Twenty years!


It hardly seems possible but I celebrated 20 years at IBM today! Here’s me foolishly thinking that I’d be staying for up to four years while I work out what I really want to do…

…and now I work just up the stairs from where that photo was taken. I’ve gone far!

Twenty years is a long time but I’ve done a few things on the way, so it hasn’t been at all dull!

MQSeries

I started out in technical support on a machine/OS I’d never heard of, asking such questions as, ‘Where is the design that describes what this command should do?’ Much mirth!
Later I worked in test when I discovered that ‘temporary’ generally means several years… maybe decades… probably still there actually… sorry!

Message Broker

…or whatever it happened to be called in any particular week.

Here I learned that a solution can take on a life of its own, becoming only tenuously related to, or even completely detached from, the problem it was meant to be solving. (If only someone had come up with design thinking sooner!)

Master Data Management

Lots of Master Data Management- almost 10 years of that alone!

Product information management, user interface generators (still gutted this one didn’t make it), model driven development, sketchy thingy, the MDM Developers community and probably more. There was definitely some virtual universe community in there as well.

Plus a really nice office with a window seat! And rats, and floods…

Watson

A tiny amount of Watson! Despite being barely a year, most of that time seemed to involve moving desks! Also the only time I really didn’t want to move on but serendipity led to…

Blockchain

An actual open source project this time, which is something completely new for me! And blockchain which I still think is one of the most interesting technologies to come along in… well, in the last 20 years!

And then

I doubt I’ll be in Hursley for another 20 years, so who knows. Having said that, I never intended to be there by now either!

It has been a privilege to have worked with so many amazing people who together made most of those 20 years an absolute pleasure. There really are too many to list without an Oscar speech but I will just mention two: Mark Phillips, who was a bit of a role model right from the start, and Patrick Wagstrom who you should jump at the chance to work with if you ever get the opportunity!

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Epic referendum fail


 

Arg. I had been mostly managing to avoid looking directly at the referendum, unfortunately a ‘myth buster’ and some ‘facts’ dropped through the door today.

FACT: Adding ‘FACT:’ in front of anything you like doesn’t make it a fact!

I know, life would be so much more fun if that did work…

Sadly there has been a distinct lack of facts from both sides of the debate. If I’m being charitable, that could be because the whole thing is a massive unknown. The substitute has not exactly been constructive though.

Perhaps it would have been better not to have the referendum at all? Our recent track record of referendums hasn’t exactly been stellar, and the EU referendum in particular is even more problematic. Perhaps we could all agree to stop having referendums whatever the result is this time. Or would we need a referendum to decide that?!

I did at least spot a couple of more interesting looking articles during the predictably depressing campaign:

Plus this discussion on twitter:

I know that the EU is far from perfect but unless I hear any compelling reason otherwise, I think I’ll be voting remain on Thursday. There are probably pros and cons for either choice but ultimately where you draw borders is so completely arbitrary that I’d personally prefer to live in a larger area that allows free movement of people, than a smaller one. I don’t want to live in a gated community for similar reasons!

I also tend to agree with Ben Goldacre’s reasons.

Having said all that, the real issue of the whole campaign is, why isn’t the official leave site on a .uk domain, and why isn’t the official remain site on an .eu domain?

Update: Uh oh…

 

 

Indoor camping


I’m currently camping on the living room floor while the last two rooms upstairs get a 60 minute week long several week makeover!

Since we moved in we’ve been using the en-suite as a cupboard, partly because the shower leaked. It did make a pretty good cupboard though so clearing everything out took a while. The rest of the house is now full to bursting, even with full loads to the charity shop and tip! Need less junk! After enough flights of stairs to qualify for a Redwood Forest, Ferris Wheel and Lighthouse badge, it was finally all empty…

This is the first major work we’ve done inside the house since having children so we planned carefully. Here are the blueprints at a 1:1 scale…

(No prizes for guessing who added the extra stickers.)

Partly thanks to an amazingly helpful local planning department, we had an extra window after day one. And no walls.

By the end of day two first fix plumbing is done, and the new and improved walls were beginning to take shape. (The existing walls upstairs are literally just a thin sandwich of plasterboard and paper. Quality.)

At the end of day three first fix electrics are in, the walls were back properly and the bonus window is looking like a fantastic idea.

The plastering started on day four and by the end of day six we have one less artex ceiling, fewer holes in the floor, the door back. Even the new shower tray fitted, which was a bit of a relief!

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The whole job was meant to take five days but unsurprising it’s overrunning. It hasn’t helped that the floor under the old shower has rotted through. This time next week, it’ll all be done though, hopefully!

Update: Hooray, it’s all done! (14th April)

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Now I just need to do a spot of painting…

 

Open Data Camp Day 1


If I don’t post a few notes from today’s Open Data Camp now, I never will, so here are a few things I scribbled down- it could be worse, I could have posted a PDF containing photos of the the actual scribbles!

So out of this choice

odcamp-sessions

…I picked, Open Data for Elections, Open Addresses, Data Literacy, Designing Laws using Open Data, and Augmented Reality for Walkers.

Open Data for Elections

I’ve been following @floppy‘s crazy plan to get elected for a while, so this was the easiest decision of the day: what drives someone to embrace the gory inner workings of democracy like this?

Falling turnout it would seem, and concern for a functioning democracy.

The first step of his journey was the Open Politics Manifesto, which I’ve so far failed to edit- must try harder.

Perhaps more interesting was how this, and use of open data, fits into a political platform as a service. It would be nice to have the opportunity to see a few additions to the usual suspects at the ballot box, and Eastleigh got a rare chance to see what that could be like with a by election. Perhaps open data services for candidates could tip he balance enough to encourage more people to stand.

Things that sounded interesting:

  • Democracy Club
  • OpenCorporates
  • Data Packages
  • Open data certificates (food hygiene certificates for data?)
  • Candidates get one free leaflet delivery by Royal Mail- I wonder how big they expect those leaflets to be!

Open Addresses

@floppy and @giacecco introduced the (huge) problems they need to overcome to rebuild a large data set without polluting that data with any sources with intellectual property restrictions. Open Addresses still have a long way to go and there were comments about how long Open Street Map has been around, and it still has gaps.

They have some fun ideas about crowd sourcing address data (high vis jacket required) and there are some interesting philosophical questions around consent for addresses to be added.

It will be interesting to see whether Open Addresses can get enough data to provide real value, and what services they build.

Data Literacy

Mark and Laura led a discussion around data literacy founded in the observation that competent people, with all the skills you could reasonably expect them to have, still struggle with handling data sets.

Who needs to be data literate? Data scientists? Data professionals? Everyone?

Data plumbers? There were some analogies with actual plumbers! You might not be a plumber but it’s useful to know something about it.

If we live in a data driven society, we should know how to ask the right questions. Need domain expertise and technical expertise.

Things that sounded interesting:

Designing Laws using Open Data

@johnlsheridan pointed out that the least interesting thing to do with legislation is to publish it and went on to share some fascinating insights into the building blocks of statute law. It sounds like the slippery language used in legislation boils down to a small number of design patterns built with simple building blocks, such as a duty along with a claim right, and so on.

Knowing these building blocks makes it easier to get the gist of what laws are trying to achieve, helps navigate statutes, and could give policy makers a more reliable way to effect a goal.

For example, it’s easier to make sense of the legislation covering supply of gas, and it’s possible to identify where there may be problems. The gas regulator has a duty to protect the interests of consumers by promoting competition, but that’s a weak duty without a clear claim right to enforce it.

John also demonstrated a tool – http://ngrams.elasticbeanstalk.com – exploring how the language used in legislation has changed over time, for example how the use of “shall” has declined and been replaced by “is to be”.

Augmented Reality for Walkers

My choice of Android tablet was largely based on what might work reasonably well for maps and augmented reality, so I seized this opportunity!

Nick Whitelegg described the Hikar Android app he’s been working on, which is intended to help hikers follow paths by overlaying map data on a live camera feed.

The data is a combination of Open Street Map mapping data, with Ordnance Survey height data, which is downloaded and cached as tiles around your current location. Open GL is used to overlay a 3D view of the map data on the live camera feed, using the Android sensor APIs to detect the device’s rotation.

I’ve just downloaded and installed Hikar and, while my tablet is a tad slow, it works really well. I live somewhere flat and boring but the height data made a noticeable difference when Nick demonstrated the app in hilly Winchester.

Still to come: Day 2!

2013 in review


[Cheating, just in case I don’t finish a real post in January!]

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 25,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Explaining the auto kitchen light plan


Since a few people seem interested/skeptical on Twitter, here’s a very quick explanation of a small update to the kitchen lights. Since getting a Current Cost meter it’s been obvious that the biggest waste of electricity are the halogen spotlights in the kitchen. (It amazes me that ordinary incandescent light bulbs are being phased out while at the same time many new houses are full of halogen bulbs, but that’s for a future post!)

Most of the time the two lights under the cupboards would be good enough, but the switch for those is a bit hidden away, so we usually use the five ceiling lights instead. The first part of the cunning kitchen light plan is to connect the two worktop lights to a Home Easy remote control ceiling switch. Now we could put an ordinary remote switch in easy reach next to the main light switch but where’s the fun in that? I got tentative spousal approval to use an indoor PIR remote control instead…

Results so far seem promising: the lights aren’t triggered walking past the kitchen because the sensor is looking inwards from above the existing light switch, and there’s often no need to resort to the manual switch to turn on the electricity burning main lights… which is actually quite lucky because they aren’t there at the moment!

Only temporarily removed due to some planned ceiling painting* but it was a good excuse to automate the backup lights.

* Well, it seemed pointless painting the tiny ceiling in the porch on it’s own, so the kitchen is getting a fresh coat as well.