Thursday, 28 June 2012

The Noise Revealed

By Ian Whates
ISBN: 978-1907519536

One of the things that I love about sci-fi is that you can never, ever be sure that someone is dead, even if they are shot through the head. When one of the leading characters in this book betrays the others and shoots one of the other leading characters I’m not ashamed to say it broke my heart. Strangely enough though, it all worked out in the end.

A lot of The Noise Revealed is set in virtually. All the characters and scenes there, with the significant exception of Tanya, were boring and I could never wait to get back to the other thread of the story. Ian Whates clearly knows very little about how computer software actually works, so when he was describing the characters trying track down pieces of code to work out what was happening it rang so untrue that it really irritated me. And when he described how the virus was attacking the software it was worse.

That aside I loved this book even more than the Noise Within. I could really relate to the characters and the way they were feeling and why. There are plenty of twists and surprises that made this a very enjoyable and surprising read. It’s an obvious middle book in the middle of a probably trilogy. There are questions from The Noise Within that still go unanswered and even more questions asked. Hopefully Whates is already working on the next book. My advice would be to move a little more out of his comfort zone and really push his imagination.

Now where did I put that JavaScript book...

Friday, 22 June 2012

eXtreme Tuesday Club (London) 17th July

On Tuesday 17th of July (2012) I and at least one other from SyncNorwich will be attending eXtreme Tuesday Club (XTC), the London based group that inspired Agile East Anglia and later SyncNorwich.  You can also follow XTC on twitter @extremetuesday. It would be great if more people could join us, especially from Norfolk and Suffolk. We’ll be arriving at Liverpool street at 17.19 and returning at 21.30. Please sign up on the XTC site on the day if you’re coming.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

MongoDB UK

Today I attended the UK MongoDB conference presented by 10gen at the Mermaid Conference Center at Blackfriars in London. This is the first time I've been to a true commercial conference as opposed to independent developer conferences such as ACCU and Agile Cambridge. I signed up to come several months ago when I was thinking about using MongoDB for a project. Since then it's become less attractive as I couldn't see an application for it that wouldn't have needed a relational database as well. Convincing clients that MongoDB is a good idea is one thing, but convincing them that they need a relational database too just doesn't seem feasible. I came anyway as I was still interested and I'm glad I did.

The Mermaid Conference Centre is nice enough, but a real rabbit warren where they seem to need about a dozen ushers just to show you where do go. The lunch was excellent. Better than the normal finger food buffets at other conferences. If cost wasn't an issue I'd run a conference here, especially as it's on the banks of the Thames.

As with most conferences it started off with a keynote. The keynote was given by Eliot Horowitz the CTO and cofounder of 10gen. Eliot lacked charisma, but what he had to say about why they developed MongoDB was interesting and certainly convinced me that it was the right thing for them to do.

I spent the first three sessions with Eliot and Alvin Richards, who as well as having a cool name also brought some much needed charisma to the proceedings, learning about how to use MongoDB to implement an IRC application. This was a really good choice of example as it also allowed them to discuss replication, sharding and using MongoDB for messaging rather than something like ActiveMQ. I learnt a lot and started to see how I might use MongoDB for an application where a relational database would not be needed.

After the lunch break, during in which I was set upon by someone describing themselves as a 10gen partner and trying to sell me things (10gen I am not impressed) I saw Gregor Macacdam from 10gen's support team give an overview of MongoDB on Microsoft’s existing PaaS (Platform as a Service) offering and their new IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) offering. This was not a very engaging presentation and could have benefited from a real demonstration and a speaker who can make eye contact with the audience.

Next up was Sean Reilly talking about why schema diagrams are evil. This presentation was hilarious, engaging and far too close to home. Sean was just brilliant, if a little nervous. He described really well why it's bad to publish your database schema. People become coupled to it. Far better to keep it secret and publish an API. I hope I'll have the chance to see him speak again one day.

The final session I attended was in a rather dingy room. The Mermaid Conference Centre advertises all its rooms as being bright. I was there to hear Chris Harris speak about MongoDB on  Amazon’s EC2 platform. It was quite difficult to hear what he was saying. The room was also very warm so I wasn’t able to take much of it in, but Chris appeared to be giving some good practical advice on how to start analysing MongoDB, improve performance and how to maximise resilience. Unfortunately he over ran quite significantly.

I missed the beginning of the end note, again given by Eliot Horowitz. He did a quick run through of the future roadmap of MongoDB and asked the audience for any features they thought MongoDB need that he hadn’t mentioned. Apparently in the past some had suggested SQL!

Overall this was a reasonable day. I don’t think I’ll be back though. 10gen need to look at how the ACCU run conferences. I think they would learn a lot.

Friday, 15 June 2012

What is football?

I am not a football fan. 25 men running around a field just doesn’t interest me. Today a colleague was trying to explain to me what football is and it made me giggle:

OK.  I can see I need to explain. Picture this.  A lot of [overpaid people with bad attitude] run around some grass, kicking a plastic pig’s bladder, and trying to get it through some sticks.

Another couple of guys run around blowing whistles and waving flags.

Many people go along and/or watch on television, become unnecessarily excited, and shout things at the [overpaid people with bad attitude], in a display of primitive tribal behaviour.

Then at the end, one lot jump over the moon, and the other are sick like parrots (that’s the foreign food kicking in – they’re all teetotal, after all).

The ones who’ve been sick consider themselves ritually humiliated, so they got home and grumble for several years.

England’s “team” includes a troll with bad attitude, but he can’t take part right now because of behaving like a troll previously…

See, simple!

(One day there’ll be an app for that so they don’t have to bother.  Then we can all be ritually humiliated.)

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Android 101

Tonight I was back at the Garden House for the final Norwich Developers Community event. It was an Android presentation given by Steve Pengilley. Of course Norwich Developers Community has already been renamed SyncNorwich, so really it's an underground event! Even so there were a good ten of us there tonight.

For a first time speaker, Steve is superbly confident. I suspect it’s because he’s a teacher! He started off by walking us through the Eclipse install of the necessities for Android phone development and described the virtual tools used to test for lots of different Android phones. He was ably demonstrating in depth knowledge of the development environment and had clearly spent a lot of time researching best practice.

I love seeing applications developed from scratch, from a completely blank IDE, so I wasn't disappointed when Steve created a brand new application called SyncNorwich! It turned out to be an application that uses GPS to find your location. And then there was code! I really like code!

Monday, 11 June 2012

SyncNorwich Kicks Off - 5th July 2012

Thursday, July 5, 2012
6:30 PM to 9:30 PM
Blurtit Offices, Seymour House, Muspole St, Norwich, NR3 1DJ

Sign up

We’ve got a great evening in store to mark the start of SyncNorwich, following our merger of Norwich Startups with Norwich Developers Community and Agile East Anglia!

The event will very kindly be hosted by our good friends at here in Norwich on Thursday 5th July. Not only are they opening their doors for us, they’re also throwing in some beer for good measure! Great stuff.

To kick things off, we’ll be hearing from Colm McMullan.

Colm is a one man startup – and thinks you are too. He built the Total Football and Stats Zone apps which merge his passion for football and software products and has grown them from an expensive hobby to a viable business. Stats Zone was commended by Apple in their “Rewind 2011" list of best apps last year and in The Sunday Times Top 500 App List, one of only thirteen sports apps included.

We’re also in discussion with another speaker who will be announced shortly, couple that with a great bunch of people to chat to and I’m sure you’ll agree, this really is one not to miss.

Following the talks, we'll continue the party down the nearby pub, after 9.30pm...

See you there!

Please follow SyncNorwich on twitter:!/SyncNorwich

To make sure you never miss an event please join the SyncNorwich group on here:

Friday, 8 June 2012

The Last Agile East Anglia

Last night was a very special night. It was the final and best Agile East Anglia event for the foreseeable future. It took place in a new venue, the Hog in Amour and for the first time we had the presentation and were able to socialise in the same room. This seemed to go down very well with the 30 or so attendees who had come from as far away as Cambridge and Ipswich.

We had a simply incredible speaker Liz Keogh speak about Behavior Driven Development (BDD). Ifftner Solutions have a writeup of the content here and Smart421 have another here. Liz’s style is very engaging and extremely charismatic.  I am hoping she’ll come back and speak for SyncNorwich. Liz's slides are available here. During the presentation Liz mentioned some books you should read: 

Waltzing with Bears
The Mythical Man Month
The Goal
Managing the Design Factory

As well as the usual and greatly appreciated venue and drinks sponsorship from Smart421, 3sixty provided £30 of John Lewis vouchers for one lucky winner  as incentive to complete a short survey which yielded some very useful information about what the attendees would like to see at future events. I’ll be publishing the results as soon as I have them.

Although this was the final Agile East Anglia event, Agile events will continue in Norwich under the name SyncNorwich. I would like to thank you all for the phenomenal support you’ve given me and Agile East Anglia over the past 7 months. I would especially like to thank Smart421 for the sponsorship that allowed me to provide venues I could bring speakers too. The first SyncNorwich event is on the 5th of July and I’m looking forward to seeing you all there.

Android 101

Title: Android 101
Speaker: Stephen Pengilley
Date: Wednesday 13 June 2012
Time: 6.30pm
Venue: The Garden House, Norwich

My good friend and fellow SyncNorwich organiser Stephen Pengilley is giving a presentation on Android development:

  • Recommended Prerequisites for developing
  • Creating a project
  • AndroidManifest.xml
  • XML Layout files
  • Location services
  • Activity Life-cycle

Wednesday, 6 June 2012


The trailer for Prometheus was brilliant. The film itself was ok. Finally a film with a story. It took a good 45 minutes to get going and it’s only a 2 hour film. Then it got a bit too quick and a lot of events didn’t seem to match up. I still don’t understand how a live Alien can go undetected in a space ship’s medical bay or how minor blows to the head through containment suits can kill two crew members.

I am going to have to watch it again, probably many times, to understand what’s going on, but that’s a good thing! There were a lot of unanswered questions at the end, but I suspect that’s intended or things that I’ve missed. Exactly what was going on in the opening sequence and why is still a complete mystery to me.

The references to the previous Alien films are brilliant and really made the film for me. The evil robots are back, but this time they don’t look like Winona Ryder.

You should go and see this film. It definitely is the film of the year so far. And my wife loved it!

Friday, 1 June 2012


The tech community in Norwich is growing. Three local groups, Agile East Anglia, Norwich Startup and Norwich Developers Community are getting together to for one larger group SyncNorwich, with a focus on networking, development, Agile and start-ups.

The first SyncNorwich event is on 5th July. Full details are on the SyncNorwich website. This group is going to be big and very big for Norwich. Make sure you’re part of it. Come along on the 5th July to find out more.