Archive for the ‘Diary’ Category

Iain M. Banks gave me more than Science Fiction books

Sunday, June 9th, 2013

Iain M. Banks died today, in my mind Iain is one of the few people who was capable of building a world so vast yet so detailed that it would take a life time to understand the ramifications and practicalities of living in this kind of pan-galactic near-post-physical civilization.Excession Cover

Iain masterfully takes you through a single thread introducing ideas and concepts that underpin something much larger than the story itself. He does this again and again, winding threads together to build a book.

Beyond my awe of Banks’ world building and book writing skills, there are some very specific things that he introduced to me that have contributed to me as a person:

  1. Out of Context Problems exist; whether these are the September 11th attacks, the arrival of a new and totally unexpected person in your life or the realization of the value of Graphene in material sciences. These are things that change the world in an unpredicted and unprecedented way.
  2. Interpersonal relationships only get more complex in space; let’s face it interpersonal relationships are complex on one planet with one species. Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Hawking have explored this through fiction and theory Banks addresses it again and again through his books both insightfully and amusingly.
  3. When compared to the speed of light we move slowly; in Surface Detail Bank’s describes an intricate battle involving the complete destruction of many ships only to explain that the entire battle started and ended within a fraction of a second. This is a fact of life for us.

I am glad I discovered Iain M. Banks, and I am grateful to the man who introduced him to me. I believe Iain will live on through the pages of his book long after we have all turned to star dust.

Thanks Iain.

Things to listen to on the way to work

Friday, November 19th, 2010

I spend about an hour and a half on the bus every day commuting to and from work. It was a huge boon for me when I got my HTC Desire as it opened up the world of Google Listen.

I wanted to go through some of the Podcasts that I listen to in the hope that someone else in my position can enjoy them and hopefuly learn as much from them as I have:

Software Development / Programming

  • DotNetRocks – one of the best produced .NET podcasts out there, Carl Franklin and Richard Campbell. All topics related to the .NET Platform and software development in general.
  • Hanselminutes – Scott Hanselman is a Microsoft Developer, Family Man and general Geek, podcasts are of a concise and casual nature covering mainly programming matters, but sometimes branching out into other areas of Scott’s interests.
  • Herding Code – kind of reminds me of the Spanish Inquisition (which I remember well…) many hosts one topic or guest. The shows can be a little long.
  • SitePoint Podcast – a fairly new addition to my listening list, I am not convinced on the format but there have been some good shows.
  • Sparkling Client – is short, really short. Which is great as the information is presented clearly and quickly, very programmer like. Makes me happy to see it appear on my List.


  • This Developers Life – modelled after This American Life some podcast I have never heard of, hosted by Scott Hanselman and Rob Conery; it is different, it’s not information its about experience it is also fairly new and has music.
  • Escape Pod – Sci-Fi podcast and blog, what can I say… I love Sci-Fi. Have a listen some of the stories are absolutely fantastic, well worth a listen.

So if you have the time to try some of these give them a go, let me know what you think and what else you find.

OneNote vs Evernote

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

Somewhere in the middle of 2007 I was encouraged to use [[Wikipedia:OneNote]] to clear my desk and move to a “paperless” system, initially this was a little painful as it seemed a gargantuan task to scan in all of the bits of paper on and around my desk that appeared to contain useful information.

As it turned out I realised that if a bit of paper was covered by another (or in fact covered by anything) it wasn’t that important to the execution of my role and could probably be thrown in the bin.

At the time I was not using Microsoft Office at home, opting to use [[Wikipedia:OpenOffice]] for the limited needs I had for productivity software. I did however want a better way of organising my paperwork at home, OneNote 2007 came in at about £70 which isn’t unreasonable for what you got. Then I discovered [[Wikipedia:Evernote]].

Seemed perfect, I don’t generate so much paperwork that I would bust the 40mb/month limit on the free account. In the end I decided to adopt Evernote at home and continue to use OneNote at work, it proved quite a handy separation of work and life.

Recently I have run into two problems that are pushing me towards using Evernote for everything, and ditching OneNote entirely:

  1. Evernote handles PDFs really well, you drag them in and they are displayed using the Foxit rendering engine. It just works. OneNote on the other hand plain old embeds them into the note, great now how is that different from having them in a folder in My Documents.
  2. Evernote 3.5 has vastly improved the synchronization mechanism meaning that I can safely put something on Evernote on my PC and it will be on my laptop shortly after it is turned on next. Microsoft has tried to get this kind of functionality into OneNote and [[Wikipedia:SharePoint]] however it just doesn’t work that well, it is too slow and there seems to be a 10 minute refresh cycle hard coded into the product.

I am still not sure that I want to ditch OneNote entirely, the 2010 version has some nice labour saving devices built in such as quick screen clippings and image formatting with the fluid user interface. Nothing in OneNote 2010 screams “don’t leave me” though.

Christmas Cake

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

We often get a bit of my mum’s Christmas cake each year, this year we got given a whole (albeit mini) cake. Whole lot of other treats in a gift bag. Got to be one of my favourite Christmas Presents this year.

Christmas Cake 2009

Music to Install Windows By

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Windows 7 Home PremiumWindows 7 turned up in the post today. The red box is Visual Studio 2008 which is there to show that the boxes have a similar profile to the old style hard cases.

I have been running the Beta since it was first available to the general public, and I have had Windows 7 Business at work for a couple of weeks now. Bought Windows 7 Home Premium for about £45 from Tesco. One copy for the main PC which I will probably re-build at Christmas and one copy for the laptop which is re-built now. Scott Hanselman described Vista as an operating system that stabs you in the eye a thousand different ways, I would have to agree with that. Windows 7 is different, things work how you think they should and don’t seem to randomly break when you least expect it.

As for the title of this blog post, I have mostly been installing Windows 7 to Vampire Weekend which Kev introduced me to. The track M79 seems to have taken some inspiration from the Sailor’s Hornpipe better known as the Blue Peter theme tune, seems to cut off just at the moment I am expecting it to carry on into the main part of the music. Maybe there is a Mike Oldfield link in addition to the lyrical Peter Gabriel link.

If I am moved to over the course of the next couple of week I shall try and point out some of the new features available in Windows 7 that are cool. For the time being try the following hold down Alt, while still holding down Alt press “Alt Gr” (The other side of the space bar) then press Tab. For some reason you get the old XP style Alt-Tab window. Utterly pointless?

Long time no blog…

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

I had been intending to post up all sorts of bits of news about life, driving, programming and cats but it didn’t happen. I have been busy which is good, however it doesn’t leave very much room for blogging. This post is going to be one really quick catch up entry to try and get me back into the swing of it.

I finally passed my driving test at the beginning of the summer, it was my fourth try and I passed with three minors which was a great feeling… since then I have driven once, as part of PassPlus, which didn’t really feel vastly different, although it was more enjoyable knowing that I didn’t have a test coming up. Catherine and I have decided to wait for a bit before we get a car so we can assess what Catherine will need in terms of model and adaptations in a car to allow her to get the most out of it.

Zoe and KerrySadly Kerry, Zoe’s sister died a few months after Zoe, as a family we weren’t ready to lose her, although it wouldn’t have been fair to let her suffer an operation that might not help anyway, so my parents decided it was best to have her put down. My brother and I got a chance to say good bye to her, she wasn’t her normal self and was in a lot of pain. We are all very sad.

In programming land I spent last weekend learning SQL Server Integration Services and this weekend I plan to get into Analysis Services. Have been doing some utility programming at work to automate some of the file server operations we do, I am trying to automate as much as possible using something similar to duck tape programming to free me up to do more programming to create a more unified and friendly framework for managing the school network. Started using CodeRush Xpress both at home and at work.

In sys. admin world I have been continuing to use and learn Windows 7, I now have RTM installed at work still waiting for RTM to arrive at home on or around the 22nd. Been reading and listening to various resources surrounding Windows 2008 R2 particularly some excellent podcasts on RunAs radio.


Friday, April 17th, 2009

We got Zoe and her sister Kerry in the summer of 2000 before I left for University, it had been a few years since our last cat, Emma, had died and my parents decided it was time to have a cat (or cats as it turned out) in the house again.

Zoe (2000 - 2009)

I love cats, despite being allergic to them, so I gladly sat in the back of the car with the two kittens in their travel box, the as yet unnamed kitten Zoe looked a bit pitiful and couldn’t stay standing up I was worried about her, although as it turns out she made the journey just fine.

As they had just been separated from their mother they were nervous little things, Zoe hid in the corner of the conservatory, Kerry explored a little. I felt so sorry for them I took my sleeping bag and slept in the conservatory with them. During the night Kerry decided to get down the end of the sleeping bag and meow at my feet, Zoe who was more timid settled for sitting near by.

I don’t know why but Zoe seemed happy for me to hold her, I used to carry her round the room moving her in the direction that she turned her head, she quickly cottoned on and took the opportunity to sniff out the parts of the room she was unable to find under her own power; as long as we kept moving she was happy to stay in my arms.

Sadly, Zoe had to be put down yesterday (Thursday). I won’t go into the details as this is not how I want to remember her, I am glad I got to see her one last time a couple of weeks back before leaving for Spring Harvest. We are all going to miss her personality and affection.

Bye Bye Zoe.

Driving Test #2

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Well another day, another driving test and another fail. I had hoped to say that this was a pass day today but it was not to be. I think the nerves got the better of me, I was okay for most of it although my throat kept drying up.

This test actually came out much worse than last time, again I had two serious faults, however more than twice as many minor faults with 14. It was a bit of a shock to me as I had realized I had made some minor mistakes here and there but had not spotted the major faults.

I won’t go into the minor faults, as they are too numerous to enumerate and honestly I can’t even pinpoint what I did wrong, I was focusing on the task at hand and have since totally forgotten the majority of the test itself.

Serious Fault #1 – Meeting a car in the road
This was one of the serious faults from my last test, I got a minor in the same area on this test too. Fundamentally I think it is a judgment problem on my part, I see a which has priority on the opposite side of the road I don’t seem to judge very accurately, I think perhaps in future I need to yield to them regardless of my judgment.

Serious Fault #2 – Road position
I cut across the lanes on a roundabout basically, I don’t even remember doing it and apparently I hadn’t done it on previous roundabouts, perhaps it was because it was the end of the test, and I had a lapse in concentration – although I do appreciate that is all it takes for someone to get hurt or worse.

I have re-booked for the end of May, at which point we will see what happens on Driving Test #3.


Thursday, April 16th, 2009

The nervousness is really manifesting itself this time round despite taking my hay fever medication last night I am sneezing this morning, I think it is just the nerves. I woke up with a headache, the Paracetamol hasn’t really helped that much I am hoping it is going to clear as I head into town to sit in a coffee shop to relax a bit.

I feel nervous about taking the test, although neither outcome has any real consequences other than spending a bit more money and having it hanging over me for a few more weeks.

Driving Lesson #41, #42 and #43

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Like last time in the run up to my test I have not blogged every single lesson, however after a week of Holiday and the last three lessons I am going to be taking my test again tomorrow at 14:32.

I think I am ready to take the test, I felt that way last time – don’t know if I was or not, I am not the person to judge that. However tomorrow we will find out what happens. I have come to the conclusion that the test is pretty much a sequence of events that you either deal with as the DSA deems to be correctly, or not. It’s quite hard for me to get my mind around this method of testing, but that is they way it is to be.

Will post with my results tomorrow.