Into 2010

Normally I don’t have a clear idea what I want to do in the next year but this year it does seem different.

Finish the Web Applications Certificate I started last year
I’ve finished the 1st year now, still waiting for the results on the course from just before Christmas, but this year I have Databases within Website Design, Open Source Development Tools and to finish up Server Management, Performance, And Tuning to look forward too.

A Weekly summary
Something I’ve done at work for a few years now. Seems lots of folks have started doing this recently on their blogs. I’m not sure if I do enough to do a summary every week, maybe everuy month make more sense. Which leads smoothly into…

Blog more
Being able to write better or at least faster is something I’ve been meaning to work on for a while, which is only going to happen if I practice (via Hacker News), only six post in the last year is pretty bad, plus like others say (via Hacker News again), I find writing ideas down does help me think about ideas and development them more.

So like John Greenaway, I’m going to try project 52 and blog once a week for the year

Make stuff
I think Pete Gilbert said it best:

Make a new years resolution: Start making things – real things – in the new year. And try selling them. #newmanufacturing

Which for me taps into the Get Excited & Make Things! meme and some of the ideas in Makers by Cory Doctorow (Review by Jukesie)

With more experimenting physical computing be top of the list, so hopefully I’ll have some results to of messing around with arduinos (Bath Arduino hackday wave) and processing and my plug computer.

Hopefully all this creating things will give me some cool stuff to blog.

More work on my family’s holiday villa
I seem to be taking over more and more of the day to day work plus the website really needs a revamp and I have some new ideas from my OU courses. Running as business has taught me more about business than working as an employee for ten years did and being able to try out idea right away has been a good learning experience, some worked well, some worked a little, some didn’t really work but I learnt so much from each one.

Read more books
I used to used to read so much, at least a book a week, but I got out of the habit, this year I’m going to try to get back into it. I’m still working not sure the best way to go about this, setting some target but the way Derek Sivers list them on his site seem like I nice idea for non-fiction.

Side projects
So early last year I setup a tumblr on building, Pied-à-terre as a scrapbook of ideas and details for houses plus as a testbed for the platform so I could work out how to best use the tool.

Towards the end of the year I ended up setting up a second one covering some demos I like and to stop them swamping my twitter account, The Demo Scene

The plan for this year is to updated the regularly, have a post a day on each for the year on Pied-à-terre. I’m not sure I’ll be able to find 365 demos to post so I don’t want to set the same limit on The Demo Scene but we’ll see what I find.

So one post down only 51 more to go,

Random Best of 2009

Just a very incomplete list of cool things from a the last year in a very random order.

  • Elevated by Rgba & TBC
    I’ve been a big fan of demos for a long time but this was something special. All this in 4K, I even ended up starting a tumblr on the demoscene if you like this sort of thing.
  • Starfleet finally on DVD. It was huge when I was growing up and still stands up today.
  • Rymdreglage – 8-bit trip chiptunes and lego, lots of clever bits you only spot of the second viewing, so impressed by all the hard work they put into the video.
  • Kind of Bloop: An 8-Bit Tribute to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue another chiptune project, but really trying to push things. You could tell from the first post about it that it was going to be special. (Listen to the trailer)
  • Silhouettes Of Jazz, Love the technical way they used shadow casting to draw images combined into a nice film with a cool soundtrack, for me this was the highlight of the SIGGRAPH Bristol Animation Festival, really worth a look.
  • Pixel City In a former life I did lots of procedural generation (mostly terrain and planets), so seeing this very cool project was a really blast from the past and really got me thinking about doing some computer graphics again.
  • Bathcamp really lives up to its tagline ‘ideas and interesting people’, all credit to to Mike and the rest of the crew.
  • Like A Boss by The Lonely Island NSFW but very funny, I even ended up buying the album.

Edited to add 2010/01/06
Three more that I forgot:

  • Dropbox Just made sharing files between my desktop and laptop as easy as it always should have been. Windows, Mac and Linux, slick interface that stays out of your way until you need it.The freemium model works really well, with extra storage for referring people, discounts for paying for a whole year upfront. If you use more than one computer you need this.
  • Spotify much like dropbox, this is slick, doesn’t get in the way, and helped me listen to loads of new (to me) music since I installed the application. They still have some holes in the catalogue and yes the ads can be annoying, they don’t give a discount if you paid for a whole year but the experience of just being able to listen to pretty much any track right away is compelling.
  • DIY Masters is such a nice idea and really helped start think about a structure for all those things I want to learn and just taking the life long learn thing a little more seriously.

Online Identity

@hayles post earlier about being anonymous online reminded me I was meaning to post some links I had:

As normal Wikipedia has a good intro to a lot of the issues with identity online.

Two from Danny O’Brien on register online, looking at the different audences public, private and secret and how this is more complex if you also talk (or can be seen to be talking) for an organisation.

Then two account of dealing with things on twitter by [mRg] and Mike Ellis

As for me, I’m not planning on going to split accounts, but I do plan to be better at connecting all the different things I do together better, after all its my portfolio.

Edited to add 2010/01/06
O’Reilly Radar posted a long series on identity called ‘Being online: identity, anonymity, and all things in between’ that cover the same ground:

  1. Introduction
  2. Your identity in real life: what people know
  3. Your identity online: getting down to basics
  4. Your identity to advertisers: it’s not all about you
  5. What you say about yourself, or selves
  6. Forged identities and non-identities
  7. Group identities and social network identities
  8. Conclusion: identity narratives

Learning Resource Linkdump

I meant to post this last week as a follow up to the list of things to learn but got a little distracted but jukesie’s tweet earlier prompted me to finish it up.

All very much a work in progress, all archived on delicious under the diymasters tag.

Stuff I want to learn

After @jukesie posted on twitter about his a few things I want to learn list inspired by @pipstar‘s 100 things list, I sort of got bullied (in a nice way) into posting mine.

So here it is, just a brain dump as I thought of them:

  • Learn enough French to be able to have a normal conversion with someone, not at my current two year old level.
  • Learn Japanese well enough to watch a Godzilla film / Anime without subtitles.
  • Learn Audio mixing/DJing, it would be nice to throw together mixes even half was good as 2Many DJ’s.
  • Create a nice Theme for this site.
  • Implement and learn more about agile development and lean development.
  • Build a raytracer in to teach me OpenCL.
  • Play with Cellular automata for ocean and water modeling.
  • Finish the @teatweets website
  • Have a mess around with asterisk
  • Finish off my certificate in web applications development.
  • Learn how to wear make up.
  • Dress better.

I’ll probably think of dozen more once I click publish but that what I can remember off to the top of my head but I really should get back to work, so that will have to wait.

Ada Lovelace Day – Lynn Conway

So I first learnt about Ada Lovelace day on del.icio.us and signed the pledge, and then spent a long time thinking about who I should write about, Ada Lovelace seems a little like the safe option. Being a hardware architect in a former life and still working on embedded platforms, Lynn Conway seem to be the perfect choice to for me to write about.

I’m guessing many people will not have heard of her, but nearly everyone will have benefited from her work. She worked on out of order execution at IBM, is used in most CPU today. Not to get too technical but exploiting the parallelism of the units inside a CPU, you can get a much greater throughput, so programs run faster and you do more ‘stuff’ done.

Another large contribution was her work in VLSI design, taking the technology from a handful of companies and giving smaller companies and universities access to the toolbox and a structured method to use them, giving much cheaper and faster prototype, leading to an explosion of companies producing ASICs which powers many consumer electronics products.

She was also at Xerox PARC when the foundations of current personal computers were being developed and was part of that hive of creativity.

Part of reason for picking Lynn was that people who work in the more ‘hardcore’ side of technology, tend be less visible than people working in the web,games or the more user facing part of technology. Not to take anything away from people who work in those areas (I’ve also worked on web projects and games in the past), partly I guess this is because these deeply technical subjects are harder to explain, less visual and well less interesting to most people (or perhaps were telling the stories wrong). So all of this is to say don’t feel limited to ‘acceptable’ career options, if your interested in an area go for it.

So finish off here’s a few other people I could have written about: Wendy Carlos, Delia Derbyshire, Grace Hopper , Aleks Krotoski, Kathy Sierra, Alice Taylor , Sophie Wilson

Helsinki Startups

So another brain dump about startups in various place. Back in 2001 I had an interview in Helsinki for Bitboys. In the end I did not take the job but it did give an interesting look inside the local start up scene when we went out for drinks in the evening.

The big names in the local scene were Bitboys (graphics hardware), Futuremark ( benchmarking software) and Remedy Entertainment ( games), all of which came from the core members of Future Crew. Alot of the other people were friends or at least other people from the demoscene.

The attitude was very different everyone seem to have the same idea that if one of the companies made it big, then they would all make it in some way. They also had very low burn rates, Bitboys only used around two million over five or six years, which when production cost for a test chip (which they made more than one) can be in the $100,000, is very good. They used cheap simple office without any fancy furniture, took good but not huge salaries, very different to the dotcom silicon valley big office, lots of money approach. All very low key, very little management. Assembly acted as the big yearly event where everyone caught up. Lots of the other guys played Salibandy each week with other companies and also out drinking on the weekends, all very sociable. Finland also great for cheap places to live with fast broadband for compared to the UK very cheap prices and such a good public transport system you really did not need a car. It had a real buzz about the place.

More on Startups in UK and Bristol

Just is mostly just a brain dump of some extra bits and bob that I thought of after a big thread about startups in Bristol and the UK this afternoon.

In a lot of way the Uk seems to be better at being the best in a niche not in the mass market. If you take cars as an example, lots of racing cars are developed here or use British staff, Prodrive in rallying and endurance racing and Mclaren in F1, plus all the various small sports car people, Lotus and TVR.

Should we in Bristol, the UK or elsewhere be aiming to create a few blockbuster startups to sell out to some large company a few years down the line or instead working to produce an good environment for a much larger number of smaller lower key businesses. Having a nice, say 5 to 10 person business. That gives everyone a nice lifestyle good work life balance as the goal. With maybe the chance one of these smaller companies does end up going huge.

I guess this is the movie industry model, the big studios with the blockbusters, only a few of which pay off vs. the indie films which cost less, so need to sell less tickets/DVD/downloads to make a profit.

If you only define success as making million of pounds then you have the blockbuster high risk route, but if you define success as being paid decent money to work on interesting problems then you many be happier taking a lower risk route with still the chance of the millions and a profile that seem a better fit for what the Uk is good at.

Anyway this is just a quick brain dump of what popped into my head after the twitter thread, I’m sure I’ll have more thought in the future and probably end up changing my mind.

Bristol and Startups

This is just an archived version of a thread on twitter a few people had about startups in the UK and Bristol in particular. This mostly is so I have an easy to link to version for a braindump of some more links and thought on the subject.

johnbradford: Giant Were-Rabbit to convince commuters to set up business in the South West http://tinyurl.com/4cfkj2 *sigh* marketing gone mad?

t1mmyb: @johnbradford there’s a bigger issue of London-centricity throughout politics and business that a marketing gimmick won’t solve

Z303: @t1mmyb @johnbradford Reminded me of a post by Tom Coates that in part asked why Bristol did not have more startups http://moourl.com/iv1r9

t1mmyb: @Z303 😕 at comment by kawt “Bristol thinks too much of itself and is too arrogant to survive in a business that changes hour by hour.”

paparatti: @Z303 – hasn’t the UK only really just started producing great start ups now? And those were in London.

johnbradford: @t1mmyb not sure I’d agree with kawt on that – if anything Bristol needs be a bit more self-promoting and joined up

Z303: @t1mmyb Just read it, Bristol being right wing! most people I meet are left wing or centrist, maybe if I moved in different circles

Z303 @paparatti I guess the big one is last.fm, Someone had a good post about how the BBC should be helping like it did with the BBC Micro

mikedunn: @paparatti Hence I’m always surprised Twitter hasn’t taken off more in the UK- we’ve been obesessed with our mobiles for years here.

paparatti: @Z303 – re: right wing, I think it’s a 50/50 split between racist bigots and hippies in this city.

johnbradford: have to agree with @z303 perhaps if we were *more* right wing and bolshi we’d have more Valley style start-ups 🙂

johnbradford: or at least commercially minded rather than hippy lifestyle – commercial hippies?

Z303: @paparatti That would explain why we get strange mixes

Z303: @johnbradford Should have used quotes, I was saying that find kawt’s comment does not ring true of the people I know here

Z303: @johnbradford And being bolshi is nothing to do with being left or right wing, more to believing in something

johnbradford: @z303 do you find Brizzol folks collaborative or commercially driven enough (ignoring political leanings) to start-up business rather than lifestyles?

johnbradford: @Z303 I know some very cool and creative Bristol companies but they’re aren’t putting themselves on the growth curve you see in the US

Z303: @johnbradford commercial but things like fairtrade/green issues being a larger driver

johnbradford: @Z303 FrankWater being a great example I guess

Z303: @johnbradford Another thought UK has always been better a small bespoke places, more 37 signals than yahoo!

samharding: @johnbradford that’s bonkers

johnbradford: @Z303 true, but can you build a bespoke service that scales? Ning? Mobile apps?

johnbradford: It’ll be interesting to see if the Pervasive Studio delivers anything scalable/sustainable

Z303: @johnbradford perhaps niche would have been a better word, I was also thinking about race car vs. road cars, lots of F1 work is UK based