Look Out

July 26th, 2014

The Look OutThe summer holidays are now in full swing. Christine and her Mum took the children to try out the latest summer trail and new wild play area at Mottifsont yesterday. Today, I got to join in the fun as we joined friends at the Look Out Discovery Centre, near Bracknell (familiar to many orienteers as the base for many a Star Posts event). We’ve not been in to the Look Out since it gained the Discovery Centre suffix but were suitably impressed as it packed a lot in to the small space. Indeed, despite having many of the same exhibits as Intech, they seemed to do a much better of providing short explanations suitable for children. The children particularly liked the ‘Build it’ exhibit and spent ages winding tiles up the conveyor and then sending them straight back down the chute! We probably also benefitted from the sunshine keeping the hoards outside. Despite being there for nearly six hours, we didn’t make it further in to the forest than the playground.

Hampton Ridge and Hursley

July 19th, 2014

Last night the orienteering club had a BBQ over at Hugh Risebrow’s beautifully situated place on the edge of the Hampton Ridge map. There was a 60 minute score event which had the added complication that the Forestry Commission permit required that we stay on the paths. I managed to visit all the controls in 56 mins but took the FC ruling to apply to all paths on the ground, not necessarily just those on the map! In addition to the BBQ, I also managed a game of croquet.

Christine at HursleyToday it was the last Summer Series event. As it was on home turf at Hursley, I’d been helping with permissions, map corrections, and the first time planner. It was a damp start to the day as we hung controls and there was a minor panic when I realised I was 5 stakes and a kite short. Thankfully the stakes were liberated from road signs and the start managed without a kite. I did then proceed to hang one of the yellow controls in the wrong place as I wasn’t looking at the map!

By first start everything was in place though and the sun also saw fit to shine. I had a quick run (strictly non-competitive this time) before heading back to pick up the rest of the family. Christine secured her second place in the Summer Series handicap whilst I took the children round the yellow course for their first win of the season. They then enjoyed thrashing the nettles with big sticks with the other youngsters!

Meetup Happy

July 19th, 2014

I’ve gone a bit meetup happy in the past two weeks. Last week I headed along to the Pivotal offices in London for the first London Cloud Foundry User Group meetup organised by one-time colleague Duncan Winn. First to speaker was another ex-Hursley employee, Glyn Normington. He gave a fascinating presentation in to the work that he and his colleagues are doing to replace the backend of Cloud Foundry’s Warden container with libcontainer (now split out from Docker). More on this over on Glyn’s blog.

Next up was London based Tammer Saleh, Director of Products at Pivotal Cloud Foundry Services. You can see the recording of this session from the Cloud Foundry Summit where they talk about the different models for stacking server instances. Finally, James Watters (Vice President of Product, Marketing and Ecosystem for Cloud Foundry at Pivotal) talked about the roadmap for Cloud Foundry in 2014 (including what’s out of scope). See James Bayer’s session from the summit for similar information.

The next meetup was my first at Agile South Coast. If nothing else, this gave me an excuse to have a nose at the new(ish) Ordnance Survey offices! I can’t claim to have been welcomed with open arms to the group (no-one even commented on the fact that they hadn’t seen me there before) but that’s fine by me. Most notable to me though was the fact that I was the only one there who wasn’t a scrum master by profession. Have developers lost interest in agile?

As one would expect with this audience, it wasn’t long before the post-it notes were out and we were collaborating on choosing subjects to discuss. My heart sunk when topics such as “should spikes be given points?” were selected but I was glad when the resounding response from the group seemed to be “it doesn’t really matter – whatever works for you”. Oh, and apparently PSM is more through than CSM but the latter gets more CV points! As I’m part way through reading Kanban in Action, the discussion on Scrum vs Agile in a BAU environment was interesting. I may yet make it to another of these meet ups.

The American style pizza and good selection of beer certainly helped make the trip into town worthwhile although I’ll not mistakenly pick up the 7.2% Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA in future!

Lastly, I returned to Developer South Coast for a session entitled “NoSQL vs SQL… Fight!”. Actually, there wasn’t much of a fight to be had as the speaker (Tony Rogerson) is an SQL Server DBA. He gave a thorough although halting coverage of the theory behind relational and NoSQL databases though which sadly meant he ran out of time before reaching the potentially more interesting topic of NewSQL databases.

Coast Path Finale

June 28th, 2014

Mass Beach RunHaving managed to get a reasonably sized SOC team together for this year’s Dorset Coast Path Relay it was perhaps inevitable that none of the other clubs would! As a consequence, it was decided that we would all join forces for a final record attempt before calling it a day.

SOC was allocated the section from Hardy’s Monument to Osmington. At ~15km I couldn’t really justify dragging 18 people down to Dorset even for a record attempt and we were eventually a (sub-)team of 10. I was off first and had a somewhat flustered start as it was shortly after being told that I had about 20 minutes to wait! I still haven’t completely thrown the cough that’s been plaguing me for the last month and my breathing was somewhat laboured. As I handed over to Andrew Nash it was clear that I wasn’t in any state to run the King of the Coast section later with Tim and Tamsin.

Christine and I were meant to help with a couple of hill sections but we managed to miss both of them. We therefore headed off to Studland for the children to enjoy the beach. Sadly when the incoming runner finally reached the group waiting for the mass run along the beach we were already well over the previous record time. Christine ran with them and then jogged back before we all headed to the pub.

Thankfully, of the promised sunshine and heavy showers, the latter part didn’t show its face until we were driving home. It’s sad to think of this as the last Coast Path Relay – maybe its time will come again…

Back to Hilliers

June 8th, 2014

After having let our Hillier Gardens membership lapse for a few months we finally renewed it last weekend. We took a look at this year’s sculpture’s in the garden on a lovely sunny afternoon with an ice cream just to ensure that the children want to come back again soon! We went for the ‘Plus’ membership again which includes the Hants County Council ‘Culture-All’ pass so we can now once again resume our trips out to the various and varied locations it covers. This weekend the orienteering club’s summer series event was at Queen Elizabeth Country Park so free parking there is one we can tick off the list. Having arrived sufficiently late to miss the morning’s downpours, we were treated to yet another lovely sunny afternoon. The children enjoyed their yellow course, the various playgrounds, and yet another ice cream. It must be summer!

Emma @ 7

June 2nd, 2014

Emma on her 7th BirthdayEmma’s birthday this year was a drawn out affair. Falling in half-term she had her party the weekend before. This was to have been a trip out to a cinema and restaurant with a few friends but, due to some confusion over cinema schedules (at one point it looked like Godzilla was going to be the only film on!), we actually ended up having those same few friends round to watch a film at our house which proved very easy for us. I donned black tie to serve lunch. Emma chose a selection of films from Google Play/Amazon Instant Video in advance and, after consulting her friends and tossing a coin for the tie-breaker, they ended up with the somewhat surprising choice of Charlotte’s Web, a film released before Emma was even born!

On the day itself, the weather forecast looked particularly poor. As a result, we deferred hunting for Fairy Doors at Furzey Gardens until later in the week and joined the crowds at Winchester Discovery Centre instead. I’m still not sure why Emma enjoys going there so much. The previous week she had declared that science was her favourite subject at school only to spoil things somewhat by adding that she particularly liked the bit where God made the world! Typically, of the presents she received, the small dressable dolls that Granny Sue had picked up in a charity shop appear to be the favourite, outlasting the novelty of the loom bands. She had to wait another week to move in to her main present from us: her own bedroom. In many ways it’s sad that we don’t get to listen to them chatting away to each other after we’ve said good night and, once Emma has a little more furniture, there will be the inevitable tears as they try to divide up the books and soft toys between them, but I think they will both appreciate having a little space that they can call their own.


AWS Update

May 5th, 2014

At the end of April I went to the AWS Summit at ExCeL London, partly to keep up with the competition but largely because the attendees are a different crowd to those you get at your average IBM conference. I managed to miss most of the keynote, partly by design (no early start and an off-peak ticket) and partly due to someone driving in to a level-crossing in Southampton! Having watched the video subsequently, I don’t think I missed a great deal. The only announcements from Amazon that peaked my interest was the arrival of Amazon WorkSpaces in Ireland and the availability of the Twitter stream in Amazon Kinesis.

As in common with the rest of the day, it was the customer slots that were the most interesting. For example, SwiftKey talked about their use of Hadoop on AWS to crunch Wikipedia in other languages to build a starter set for their language models, through to CloudFront as the CDN for serving the final models up to their customers.

I had an interesting chat over lunch with someone who was actually an IBM customer and then wandered the expo watching demos by some of the likely suspects in the cloud deployment, management and monitoring space (Chef, Splunk, DataDog, …).

After lunch the breakout sessions began with six parallel tracks this year. I went to Deployment Done Right first, covering Elastic Beanstalk, OpsWorks and CloudFormation. The only new news for me was an aside that Beanstalk nows supports Docker. It seems like pretty lame support for containerisation though as you appear to get an EC2 instance per image. The accompanying presentation from Sportpursuit.com was most notable for the long list of open source software in use (Nginx, PHP, Magento, Varnish, Redis, Memcached, Elasticsearch, Jenkins, Capistrano, Capify EC2, Boto, …).

Next up was Dynamic Content Acceleration covering the CloudFront CDN and Route 53 DNS with the aim of knocking a second off your response times. The customer this time was import.io which is an interesting site in its own right, providing the capability to turn websites in to structured data (for free).

For the last session of the day I picked Scaling on AWS for the First 10 Million Users which did not, as you might expect, spend a lot of time on auto-scaling, but covered all aspect of application architecture that would contribute to scaling. The customer was the mobile taxi app firm Hailo who are pursuing a micro-services architecture. They are using containerisation (they didn’t specify which) and are apparently writing their own controller to manage the distribution of those containers across EC2 instances to balance workload.

The Vyne

May 3rd, 2014

The VyneFor the second time this year we headed over to the National Trust’s Vyne Estate just the other side of Basingstoke to meet up with friends. As on our previous trip we were treated to lots of sunshine although there was a bit of a nip in the air for the first half of the day. There is plenty to keep the kids amused whether it is the sculptures scattered around the grounds, relaxing on deck chairs on the lawn, counting (toy) rats in the rooms of the house, the bird hide, or the imaginative playground. This time we also wandered a bit further in to the woods and enjoyed the bluebells and building dens.