I can make time blogs and open source contributions will come.

Exercise, this is a little trickier. 3-4 times a week I need to perform exercise and other than the park run suggestion I got from colleague I'm a little stumped. Morning exercises are a possibility and would fit quite well with my current routine as Emily is up at 7 and I don't need to be in work until 10. A gym is also possible but I wouldn't want to do anything without teaching so would need to hire a personal trainer or bug a gym-savvy friend.

So here are the quantified goals.

  1. Write 26 blog posts in 2014

  2. Open 6 pull requests that at least get a comment to open source projects in 2014

  3. Gain 5KG of muscle in 2014

  4. Run a 10KM in 50 minutes or less in 2014

The book was better – May 2009 – From the archives

There are a number of blog posts that I saved from my last blog. In a little series called "From the archives" I will post them here from time to time in chronological order. Here is the first one, a review of the movie State of Play called, "The book was better".


This phrase has been an alien concept to me for my entire life. I could never understand friend’s frustrations when they finally saw their favourite book become a film or TV series. Given that I can count the number of sizeable fiction books I've read cover to cover on a single hand – seeing one become a film has never been likely. Today however was different.

This evening I saw State of Play starring Russell Crowe, Rachel McAdams and Helen Mirren. This film is based upon 2003 TV series by the same name and focuses on the investigation of a news story by the journalist Cal McCaffrey which started after two murders are linked.  This leads us into a thrilling and intriguing discovery of what happened; how deep does the rabbit hole go. Well, in the TV show you get this but not the film.

The TV show is 6 hours of pure bliss of near perfect television. Exquisite, smart and funny writing and some great performances most notably from James McAvoy as Dan Foster (a part that was removed for the film!), Kelly MacDonald as Della Smith and the ever imposing Bill Nighy as Cameron Foster. This show kept me gripped even when I had much more important things to do. I couldn't stop watching it.

The film however was “sexed” up, it was Hollywood-ised. They killed off characters just to add to the body count even though it didn't progress the story. They made Della Smith,  a junior reporter in the TV show, the head of the web division when again it added nothing to the story. If anything it added a plot hole – why would a senior web journalist need to understand how to investigate a story? Also they added the Hollywood action and obligitory violent ending where the “bad guy” dies and everything is right with the world again. These “additions” did little to improve the story and although I agree they needed to add and remove certain elements to attract a more mainstream audience I don’t feel they made the correct choices.

Overall, I would still give this film a moderate 7 out of 10 but would advise people who loved the TV show to not expect anything too spectacular. The story still has its original themes that are as poignant as ever and there is still some intrigue to keep you following the plot for the length of the film.

No matter what I've said, it wasn't bad it’s just that….  the TV show was better.

My first new years resolution completed

So finally got around to looking after my website again (a 2013 new years resolution) but ran into a few problems on the way.

tl;dr - Moved to a Rackspace cloud server, new distro version and WordPress version. Alls well that ends well.

Since I was last managing my website the hosting provider slicehost who were very cheap and very good got bought out by Rackspace. My server then got migrated over to the Rackspace cloud and the site didn't come back up. A number of people mentioned to me during the last 3 - 4 months that this was the case but I didn't really have a reason for my website and let it rot.

January 1st 2013 rolls around and a long list of to-dos for the year sit menacingly in Wunderlist. So once my little family have gone to bed I get to spend the rest of the night trying to get my site into some resemblance of order.

The site was producing

Error establishing database connection

A quick restart of mysql fixed that. But once it was up I realised how dilapidated it looked and especially when viewing it on a mobile phone. So, a new responsive WordPress theme was needed.

Unfortunately all of the responsive themes required a much newer version of WordPress. So ok, let's update WordPress.  Unfortunately I hadn't touched this machine in quite some time it was still running Ubuntu 8.04 (a.k.a Hardy Heron a.k.a Ubuntu 2008 April) and the newest versions of WordPress didn't support it.

So, let's upgrade Ubuntu. By this time it was about 3 AM and I was starting to be a little silly. So, I kicked off a distribution upgrade on a server in Dallas, Texas remotely from Manchester, England without first taking a backup of the machine and without ever having completed this completely on the terminal before. Unsurprisingly the machine didn't come back up. b******s!

Apologetic texts sent to the other sites I was hosting and some "you should be out drinking" responses later, lets fix this!

First thing, lets start with a new machine. I don't have backups of my old database but I wasn't getting that given the machine wasn't booting and I knew I had backups of the other sites and their data was all in google docs - don't you love the cloud! Talking about loving the cloud, lets create a new cloud server at Rackspace with a shiny new Ubuntu Precise Pangolin image.

The install was surprisingly simple. Click a few options and up comes a machine with everything you want - well a clean Ubuntu install with a few nice Rackspace configurations.

Then just a case of grabbing AMW and configuring it. This shocked me, I was used to running my own FTP server and grabbing the tar for WordPress. But now everything comes down off the repository and WordPress worked straight away. Then it was just a case of hardening apache and WordPress and getting the go faster button installed.

So here we have it. A machine destroyed, a new start made and a resolution completed. Lets see if I can average 52 posts this year and complete the second new years resolution! Here is hoping.