Saturday, 17 August 2013

Alpha Papa Review

The best thing about this film is the soundtrack. It was great to sing along to Roachford, John Farnham and the others. The next best thing about this film is trying to spot all the places they filmed in and around Norwich. While singing along to Cuddly Toy in the opening credits, Alan drives into Norwich along the Dereham Road and over the Bowthorpe roundabout and then somehow onto a dual carriageway with an armco barrier! Evidently this is some sort of secret sci-fi film and he’s accidentally driven through a wormhole.

The film itself was ok. Steve Coogan plays the anti hero Alan Partridge very well. The character is a pretty horrible, self obsessed man. I enjoyed the references to Marillion (didn’t know they’d sold over 15,000,000 albums though), but was disappointed to find the actor wasn’t really one of their multiple early drummers and he looked nothing like Ian Mosley. Sean Pertwee was superb, as he is in everything.

There’s no real story to Alpha Papa. It’s all very predictable and there’s no twist. However it’s an excellent showcase for Norwich, even though it is obviously making fun of the people and the place. I’m glad I went to see it, but I won’t be getting it on bluray.  

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Continuous Integration 101 at Agile Cambridge

What: Continuous Integration 101

Where: Agile Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

When: Thursday 26th September 2013, 2pm to 3.30pm

I will be giving a stripped down version Naked Element's Continuous Integration 101 course at this years Agile Cambridge.

Continuous Integration 101

“Continuous Integration is a software development practice where members of a team integrate their work frequently, usually each person integrates at least daily - leading to multiple integrations per day. Each integration is verified by an automated build (including test) to detect integration errors as quickly as possible. Many teams find that this approach leads to significantly reduced integration problems and allows a team to develop cohesive software more rapidly.”

-- Martin Fowler 

Course Objectives

Continuous Integration 101 is a foundation continuous integration course for Java developers. It is a practical course that can be completed within a working day in most cases. After completing the course you will:

  • Understand what continuous integration is and why it is so important 
  • Be able to create Java projects and build them with Ant and/or Maven so that they can be run by Jenkins. 
  • Be able to create continuous integration jobs with Jenkins 

And if time allows:

  • Be able to notify developers of changes to the build status 
  • Be able to monitor code quality with Sonar 

Who should take Continuous Integration 101?

Anyone with a working knowledge of Java who would like to learn about continuous integration. This includes developers, testers, build engineers and anyone else who needs to create and/or maintain Java based continuous integration.


To get the most out of this course you'll require basic knowledge of:

  • Java
  • A Java IDE (such as Eclipse)
  • Source Control Management

To complete the exercises in this course you will need the following software installed before attending the session. There will not be time to install it in the session. Assume latest versions unless otherwise stated:

  • Java IDE (e.g. Eclipse)
  • Java SDK (1.7+)
  • Version Control System (e.g. Subversion 1.7 (1.8 does not work with the current version of Jenkins) and SubClipse for Eclipse integration)
  • JUnit (JARs only)
  • Jenkins (Configured for SMTP, JDK and Maven)
  • Version Control System (e.g. Subversion) plugin
  • Sonar plugin (configured)

If time allows, the further exercises require the following:

  • Jacoco (JARS only)
  • Sonar (default install locally)

Full instructions on how to install all of the prerequisites on Windows, Mac and Linux are included a downloadable lab sheet here. Please come prepared.

Emperor to headline Bloodstock 2014.

Emperor to headline next year's Bloodstock festival. What more needs to be said?

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Bloodstock 2013 Review


We started Bloodstock early this year, as I wanted to see Ex Deo. We arrived just after 11.30, so we caught Death Angel (5) on the main stage as well. For an 80s thrash band, they were remarkably good, but not good enough for me to rush out and buy an album. Ex Deo (7) were definitely worth the cost of the extra night in a hotel. They didn't have the best PA sound and their live performance exaggerates just how dependant on keyboards their sound is, yet they don't have a live keyboard player. I'd like to see them again in a smaller venue.

Dark Funeral (6), another band I was looking forward to seeing, also had a poor PA sound, but appeared to be playing their socks off. After they played Stigmata, in my opinion their best song, I went over to the Sophie Lancaster stage to see The Prophecy(7), a progressive death metal band. As with a lot of progressive bands, their songs were long and I only caught the last two and a half. They were good and had a great live sound, especially for a band with a single guitarist.

I've seen Firewind (5) twice before and they're one of my favourite bands. However, they haven’t released a decent album since Allegiance and their live performance seems to have suffered also. There isn't really space for a guitar solo in a 40 minute festival set. Firewind appear to becoming more about Gus G's ego and less about the music.

Xentrix (8) were brilliant. The sound in the Sophie Lancaster stage is vastly improved over previous years and is currently better than the main stage. Xentrix are back after a 20 year holiday and they're better than ever. They sound a lot like Metallica, but so much better.

Accept (5) were also not too bad for an old 80s band. The only song of there's that I know is Metal Heart and I only know the Dimmu Borgir cover. They didn't play it before I headed off to see Scar Symmetry (8) who, while they were playing songs were simply stunning. Especially when you consider they had a stand in bassist and are down to a single guitarist. Having two singers appears to be working really well. However, between songs they seemed distracted. One of the singers ended up reading from the wrong set list and forgetting lyrics. Then three songs before the end the guitarist disappeared to relieve himself.

We soon gave up on King Diamond (3). His vocal styles is just rubbish and performing behind on-stage railings gives a clear impression of how he feels about audience.


Hell (6) were great, good music and a fantastic stage show, including fire. I’ll be buying the album. I’m a huge Kataklysm (8) fan and have all but one of their albums, so was really looking forward to seeing them again. They were superb and had the best sound on the main stage so far. I listened to Gojira (5) from the Rock Soc tent. They were much better than I remember and will have to listen to their albums again.

Sabaton (6) were plagued by technical problems early on in their set, so after the first song the singer entertained us on his own for about 10 minutes and was hilarious. They’d played two further, excellent songs before I went of to see PowerQuest (9) do their final ever show. I’d never seen them before, but have all their albums. They were superb and everything you could want in a power metal band. Great vocals, fast guitars and dungeons and dragons. Several previous members of the band made guest appearances. Unfortunately I had to leave before the end.

Avantasia (9) were everything I hoped they would be, except they didn’t have the best PA sound and Jorn Lande wasn’t singing with them. Tobias Sammet is one of my favorite people in metal. As well as stupidly talented, he is highly amusing. Avantasia used their longer than usual 90 minute guest slot admirably. I can’t wait to see them again as they were excellent.

I’ve seen Lamb of God (6) before and last time they were better. Tonight there were problems with the barricade in front of the stage and the band had to keep stopping. Randy Blythe isn’t so good at entertaining the crowd without the band, but at least he tried. When they did play, their sound got better towards the end of the set and I started to quite enjoy it.


I used to be really into Whitechapel (6), but stopped listening to them soon after I saw them play with Annotations of an Autopsy and Job For A Cowboy. They played well, but were not really my thing. I’d heard a lot of good things about Amorphis (6). They’re particular fuse of death and folk/battle metal was ok, but didn’t encourage me to listen for very long.

Exodus (5) may have defined a genre, but Thrash really isn’t my thing. Although they played well and had a reasonable sound. I had high hopes for Devil Driver (6) and they were ok. I’d have rather seen Coal Chamber though.

Belphegor (4) were another of the bands I’d really been looking forward to, but all you could hear was the drums and the vocals, so I soon gave up. Much to my surprise, Anthrax (6) were really quite good, but still not my thing.

Slayer (7) should have been so much better. It would have been great to have them speak to the crowd some more. In a 90 minute set it’s obvious that a lot of their songs are very similar. I enjoyed opener World Painted Blood and closers South of Heaven and Angel of Death.

All in all a very disappointing year for Bloodstock musically, with no clear stand out band of the festival. I still had a fantastic time though and can’t wait to see Emperor next year.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

NorDev 4: Implementing Graph Search with Neo4j & Building a successful agile company

What: Implementing Graph Search with Neo4j & Building a successful agile company

When: Wednesday, 4th September 2013 @ 6.30pm

Where: Virgin Wines, 4th Floor, St James' Mill, Whitefriars, Norwich, NR3 1TN


Building a successful agile company – people first, software second 

Mark Wightman

When we talk about agile we often concentrate on process and technical practices, but to achieve greatness you must focus on what matters most – your people. If you can harness their energy, intellect, passion and creativity effectively then success will follow.Red Gate Software is a successful ISV based in Cambridge. We are proud to have been in the Sunday Times “Best Small Companies to Work For” list for six years in a row. We’ve also won the Special Award for Innovation in Engagement Practice and have won numerous other employer awards.

Over the last five years Red Gate have adopted and evolved agile development approaches at a team and company level with great success.

In this talk I'll share what we’ve learnt, with a focus on practical tips and techniques that you can take and away and use in your own organisations. Amongst other things I’ll show you how we build high-performing teams, how we empower them, how we encourage innovation, how we manage individuals and teams, how we drive continuous improvement at every level of the company – all with an agile mindset.

I aim to inspire you to make your staff a primary focus in your adoption of agile and give you some practical techniques you can adopt to make your workplace a great place to work.

Mark is Head of Development at Red Gate Software. He has previously worked as a developer, project manager and development manager. Mark has introduced agile and lean development practices to a number of companies and has over a decade of agile experience. In his current role, Mark is responsible for challenging Red Gate's development teams to become truly world-class and supporting them by building a culture of excellence and was delighted to see them recognised at the UK Agile Awards 2012.

Implementing Graph Search with Neo4j 

Ian Robinson

In this talk I'll show how to build a Neo4j-based graph search application. I'll start with a brief introduction to the Neo4j database itself. We'll then look at how we design an expressive graph model and associated queries based on agile user stories. Finally, I'll show how to implement your data model and queries in a test-driven fashion.

Ian Robinson works on research and development for future versions of the Neo4j graph database. Joining Neo Technology as Director of Customer Success, he has worked extensively with customers to design and develop graph database solutions. He is a coauthor of 'Graph Databases' and 'REST in Practice' (both from O'Reilly) and a contributor to 'REST: From Research to Practice' (Springer) and 'Service Design Patterns' (Addison-Wesley). He blogs at and tweets at @iansrobinson.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

NorDev 3 Review: Choosing an appropriate language & Killing pigs and telling people about it

At the last Norfolk Developers meeting in July numbers were low. Only 17. There were a few factors that probably contributed to this. The July event was only a couple of weeks after the June event and SyncNorwich had their first birthday party the night after. And of course they had beer and cake! And it’s the summer. Lots of people were on holiday.

At Norfolk developers last night however the numbers were back up. When you consider the technical focus of Norfolk Developers compared to the broader appeal of some of the other community groups in Norwich, 38 is a good number. What’s more is that a lot of potential regulars were on holiday. I think we’ll see much bigger numbers in the future. Less than 24 hours after RSVPs opened for the next Norfolk Developers meeting in September, 28 out of 60 places have already gone.

Last night saw Basho’s third trip to Norwich this year to speak to the local tech community. This was the first time they came to give a technical talk, rather than a sponsors presentation. It’s been long overdue. Christian Dahlqvist gave us an overview of the Riak database.

Straightaway members of the audience were asking questions and keen to understand how Riak worked and how it compared to other NoSQL databases and to SQL databases. I suspect the whole session could have been run as a discussion the full 45 minutes. The lack of transactions in NoSQL databases is probably a topic we could devote an entire session to.

Christian explained how Riak nodes should be configured and how the data is distributed among them and that you can go to any node to retrieve data. You don’t have to go in via a master or through a load balancer.

Riak doesn’t run on Windows and Basho don’t officially support a .Net driver. However there is a well supported community .Net driver. Apparently they’ve yet to find a customer who wants to run Riak on Windows. I find this astounding. Riak does of course run on Linux and on Mac OS. They officially support drivers for Java, Ruby, Erlang, PHP and Python. There are a number of other community drivers available for other languages.

Christian is an extremely good speaker. He clearly knows his stuff and the Norfolk Developers crowd certainly put him through his paces. We love speakers who interact, make us laugh and above all, know their subject matter. Christian has agreed to come back and see us again.

I have known Russel Winder a long time. Probably more than 10 years. We’re both members of the ACCU, originally a group for C and C++ programmers, but now encompassing programmers and other software related professionals from many disciplines. The ACCU run conferences and produce a couple of regular journals (are you seeing the similarity to NorDev yet?). Russel and I have seen each other speak at the ACCU conference and at various other times in London. We’ve both written for the ACCU magazines and I even published one of Russel’s articles when I edited an issue. All in all it was about time that he got himself up to Norwich to share some of his considerable knowledge and experience with the community here.

As well as being experienced and knowledgeable, not to mention opinionated, Russel is the very definition of “a character” and I was looking forward to seeing how that would play out with Norfolk Developers. Russel was nothing short of sensational. He had the group laughing along from the off and of course there was plenty of questions, audience participation and banter throughout. We were taken through an amusing tour of some of the greater and lesser known programming languages, from Java and C++ to Python, Fortran and even Rust, which I had never heard of. All of the Microsoft .Net languages were conspicuous by their absence, but this of course was by design.

Some years ago Russel got a reputation for claiming that Groovy was the answer to everything. Only ten minutes in we got the first mention of Groovy and it was mentioned at least twice more before the end. Russel talked about the level of abstraction of languages and systems and about declarative vs imperative languages. Russel is an expert in concurrency and parallelism and explained how these concepts are no longer a choice, but a necessity in a world full of multicore processors. Finally Russel took us through many of the different build systems that have been developed over the years and reminded us what we already knew, that XML is evil and not the answer to anything.

The reaction from the audience was clear, they had enjoyed themselves and there were several people asking questions after the session had finished. I am sure we’ll see Russel back in Norwich before too long.

At the next Norfolk Developers event we’re hearing about Agile at Redgate and we’re back with NoSQL in the form of Neo4J. Sign-up here.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

The Wolverine Review

I’ve seen all but one of the other X-Men films and The Wolverine isn’t one of the best, but it is very enjoyable. However, it's time they made a film about a different character. It’s a bit slow to get going, but then it’s action all the way once it does. Rila Fukushima is the clear star of this film for me. She’s fantastic. All the best lines and great moves. The red hair and stripes are just incredible.

I kicked myself after the twist, because I should have seen it coming. Also when the robot is draining Logan of his gift and then Hal is defeated by Mariko there is no explanation of how Logan recovers his gift or for the bone like blades that come from his knuckles soon after.

3D still does nothing for me and makes action scenes very difficult to follow. Although towards the end I did manage to forget I was wearing the glasses. Until of course I realised I’d forgotten I was wearing the glasses.

There is a false ending, so make sure you stay in your seat until the credits start to scroll up.

VUE in Norwich is an awful cinema. The foyer is too warm and the seats very uncomfortable. The only positive I can say about it is that the surround sound appears to be an improvement over the Odeon and Hollywood.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Norfolk Tech Journal Needs You!

Locally it has been well known for over a year now that Norfolk is teeming with technology companies and has a thriving tech community. It has everything from startups to SMEs and even a few large firms. Groups like Hot Source and SyncNorwich have helped promote technology in Norfolk and have done an astoundingly good job of forming the tech community and bringing it together with the business community. Now it’s time to tell the world about technology in Norfolk and the fabulous companies and community groups that the county boasts

Together with Naked Element Ltd., the tech group Norfolk Developers wants to produce a monthly tech online journal, backed-up by a website and a small paper copy distribution. Within its pages you will find reviews of each of the local groups’ events and details of their upcoming events. You will find news about local tech companies and how they are working together with each other and the local community groups. You will also find technical and business based articles and other related news from around the county. And you will find the latest tech jobs from specially selected recruitment agents.

How can you help? We already have one potential editor, but it’s a big job and we need more! Could you help edit the Norfolk Tech Journal? We need a team of reviewers who regularly attend one or more of the local community groups (Hot Source, SyncNorwich, Norfolk Developers, Norfolk Indie Game Developers, Norwich Ruby Users Group, SyncDevelopHer, The Norfolk Network, etc). We need people to engage with and gather news and stories from local businesses. We need web developers and designers. We need sponsors, including tech companies and recruitment agencies to give us the small amount of money we need to get the paper copies far and wide.

Can you lend us just a few hours a month to help put Norfolk on the map as a tech centre? If so, or you would like to find out more or help in other ways, please drop an email to