On my Facebook feed recently, the topic of Britishness came up. This is close to my heart as a remainer where a minority of those eligible to vote voted leave, where Britons abroad and Europeans in the UK were disenfranchised and where our unelected Prime Minister has taken this as some kind of mandate. I’ve nearly stopped fuming. Never mind the crowing of the ‘kippers who now have internal strife of their own.

So to me and my friends, these are the essentials of Britishness:

The soft stuff:

  • Fairness. Mostly for us.
  • The Stiff Upper Lip. We’re pretty unflappable. Some great examples here on Quora. I may be gone some time.
  • We Apologise a lot. Maybe not Canadian levels of apology but getting there.
  • Deadpan sarcasm, self-deprecating humour and a healthy dose of xenophobia. The latter is somewhat ironic considering how world-enveloping the British empre was.
  • The weather. We love the weather, good, bad or indifferent. We talk about it. A lot.
  • Shopping at Marks and Spencer. This is one of our British values and you can’t be a terrorist if you do. Your quinoa will spoil.
  • A right-wing government that was progressive on Gay Rights. OK, the blanket pardon vote got complicated but gay marriage was a step forward.
  • It’s horribly broken (A monarch? An established church? Unelected upper house?) but to an extent we still maintain the pomp of the “mother of all parliaments“. Some of our parliamentarians are a bit kinky and I await the results of the child abuse inquiry though.
  • We kicked off Human Rights legislation which is one of the sticks Brexiters like to flagellate us with. Stupid rights.
  • The BBC and the NHS. Two great, envied institutions. Both co-incidentally under attack by the Conservative government who want to give it away to Murdoch and Branson.

The material:

  • Comdey: Monty Python, Blackadder, Little Britain, The Young Ones, Bottom, Fawlty Towers, Absolutely Fabulous, Smith & Jones, Fry & Laurie, French & Saunders, Red Dwarf, Spitting Image, Thin Blue Line, IT Crowd, Spaced, Black Book, Green Wing, Douglas Adams, Porridge, Dad’s Army…
  • Alcohol: Possibly not a good thing but we do consume a lot of it and sometimes even appear to like it. Craft ale, gin and whisky being notable local products. Let’s say we’re oversocial and leave it at that.
  • Technical innvation: Although even ARM has been sold abroad, we used to have a fair few local computer companies: Inmos, BBC, Sinclair,Amstrad, Oric, Jupiter Ace and the game culture (Jeff Minter!) they spawned. We still have the Rasberry Pi.
  • Amazing music. Until recently at least. From the Beatles, through Led Zep to Britpop. We re-invaded our colony over the water.
  • Great Science Fiction: From HG Wells through Quatermass to Dr. Who (twice) and beyond.
  • Food. There’s more to it than fish and chips, which can be very good, and Marmite. Welsh lamb and Scottish beef can be amazingly good. And pork scratchings.
  • Apparently we can’t claim architecture. Brutalism like the Barbican, Trellick Tower and Preston Bus Station came out of Corbusier.
  • The government who has already demolished council housing concept and replaced it with “housing associations”. As someone who was raised in a council flat and in in a country with a massive housing shortage, that’s a shame. Let’s not talk about grammar schools.

That’s a summary of a Facebook thread that got quite long. So even if I lose free movement in Europe and tariffs are applied to our imports and exports, I think we still have a little to hold on to.

Cardiff Tourist stuff

Day 1 – Unsupervised

So, on the Friday, our friends did Cardiff mostly unsupervised. I dropped them in the morning at Sophia Gardens with instructions that they walk through Bute Park to Cardiff Castle and pay the extra for the guided tour of the apartments. This they did and took the afternoon visiting the National Museum. In the evening, I cooked 🙂Cardiff Tourist Stuff

Early (for me) on Saturday morning we went down to Penarth, one of my favourite places in the Cardiff area. We walked the promenade and the pier. We then hit Cardiff bay, the Pierhead building, the Senedd (parliament) and got invaded by a gaggle of Miss Wales wannabes over lunch. In the afternoon, we did Llandaff, the Cathedral and admired the Rosetti.

Sunday took us to Caerphilly to one of the better castles in the region, Ty Mawr for lunch, probably the best pub in Cardiff, and then finished at the bane of Welsh schoolchildren: St Fagans, of which we only did a third given the time.

Photography note: since my real cameras are out of action and I forgot my compact, all photos were taken with my iPhone 5S. Overall, they’re fine for snapshots, not spectacular for “real” photography. The photos have just too many artefacty things in them. For example:

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 10.32.41

Just yuk.

Web team balance benchmarking

In my current contract I’ve spent much time looking at the existsing system, frameworks, team management and such. It was only this week in a tech meeting as we were attempting to sketch out an architecture diagram that I had an epihpany: the team was far to small for the work that needs doing and that it’s totally unbalanced with all developers and none of the important peripheral roles.

We’re a web-based buiness, we should be tooled up as such.

Thus, I put a totally unscientific, yet remarkably indicative survey up, that garnered 50 responses.

In summary, yes, we’re out of kilter, short of front-end, QA, DevOps and a product owner.

Here’s the raw data with a few bogons cleaned up

The two questions I omitted were: “How many technical architects?” and “What sector is your company in?”, but hey.

Acrassicauda kickstarter comes good!

IMG_1372When I got home last week, i had a nice surprise waiting: the Acrassicauda kickstarter I’d backed seemingly aeons ago. Two CD’s, one of which is the new album, the Heavy Metal in Baghdad DVD with copious extras and a T-Shirt. As a bonus, the album is co-produced by the legendary Alex Skolnick.

Musically, it appears to be right up my street, with its Iraqi overtones, much like my good friends Taiwan’s Chthonic or France’s Arkan who we toured with a couple of years ago. And good solid metal in between. It’s on rotation in the car, being about the only CD player we still posess! Digital, baby!

Now to remember how many other kickstarters I’ve backed!

CPAN, Travis, coverall goodness

Travis screen shotI’d used Webservice::Tesco::API to get DVD links for Cineastic and then Tesco announced that they’d revamped the API – a JSON REST layer over the original SOAP version. The original author, wasn’t really interested in updating the module so I took it on.

While I was doing this, I reinstated a bunch of tests that were in the original module, testing Kwalitee, docs, version compatibility and so on.

Then I got pointed at which was interesting as you can build on many versions and add a nice badge to the README! This page had all the necessary documentation including badges for code coverage and versions.

Overall, I’d say I’m now a HUGE fan. Despite the extra overhead, I would say running the code through this pipeline made a huge positive difference to a module I no longer really care about!

More perl test modules

Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 14.03.25


Today I learned about these cute perl testing chaps:

  • Test::Portability::Files – Check file names portability across OSes
  • Test::Synopsis – Test your SYNOPSIS code
  • Test::Vars – Detects unused variables
  • Test::DistManifest – Author test that validates a package MANIFEST
  • Test::CPAN::Meta – Validate your CPAN META.yml files
  • Test::EOL – Check the correct line endings in your project
  • Test::HasVersion – Check Perl modules have version numbers
  • Test::Kwalitee – Test the Kwalitee of a distribution before you release it
  • Test::MinimumVersion – does your code require newer perl than you think?
  • Test::NoTabs – Check the presence of tabs in your project (I have emacs set to stab tabs)

Have a bunch of tests in your t/ directory and away you go! Oh, and set RELEASE_TESTING=1 if the .t files demand it.

CPAN pull request challenge: Crypt::OpenSSL::RSA

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 19.29.27I think I got off lightly with this one. It’s a simple wrapper over a C library.

In summary:

  • There were 3 easily fixed perlcritic problems at level 3.
  • CPANTESTERS had a couple of quibbles, also easily fixed.
  • Test coverage was comprehensive.

And that’s about it! Mistakes I’ve made in retrospect:

  • I didn’t bump the version number. D’oh!
  • When creating my second branch, I branched my first branch instead of branching master.

Lessons learned for this month’s IPC::Run, which will be a totally different kettle of fish.

I’m wondering if there shouldn’t be a much more comprehensive CPANTESTERS and maybe even a Jenkins with a bunch of likely linux, Mac and PC targets to run builds on. Something Travis could provide? Or is it a little too big a project?

Taipei and Hong Kong 2015

I have to say, this time, 10 days in Taipei were a big disappoint.
Largely this was to do with Louise doing Panda and Polar Bear business
so I was a bit of a spare part for most of it. The Taiwanese food was unusually
poor, even the bibimbap bland. We were staying on top of the main
station which was massively convenient for the metro but aside from
that, not much to tell, aside from massive jetlag.

Two full days in Hong Kong, however was a massive contrast. We did
loads of tourist stuff. We stayed in Wan Chai, which apparently is an
“unreconstructed” part of Hong Kong, and certainly contains much of
the old machinery of Imperial domination. We went up the furnicular
railway to the peak to get an amazing, if hazy, view of Hong Kong. The
visual arts centre contained some really good adult art work, the
aviary was amazing, the tea museum and adjacent cafe were lovely.
Louise got to see the comic art she wanted to see (“Storm Rider”)
three times and explained it to me once. The old Police Married
Quarters (PMQ) have been converted into a huge set of units for
showing off all kinds of art, clothing and foods and were really
interesting. We spent a good few hours there. While we were waiting
for the units to open at 1pm, we went up the hill to the Sun Yat Sen
museum, mostly for dad. We discovered too late that there’s an
escalator up the hill. It was also lovely to have “proper” Chinese
food! I had sweet and sour pork at its source.

The whole strip from Central to Admiralty of full of great stuff to
see and eat; you wouldn’t really know that it’s still a red light
district. Bamboo scaffold is quite unusual to see.

Three phone network allows free roaming there, which made having
Google maps a massive advantage. The trams are cute too, thanks to the
guy who directed us to them when we were walking the wrong way.

The station for getting the train to the airport even has a checkin,
so we got to dump the bags early on the way back.

Definitely going back to Hong Kong. It just has a great vibe and despite
being primarily Cantonese, enough people have Mandarin and English to
make communicating a breeze. Like.

27″ Apple display and Dell PC for sale

$_57Due to a project finishing in December I have two pieces of kit to sell. I can deliver to Cardiff or Bristol.

Apple Cinema Display 27″ Widescreen LED LCD Monitor. I paid £580 off eBay in August and a ridiculous amount in postage. It’s one of the earlier ones so no Thunderbolt out, just 3 USB.

Dell XPS 8700, 32G, 3TB+256G SSD, AMD Radeon HD R9 270 2GB GDDR5, 3.9GHz i7-4770. I can put a clean Ubuntu 14.10 on it if you want. This thing is a BEAST of a desktop! Paid £900.

These are great but back to the MacBook Air for me!

New Relic site performance monitoring

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 15.19.29I was having Christmas tapas with old colleagues and Paul, owner and CEO of Cognitran mentioned New Relic as an awesome piece of CYA software: “your app is too slow”, “uh, no, it’s your database, FIX IT”, “oh, OK”.

I’m currently running it on Panda and Polar Bear and it demonstrates how awesomely tuned up I’ve got the site. Thanks Cloudflare 🙂

Sadly, they supply no perl libraries but there’s an SDK and some stuff on github so we’ll see. I see a fork in my future.

Perl, backend, APIs, photography, music