Friday, 31 August 2012

The Bourne Legacy

Great film! Really enjoyed it. The wife, however, fell asleep in the first 15mins and remained asleep throughout the whole film. I however was completely glued. I have to admit that I didn’t realise the main character wasn’t Jason Bourne until someway through. I haven’t seen the original films for quite sometime and I was putting my confusion down to that for quite a while. This film stands up on its own without the others anyway. It’ll be interesting to see where they take it. It is of course quite formulaic and there is no twist. Lots of action and lots to follow.

Software Academy in East Anglia

Do you hire software developers in the East Anglia region? Then please fill out my short survey:

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Bloodstock 2012

This was my first Bloodstock for two years as this is the first year for two years my wife didn’t decide to have a baby! I have to say it was great to be back! I didn’t realise how much I’d missed it, even though the lineup this year was disappointingly weak and Deicide had, not unexpectedly, pulled out. Maybe next year? Can we have Hypocrisy too, please?

Grand Magnus [3] were the first band I saw. Nothing special. Just a straight metal band with nothing of interest to me. I’ve seen Moonsorrow [4] before and even owned an album once. They were better than I remember and I quite enjoyed their set. The most startling thing about Iced Earth [6] was that Jon Schaffer’s hair and beard, having been white two years ago, was now suddenly dark brown! As if no one would notice? They played well as always, but didn’t play Melancholy (Holy Martyr) this time, much to my dissapointment. Sepultura were just spectacularly brilliant as always [8]. Back with their original bassist it was great to hear the classics. Pythia [5] probably suffered most from a poor sound on the little stage. Still they played well and were good entertainment. I don’t understand all the fuss about Ronnie James Dio’s voice, I really don’t. The Dio Disciples [5] were ok, but I can really take or leave them even though I’m a big fan of Ripper Owens and Toby Jepson. Watain [6] felt like just a wall of the same chord. I’ve since bought one of their albums that I’m quite enjoying. Maybe there’s hope. Behemoth [8] were of course fantastic. They put on a great show and played their best songs. Probably more a special guest band than a headliner, but given everything Nergal has been through it was a well deserved headline.

First band on the second day was I AM I [10] and have a serious chance of being the band of the festival. The ex-Dragon Force singer’s new band play a heavy style of power metal that just works. The singer’s obvious charisma is just a bonus. I can’t wait for the album in September. I listened to Chthonic [7] on the internet when I first read about them. It sounded like rubbish noise. Live however they are fantastic. I now have their latest album and it’s a world away from what I heard previously. Crowbar [1] were just rubbish. Nothing to offer. The same goes for Mayhem [0]. They were crap when I saw them before and they were crap this time. So as I’d heard a bit about them I left Mayhem to go and watch Furyon[5] instead. They were ok, nothing special. I have to watch Kyrbgrinder [6] as its the drummer from Threshold’s band. They’re ok, but nothing to get excited about. The drumming is of course superb. I was full of hope for Sanctuary [4] as I really like Nevermore, but they did nothing for me. Hatebreed [2] aren’t really worth mentioning. There was a second acoustic set from I AM I [9] with a couple of covers, including Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi, and one of their own songs. Again brilliant. I just don’t understand the fuss about Testament [2]. Totally boring. I didn’t really know what to expect with Machine Head [10]. They were obviously stoked to be there and played a blinding set. Obviously it helps that their latest album is the best thing since Burn My Eyes, which they also played five tracks from. Rob Flynn told us he got into metal as he knew he was different when he was growing up. This struck a chord with me and I’m sure many others.

I got to Bloodstock early on day three to watch Cobra and the Lotus [4]. I needn’t have bothered. They were boring and had nothing new to add. Evile [7] are like Metallica and Slayer rolled into one, but much, much better than Slayer. I’m looking forward to enjoying them for years to come. Corrosion of Conformity [2] had nothing to offer. The band I was looking forward to for most of the weekend was Nile [7]. Unfortunately it started to rain as they came on and they had a few technical difficulties, but they played a blinder. More please! The Black Dhalia Murder [2] and Anvil [2] had nothing to offer me. Paradise Lost [8] have struggled to produce good albums since Draconian Times and One Second. I haven’t been that impressed with their live performance recently either. However today they played well and a great set which only lacked True Belief and The Last Time. The last time I saw Dimmu Borgir [9] was supporting Lamb of God and the sound was terrible. This time it was incredible. I could have listened to the play much longer and haven’t stopped listening to them since. Alice Cooper [8] has a radio show where he talks a lot. Tonight he didn’t address the crowd at all. He played greatest hits set that included my favorites Poison, Hey Stoopid and Feed My Frankenstein. I really would have liked more from Trash and Might As Well Be On Mars, not to mention a lead guitarist who could play the solos properly.

All in all not the best Bloodstock ever, but at least I discovered two good new bands I hadn’t really heard before. I’m already looking forward to next year, although I wouldn’t have chosen Anthrax unless they were playing lots of stuff from The Sound of White Noise album.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

SyncNorwich 3: Lightning Talks on a diverse array of topics

Disclaimer: These are my personal thoughts and feelings about attending the SyncNorwich meetings.

It gives me immense pride and pleasure to hear so many people telling me how good and different SyncNorwich is compared to other similar groups in the Norwich area. Between 60 and 70 people turned up for the Lightning Talks event on Thursday 16th August. All manner of people were there, including developers, small company owners, marketing people, hardware people, designers, investment directors, recruiters, photographers, journalists and even an IP lawyer. Several people commented on the positive vibrant atmosphere at the event. This is of course down to the people who attend. They are what makes these events so enjoyable!

Of course SyncNorwich couldn’t hold events without its sponsors. Thanks go out to Smart421 for the BBQ and drinks, to Blurtit for the venue, to Pandr for the logo and to James Neal Photography for the official photographs. The photos can be found here.

The event started with plenty of free beer and hotdogs. John Fagan and Jon Witte had two barbecues going and cooked up about 70 pork and vegetarian sausages and onions. There was plenty to go round and a keen queue of hungry people soon formed.

Lightning talks are multiple presentations limited to five minutes for each speaker. These lightning talks were in the style of ignite talks where each speaker's slides change automatically every 15 seconds. This is an incredibly challenging format to organise and to present. Each of the speakers carried it off with great flair and John Fagan’s organisation of the evening was flawless. There were three sessions. The first with three speakers and the last two with four speakers each. There was a single 30 second slide with a countdown between each speaker and a short session for the audience to ask questions of the speakers in between each set of talks. It worked brilliantly. The evening presentations were as follows:

Agile and 40 page contracts - Graham Masterson @Smart421
Agile recruiting - Jim Marshall @Ifftner
Responsive Design -Brad Koehler @KoehlerBear
Learning to hack together MVP’s - Richard Burton @ricburton
3sixty: Bootstrapping lessons learnt - Paul Russell @paulrussell
Collaborative Consumption and yours2share - Sophie Garrett @yours2share
ShopOfMe - Travis lee Street @TravisLeeStreet
Business Angels & Business Angels - Trevor Overall @TrevorOverall
Why Norwich needs a FabLab - Rob Holden-Pratt @robhp
Young Rewired State - Chris Heath @cjheath
Scratch’ing software on the Raspberry Pi - Jonny Butcher @jjbncfc

All the videos can be found here.
Originally I was just going to describe the highlights, but as I read back over the list of presentations I realised that was most of them!

Graham Masterson started by explaining Smart421’s approach to Agile contract negotiation and some of the common pitfalls and hurdles that they encounter. This was a great way to start the evening. I had never really seen Agilists as the hippies of software development before! I have worked with Jim Marshall on a number of occasions and it was brilliant to see how he has made his recruitment process more agile over the years as he has looked at ways to provide more value for his clients. Ifftner solutions even have daily standup meetings! It was evident from his presentation that Brad Koehler really knows his stuff when it comes to designing web experiences that work across multiple browsers on multiple devices.

Richard Burton was brilliant and just plain hilarious and oozed charisma. He has written a number of Minimal Viable Products and just got them out there for people to use with quite a lot of success. This inspired me to do the same. Paul Russell is an extremely clever individual. He has put a lot of thought and work into his 3sixty application, which is an enabler for anonymous feedback aimed at individuals and SMEs. Sophie Garrett is a dedicated advocate of collective consumption. I have seen her speak on the subject twice now and she is always excellent. There is no one in the whole world like Travis Lee Street! With only an afternoon to write and practice his lightning talk, he pulled it off flawlessly and with his usual style, humour, enthusiasm and charisma.

Trevor Overall is a very welcome newcomer to SyncNorwich. He gave us five minutes on Business Angels that was interesting, informative and lead to some very good and revealing questions. Rob Holden-Pratt is doing sterling work getting a Fablab for Norwich. This is exactly the sort of thing that SyncNorwich members should be involved with. His presentation suggested that things are starting to come together and that Norwich's Fablab is not far off. Chris Heath is the geek’s geek (and I mean that in a good way)! Getting young people involved in software development is a primary focus of SyncNorwich and Chris is out there doing it. Not only did he get Norfolk kids programming in a competition, but he lead them to victory.

The final lighting talk of the evening was an inspiration to all. Jonny Butcher, younger brother of SyncNorwich’s own Seb Butcher, is 15 and had never done a presentation before. With unbelievable confidence he got up in front of between 60 and 70 people to tell us about his experiences of the Raspberry PI on his work experience. Never having done any sort of programming before he took to the Raspberry PI like a duck to water and developed a racing game. Along the way he experienced something we’ve all faced. Believing all his work had been stored, he turned off the Raspberry PI only to discover he’d lost everything. The end of his work experience was spent frantically rewriting the application. Did he manage it? Of course he did! This young man is going places and I hope that SyncNorwich was a significant step on an incredible career!

Socialising is a very important aspect of SyncNorwich and a great many of the attendees stayed behind after the talks to finish the free beer before descending on the Woolie. Many were still there when I reached my 10.30pm curfew.

Other reviews: 

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Keith Lemon The Film

Unless you’re between the ages of 15 and 17, don’t bother with this film. It’s crude beyond necessity. All of the good bits are in the trailer. There are a few funny moments from the multitude of celebrities in the film. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them have since regretted agreeing to do it, especially Kelly Brook. There’s little story and no class. Avoid.

Friday, 24 August 2012

SyncNorwich August Lunch

Yesterday was a day for firsts! As well as attending my first NRUG, I also attended my first SyncNorwich lunch, despite it being the second one I had organised. Other unforeseen commitments had prevented me attending the first one.

I was really pleased with the turnout! Twenty people made it, including all but one of the SyncNorwich team, one of whom even brought his daughter, a small group from Aviva, and the rest were people from other businesses across Norwich, including Blurtit and Nomad.

SyncNorwich lunches are purely social with the opportunity of networking for those who want to. A good time was to be had by all, especially the one or two new faces. There will be another SyncNorwich lunch in September, preceded by a dinner on the 6th September.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

My First NRUG

I’ve just got home from my first Norwich Ruby Users Group meeting. Tonight’s meeting was a Language Agnostic Programming Session held at Blurtit (the regular venue for SyncNorwich) in Norwich. It was fantastic! There was no internet for most of it so it was about a dozen geeky guys, plus the wonderful Kathryn Wright, laughing and joking about geeky things in a room. And of course there was pizza, beer, tea, coffee and programming! Loved it! Haven’t had so much fun in ages. I’m already looking forward to the presentations or ruby lessons at the next meet. Well done guys!

Monday, 20 August 2012


Do we need another film that’s mostly a selection of references to 80s movies? Yes, of course we do! However the references are the best part about this cliched flick. Although there were a few that only had me laughing in a quite full cinema! I enjoyed the film overall, but it isn’t one I would want to see again and I certainly won’t be going out to get the Blu-ray. There is a lot of language, but all of it is appropriate for the film. The idea of a Teddy Bear that magically comes to life is just ridiculous and I spent a lot of the film wondering if it could have been replaced with a human and still been mostly the same story. See this film if you have nothing better to do or are a huge Flash Gordon fan. Otherwise don’t lose any sleep over missing it.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Expendables 2

This film is dreadful, but I loved it. It wasn’t as good as the first one, but still incredible. I don’t think anyone takes this film seriously, including the cast, the writers and the producers. There were lots of gunfights and fist fights. Needless to say the film is totally predictable in every way. One thing I didn’t understand was how Trench (Arnie) knew that the Expendables needed rescuing from the mine. Chuck Norris was superb as Booker! Go and see this film and expect to be entertained and amused. Leave your brain at home though.

SyncNorwich 3: Kanban: What is it good for? An introduction illustrated with war stories

What: SyncNorwich 3: Kanban: What is it good for? An introduction illustrated with war stories

When: Thursday, September 13, 2012, 6:00 PM

Where: The King's Centre, King Street, Norwich, NR1 1PH, Norwich

Sign up:

This talk will provide an introduction to the ideas of kanban and how it has been applied to software development. Ideas will be illustrated with experiences Benjamin has had coaching teams using concepts from Lean / Agile / Kanban over the last five years

We'll cover the basics:

  • The difference between a push and a pull mindset and the impact it has on team performance
  • Visualisation as a way of study and improving work in teams We'll also look at:
  • What was the problem that kanban was trying to solve? Does that apply in your situations?
  • What problems or scenarios does kanban add most value? What are the scenarios where it is not suited (or even detrimental)?

We'll finish off with a discussion:

  • How adopting a mutual learning mindset and values can increase the effectiveness of using kanban
  • Using kanban to encourage higher level end-to-end learning, similar to Lean Startup's Build -> Measure -> Learn

Benjamin Mitchell is a London-based Lean / Agile consultant and coach. He helps teams and managers consistently deliver even in challenging situations. He has a special focus on increasing learning in organisation by helping them develop productive communication skills that lead to better quality decision making. He is a highly-rated international conference speaker. He tweets regularly at and blogs about his real-world practical experiences at He is also the co-host of the IT Kanban podcast at

ACCU London: Walking Skeleton

What: Walking Skeleton (ACCU London)

When: 20th September 2012, 6.30pm

Where: 1e ltd, CP House, 97-107 Uxbridge Road, Ealing, London, W5 5TL

Sign up:

I will be speaking about Alistair Cockburn’s Walking Skeleton for the penultimate time at ACCU London in September. Although this is an ACCU event all are welcome.

The walking skeleton was described by Alistair Cockburn as "... a tiny implementation of the system that performs a small end-to-end function. It need not use the final architecture, but it should link together the main architectural components. The architecture and the functionality can then evolve in parallel." It is also one of the theme's in Freeman & Pryce's Growing Object Oriented Software Guided by Tests.

In this session Paul will start with an (almost) clean IDE and develop a walking skeleton for a simple application and demonstrate how Test Driven Development (TDD) can be used even at the system level to test features.

REST in Practice: Hypermedia and Systems Architecture

By Jim Webber, Savas Parastatidis, Ian Robinson

ISBN: 978-0596805821

I read this book because I wanted to learn about REST for a project I’m doing. This book taught me about REST. In fact it did it in the first five chapters. That’s less than half the book and it could have been quicker! There is a lot of, to my mind, unnecessary detail that could have been postponed to later chapters or even an appendix. I just wanted to get to the code and to the “how”, I’m not overly interested in the “why” in this much depth. Furthermore I found the vast majority of the diagrams incomprehensible and totally unhelpful.

However, the book did answer my questions about REST and even using the same REST framework I’d chosen for my project. Unlike a lot of other books, web service clients were not neglected. In fact they were there in as much detail as the server side components with real code! The format of the book is also great for skipping to the good parts and the parts with code.