Freesteel Blog » 2015 » April

Thursday, April 30th, 2015 at 10:13 am - - Whipping

I’ve not been doing as much as I should regarding this General Election. A few leaflet rounds, one canvassing session. After attempting (and failing) to contribute code to the Election Leaflet website, I’ve been handed the job of reading through hundreds of election leaflets each morning to look for anything interesting, which I report by entering it into a google excel spreadsheet. Urgh. But it’s my duty. Takes hours, and I’m going crazy with it.

Top issues are: NHS more funds, HS2 abolished, Green belt protected, increasing recycling, cutting carbon use, and opposing those ineffective flickering noisy windfarms that clutter up the countryside when we need more flood defences that aren’t going to work due to rising sea levels, you dumb-dumbs.

Basically, this election should be cancelled for lack of interest. I’ve driven from one end of the country to the other, from Land’s End to Liverpool, then to Newcastle and back to Liverpool, and there are approximately zero election posters of any kind (plus or minus less than 5) in gardens, on walls and billboards. Even the news media is bored to the extent that it barely makes it into the first half of the news hour each day. There is nothing to say.

Now I’m going camping in a field in Southeast Wales to get humiliated and intimidated at a HG competition for the next few days so I’ll miss whatever comes about internetwise. Be back on Wednesday night in time for the 5am leaflet drop on election day and the count (unless I can avoid it). The real fact is that it’s only the votes that count on the day. Nothing else matters.

Monday, April 27th, 2015 at 12:08 pm - - Weekends

Well, that’s partly because I don’t really know where I’m going at the moment. I do something, it half works, I move on to the next thing, and retain the knowledge without recording it properly.

For example, I’m still on the case of getting some sense out of those cheap £2 accelerometers whose capabilities exceed what I can program. Last week I attached one to the end of a 1.5m long spare aluminium upright and spun round on an office chair as someone timed my speed of revolution. The absolute value of centrifugal acceleration in addition and as a proportion of gravity was consistent with the calculations and within the margin of error. But there wasn’t really enough to write down in a post. When I can consistently calibrate the dip angle of the compass to the gravitational field, then I’ll write it up properly.

Over the weekend I was at MakerFaire in Newcastle, where loads of hack-space people filled out their already packed city science museum with even more exhibits and popup stands. Ten thousand screaming children came through the door. Oddly, I recognized the RoboChallenge kit there which I seen in Coventry in the Fusion360 room where it had been lonely and unused like some kit tossed in there to try and make AD look cool.


Becka got taught to solder a TVBGone by Mitch Altam. We first saw this gadget when we went to the 2007 Chaos Computer Congress in Berlin. I’d never knew I’d eventually be able to do electronics.

A bunch of other stuff happened, but at the back of my mind I was grumbling at missing the best day’s flying in Wales this year on Sunday. The week before I was so desperate to fly in Easterlies that I drove up to Yorkshire on my own at 6am, carried my glider half-way up Whernside, decided it was too windy, stomped back down in a huff, and then felt way too beaten up the next few days to do anything except mope around the house and mow the lawn.

Should just stop complaining. Towards the end of the week the Easter diving cheered up as the water cleared.



I stole some clips of myself from someone else with a gopro.


Becka had nicked the good torch for her caving trip to China, so I was stuck with two crappy torches with dim bulbs. The club did a dive on the Runnel Stone on the last day, driving the boats out of Penzance, before we went home.

Thursday, April 16th, 2015 at 12:54 pm - - Weekends

A once in a lifetime experience required me to celebrate with a full-on McDonald’s burger.
It was horrible.

Time to go home.

Sunday, April 5th, 2015 at 7:26 pm - - Kayak Dive, Whipping

I’ve washed up on the annual Easter university diving trip, though my heart’s not in it. There’s a long period of stable weather forecasted, which should mean the silt will have time to settle out of the water ready for when the novices to get good enough to come out to more exciting locations.

snakelocks anemone encrusted wreckage in Sennen Cove

It’s a bit of a rehash: I’ve done them all before in previous years in better conditions, with Becka by kayak back in 2010. I’m too tired at the end of the day to do any of the hacking I’d hoped for, so I’m marking time. Maybe I should go to the pub more often and not try to make best use of my time all the time.

Curiously, that last time in Cornwall (but one) also coincided with a General Election campaign, and I remember a big Conservative Party poster in a farmer’s field at the end of the lane. There isn’t one there this year. Either the land-owner is not so keen on Cameron this time, or he can’t be bothered, or he’s sold up to a new owner, or who knows? It’s another metric that could have been noted and cross-correlated over the years if we really had the data. For the life of me, I don’t know why these posters never became a substrate for some time-limited concentrated geocaching game. Geocaching happens on a lot sillier things, and this could have been like tracking down sightings of rare wild animals.

Fish approach between the boulders and kelp

Meanwhile, the serious programmers are making hay with the site and Parliamentary candidates CVs.

Watching them discuss stuff I realize I’m totally lost in the last century in terms of the technology. It’s a full time job just keeping up. (And in the large software company I briefly worked for, nobody seemed to be employed to keep up, so they didn’t.) Nowadays I don’t know much more than the difference between JPEGs and PNGs.

Other projects are pinging up around the net, such as where they blogged their technical case study like so:

We are using the RabbitMQ messaging system, our queue server is run by CloudAMPQ (Big Bunny instance, dedicated server)…

Our worker servers also live behind an ELB but don’t have auto-scaling enabled; we manually manage the amount of instances based on the size of our queues, we can check using the RabbitMQ management console…

All of our MySQL queries are handled by the Doctrine ORM and written using the Doctrine QueryBuilder. These doctrine queries are also cached in Redis as SQL…

Our application is based on Symfony 2.6.* standard edition.

For Redis we use the SncRedisBundle. For RabbitMQ interactions we are using the RabbitMqBundle.

We’re using the DoctrineMigrationsBundle for database migrations and the data-fixtures and AliceBundle for database fixtures.

Our CI tool Jenkins runs all of our tests and triggers a new capistrano deployment if they pass.

Is it me, or does it feel like I’m in the world of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reading about how to build a Globular Cluster Information Hyperdrive?

And this, all in the name of electing Members of Parliament, an institution whose daily procedures were already antiquated back in the Victorian era.

Once the process of governance starts getting anywhere near state of the art web technology, it’s going to be awesome.

Or it will be a whole lot worse. You never know.

As the human debacle around the science of climate change has proved, this tech is equally good at spreading knowledge and intelligence or ignorance and stupidity. It’s our choice as to what we want from it.