Weeknotes 5 - 24 April 2020

2020-04-24 17:00:08 +0000

  • So I went to Tesco and bought a cheap 4 man tent, and we went lockdown camping in the garden.
  • Also got a huge paddling pool - awesome for the summer and going to be lots of fun for everyone.
  • Second night camping was lovely, little camp fire, watching some music on YouTube and a few beers with Sam. Kids loved it and going to be a repeat activity I think in the future.
  • Was a tough week but the bank holiday days off for Easter weekend gave us a bit of a break.
  • Started the Marvel Avengers from the start - going to hopefully get through them all during lockdown, something to keep us going.

Weeknotes 4 - 17 April 2020

2020-04-17 17:00:08 +0000

  • So I went to Tesco and bought a cheap 4 man tent, and we went lockdown camping in the garden.
  • Also got a huge paddling pool - awesome for the summer and going to be lots of fun for everyone.
  • Second night camping was lovely, little camp fire, watching some music on YouTube and a few beers with Sam. Kids loved it and going to be a repeat activity I think in the future.
  • Was a tough week but the bank holiday days off for Easter weekend gave us a bit of a break.
  • Started the Marvel Avengers from the start - going to hopefully get through them all during lockdown, something to keep us going.
  • This week was a hard week. Everyone a bit tense and going to be a long road ahead if this lockdown continues for as long as some people think it might.

Weeknotes 3 - 10 April 2020

2020-04-10 17:00:08 +0000

  • We were going to go camping this week, but got out the tent and it’s too big for the garden, so today I was not in a good mood.
  • Fourpure brewery are keeping me happy, I love their beers, even the oatmeal stout I got as they ran short of Hemisphere IPA.
  • Work were exceptionally accomodating and supportive, I have many criticisms of government but the MoJ and HMPPS Prisoner Money team have been incredible.
  • I went full bow tie for a team Zoom lunch which was fun! A nice break from the standard zoom call.
  • Much the rest is the same, but time is passing and I think we’re starting to get used to life like this. It might be an effort to get back to normal.

Weeknotes 2 - 03 April 2020

2020-04-03 17:00:08 +0000

  • This week was not a good week. We all struggles on some days and work was really hard and couldn’t concentrate a lot.
  • We did get a bike trailer from Halford’s, so we can do our lockdown exercise with the kids in tow. Mix of running and cycling together will hopefully make things better.
  • I learned a bit more about python, through new team member with loads of python experience. It’s been hard picking up python and with the lack of documentation but it’s all just logic, which I’m getting better at.
  • We discovered the TED talks channel on Apple TV, so now instead of watching random shit to pass the time after getting the kids to bed, Sam and I are learning and enjoying useful stuff, which we both enjoy (but don’t always admit)
  • The dolls house I am building for Georgia and Freddy is getting there, I’v made a couple planning errors, but I think it might just work. Thanks to my Grandad (RIP David) for the tools that came in very useful.
  • The grass is cut and the vegetable patch is nearly clear, ready for the seedlings Sam and the kids planted. We might be growing our own food soon. A sentence I never thought I would write.
  • I miss my friends
  • My mental health isn’t brilliant right now, but MadeTech and MoJ have been pretty damn good in supporting us during this weird time. Thnk fuck I’m not still freelance/contracting.

Weeknotes 1 - 27 March 2020

2020-03-27 17:00:08 +0000

  • Struggled this week with the enforced lockdown that started on Monday 23rd March, where we are not allowed to leave the house aside for essential shopping and 1 daily exercise activity.
  • Started building a resource website for Freddy’s class, with fun activities and a link to a google hangout where the kids might meet up, virtually.
  • Had 48 fourpure beers delivered, although at this rate in the current climate, they won’t last that long!
  • Realised I need to set up the turbo trainer and my bike to get some exercise, I think that’s something very much missing from my sanity requirements.
  • Had a good meeting with a principle developer on the MoJ project we’re on at the moment and happy that many of our ideas and opinions align nicely.
  • Had first remote beers, with work and the spenny lads and it made everything a little bit better.
  • Wrote a pub quiz for the Screen Tree (virtual incarnation of the Green Tree pub) and made a website and everything: The Screen Tree website - that will hopefully happen Saturday 28th March - see how it went next week.

Weeknotes 0 - 20 March 2020

2020-03-20 17:00:08 +0000

What a week to start writing weeknotes. Times are strange. These weekly notes, assuming I manage to foind time to write them every week will document how I feel, what’s happening and celebrate things I did well.

  • COVID-19 is happening.
  • Both the MoJ and Made offices essentially closed this week to help with social distancing to curb the spread of COVID-19.
  • Schools and nurseries closed today, which means next week we have to try and work, look after Freddy and Georgia as well as try to do some element of home schooling for them both.
  • Government introduced massive help for businesses, but seeing how Sam’s work has come to a stand still, I’m very pleased to be working for a well run company (Made Tech).
  • We also have to work, look after the kids and keep sane, but I am worried there aren’t enough hours in the day.
  • Just to throw more pressure on myself I also tried to start a website for Freddy’s class to be able to keep in touch and
  • I’ve hit a sticky patch with the Django project I am currently working on which is frustrating. Still not sure if it’s over complicated or I just can’t get my head round it.
  • Cycled with Sam to her new office for a little bit of exercise and support Sam on her first cycle outing in about 5 years. It was nice and hopefully I will get back to more cycling when this thing is all over.
  • I initially failed to get these written and published on Friday afternoon as planned, so not the best start but a new routine might help get me doing things like this for my sanity.

FFConf 2019

2019-11-11 11:31:08 +0000

Every November I always come to Brighton, and look forward to it for most of the year. Most people like Brighton in the Summer. Maybe for Pride. Or maybe for the Brighton Fringe festival.

There’s also the Brighton marathon, Brighton Triathlon, London to Brighton Veteran Car Run and, my second favourite Brighton regular, the London to Brighton Mini run that I wish I could attend every year.

But the one event that always keeps me coming back to Brighton is FFConf. Now in it’s 11th year, the modern web conference always pleases with a mix of reassurance that I’m still up to date with modern technology and plenty of shock and awe at the things some people are capable of building with a bit of knowledge (and perhaps a 3D printer!).

Hosted and curated by Remy and Julie of Left Logic the event showcases a variety of themes and topics throughout the day. I especially enjoyed 4 talks from the 2019 edition, which I’ll write about purely for brevity, not to do any of the other speakers a disservice.

Engaging with Empathy

by @sharonsteed

Sharon was excellent, and talk me a lot about empathy and how to handle certain situations. I’m also very much looking forward to completing her course on Communicating with Empathy.

My main takeaway from Sharon’s talk was that you need to create a safe space, because people need to be able to ask for what they need. I’m definitely an advocate for this (and no doubt also been a blocker to in in the past).

How to become a developer in 2020 with no time and no money

by @a_adewusi

Amina’s talk delved into the problems with a lack of diversity in the tech industry, including some frustrating facts around diversity in some of the biggest tech companies. However there was also a measured assessment of ways that new developers can approach getting into the industry. It was an excellent overview of possible ways into a career in tech (used some of them myself back when I was a young developer with little time and little money). Let’s just say that Bootcamps are not necessarily the answer, but asking for help is certainly going to result in a lot of valuable help.

The biggest thing that I decided in Amina’s talk was that I am going to really start mentoring. It’s been on my radar for a while, and I’ve made offers to mentor people but it often comes to nothing. So having been a silent(ish) supporter of Codebar Kent, 2020 will be the year I pull my finger out and go mentor as much as I can. Oh, and I must also get better at asking for help myself.

Taking the Web Off the Screen


Charlotte just blew me away with the mix of using technology for art (using a pen plotter powered by JavaScript) and actually creating a piece of jewellery based on a user creativity. The pieces of jewellery created by Charlotte were only surpassed by the attention to detail and process involved in making things from metal. As a person who spends hours watching people gas weld for fun, this talk was just pure joy as well as being an inspiration.

Adventures in reinventing interfaces


This talk was just the perfect way to round off the day. Apart from introducing me to the web USB and bluetooth APIs, and mimicking the Gameboy camera in Chrome then printing to a USB thermal printer. Suz showed how you can write a new protocol, based on the ESC/P printer control language.

The talk then transitioned into an emotional and serious warning about how the introduction of the internet of things might be a terrible thing. For example the Amazon Sidewalk project is a terrible infringement of everyone’s privacy.

Again I was filled with inspiration to follow their example and built my own internet connected devices, to avoid the huge invasion of privacy or security vulnerablilities that seem to come hand in hand with letting corporations into our homes.


My conclusion

All in all I yet again had a wonderful day at FFConf, and as well as learning loads as usual I came away more inspired than ever. Of course I promised myself I’ll do all the things, but with a family and the usual day to day things getting in the way, I’m already doubting I’ll get anything actually built.

But then again, there’s always the possibility that if I go crazy and build something cool, I might just be able to get on the FFConf stage one day, so let the planning begin!

To finish, I’d like to thank Alice Bartlett (@alicebartlett), Harry Roberts (@csswizardy), Laura Kalbag (@laurakalbag), and Anna Migas (@szynszyliszys) for fantastic talks as well. It’s been a long time since I laughed as hard at a talk as I did to Alice Bartlett’s Getting more from Git! The other talks were awesome too and you should definitely watch all the video when they come out at 2019.ffconf.org.

To date, I’ve only missed 2 FFConf events ever (I think!), and I hope to never miss another one.

Speaking – on Self Learning Web Development in 2017

2017-05-23 11:31:08 +0000

In February I spoke at London Web Standards and West London Coders events. I have spoken before (on email development and also on learning new things) many years ago, so it was nice to get back into the swing of speaking at well organised events with an engaged and knowledgable audience.

I wanted to highlight how different the learning experience is for a front end developer today compared to 10 years ago when I started learning development. Using devices, access to the source code and the complex tools we use in modern development as examples of where things have changed, not necessarily for the better when starting to learn.

The video for the talk is online to watch at https://vimeo.com/215200653, as recorded at the London Web Standards event and Tom Morris took detailed notes which you can read at https://tommorris.org/posts/9474.

Both event were well attended and my talk prompted some great discussion and I hope inspired some people to continue to learn web technologies and not get disheartened by stumbling blocks that appear during the learning process.

From the reaction to the talk in person and online, I think that I was not wrong in my assumptions and the experience has changed and is not necessarily going to inspire new developers, especially those who are learning in isolation without support on hand whenever needed.

If you need any help learning web development, you can always let me know on twitter and I’ll help you any way I can.

Power or Heart Rate Training Zones Calculator

2015-01-23 10:58:31 +0000

As part of 7Oaks Triathlon Club, we do a turbo training session with Paul Butler Fitness.

To make the sessions more useful, we work out heart rate or power zones.  To make this easier to calculate from our 20 minute TT (max effort!) average heart rate or power, I pulled this simple calculator together. There’s even a print button, so you can print out the results and stick to your top tube!

The training zones calculator


Code Club’s Desert Race Game – with physical controls

2014-04-03 20:16:19 +0000

Playing Desert Race with a Makey Makey

Makey Makey Set up for desert race.


  • Tin Foil
  • Cardboard
  • A banana
  • A courgette
  • Wire (about 4 metres)
  • Makey Makey
  • Desert Race game
  • Tape (gaffer or something quite strong)

Simple Diagram

Wiring diagram for desert race makey makey.

Setting up the game

This is a pretty easy conversion – all you need to do is change the keypress on the lion to “when W key pressed” to allow for the limited key inputs on the makey makey:

  1. What to change the lion script to in scratch.
    The updated script on the lion sprite.
  2. If you have completed the bonus challenge to add boosts to the game, you could extend this and make another input using the makey makey, something else conductive (like more fruit) and a piece of wire!

Setting up the controllers

  1. To make the foot pads, cut some cardboard in tin foil, big enough for 2 little feet to fit on (or big feet if you’re making it for big kids!).
  2. Using some tape, secure a length of wire, stripped of insulation at both ends, to the cardboad, the wire needs to be around 1 metre in length, to allow it to reach the makey makey and the foot pad on the floor.
  3. Cover the cardboard with some glue (I used spray mount) and cover the whole of one side of the cardboard (but not the bare wire) glue. Cover the cardboard with tin foil. Making sure that the wire you secured to the cardboard is touching the tin foil (and not covered in glue!).
  4. Attach the wires from one of the foot pads to the W key on the makey makey (the lion pad) and the other to the A key on the makey makey for the parrot, remember which pad is connnected to which key (I marked my pads with a lion and parrot image to make it easier).
  5. Next take your items of fruit of vegetable (it’s fruit just for novelty value) and insert some wire (again about a metre and stripped at both ends) directly into the flesh of the fruit. Sercure the wire with some tape so it won’t fall out the fruit too easily.
  6. Attach the wires from both pieces of fruit to ground on the makey makey.
  7. Plug in the makey makey to your computer running the scratch game Desert Race (with the updated key press as above).
  8. Now just press start and with shoes and socks off, hold the fruit in your hand and run/jump up and down on the foot pad to make your character go! The faster you run or jump, the faster the character will move!
  9. And finally, don’t forget to explain how the Makey Makey uses electrical current and creating a circuit to make the characters move!