Archive for the ‘Work’ Category

Well, the Christmas decorations are back in their boxes and up in the attic for another year. So, that’s it for 2012, but these two will be back next Christmas as a reminder of what a year it was.

So I guess this is about as late as a review of 2012 can be posted, right? Okay, some lists and photos coming up, no great insights. If I had any of them I’d have posted them at the relevant time.

The You-Know-What Games

I started work at Visit London back in April 2005, so I’d been there just three months when we won the 2012 Olympics. The next seven years were all building up to that event. Was it worth it?

Yes. I was lucky in the ballot of tickets and got two lots of Athletics tickets – morning sessions, “just” heats, but I got to see both Jessica Ennis and Mo Farrah in action.

More photos of my London 2012

Bath

After the games were over Lettice and I had a holiday in Bath – I’ve never been before. Loved it – the Roman Baths, loved the American Museum, loved the Postal Museum, everything.

More photos of Bath

Culture

For books, see the last post. Museums and art, apart from all the stuff in Bath, I went to Mapping the Underground at the London Transport Museum, Bronze at the Royal Academy and the Crossrail archaeology exhibition.

Cinema

I managed five trips to the cinema, more than in the last few years. The Iron Lady, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Prometheus, Avengers and Skyfall. They are all films that reinvent icons. Is that a theme at the moment?

Theatre

I also manged six trips to the theatre. Noises Off, The Ladykillers, One Man, Two Guvnors, Timon of Athens, Hedda Gabler and Chrous of Disapproval.

Gigs

Adam Ant at the Fairfield halls! Also saw Ben, Howie, et al at the Surya; and The Life and Death at the Cavendish Arms – first time I’ve actually seen Justin play live in the ten years I’ve known him.

And the rest

I joined the 21st century and bought a smart phone. After seeing me get very lopsided carying my old SLR around Bath, Lettice bought me a new camera for Christmas. And as I replaced my PC last Christmas, I’ve had a near complete technological upgrade this year. Still no jetpack though.

For my birthday, Lettice took me to East London – Mudchute City Farm, the new cable car across the Thames, and treasure house that is the Who Shop. I love this crazy city where you have a World War II anti-aircraft gun in the middle of a farm, within sight of the towers of high finance.

Well, come on 2013. So far you’ve been full of stress, germs and broken boilers. Let’s see if you can do better?


'Out of this World' at the British Library

Last Thursday evening I attended the launch of the Out of this World science fiction exhibition at the British Library. I’ve blogged about the exhibition for work.

The launch night was fun in a peculiarly geeky way as I got to play spot the author/critic/BNF. Some people (Kim Newman to give the obvious example) are easy to spot but far too many fall into the general category of middle aged men with greying beards. In fact I could easily have been looking at the crowd at Salute or @media instead.

At the same time that I was listening to China Miéville give a speech to open the show, Lettice was at a different exhibition launch with Cilla Black and Ringo Star. There’s probably something profound in that contrast but I’m really not sure what.


It has been an eventful, stressful and confusing couple of weeks at work.

But spring is here, there are loads of bank holidays coming up, and today is Salute so I’m going to enjoy myself and spend way too much money on toys!

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As a follow-up to Desert Island Discs, the team at work have been doing our top ten films, and this week was my turn. The only condition was that one of the ten had to be set in London. Once again, I’ll be buggered if I’m writing all this lot up and not turning it into a blog post.

Forbidden Planet (1956)

I remember watching this, aged about 8, sitting on the floor at school during one of our headmaster’s film nights. As most people know, it’s Shakespeare’s Tempest mixed with a bit of Freud and set in outer space. The special effects contain some real “how did they do that back then?” moments. And notice that the starship is a flying saucer and the crew are all men – that was the status quo in almost all science fiction back then and would be for another ten years, until Star Trek rewrote the rules. The “sequel” is also well worth seeing ;-)

Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966)

My London film. Well the first half is set in 22nd century London (that looks awfully like 1960s London).
This is the second of the two Peter Cushing Doctor Who films, big(-ish) budget, technicolour, remakes of the first two Dalek TV stories. To be honest I prefer the TV version – the scenes of Daleks patrolling an abandoned London are much more atmospheric in B&W. But this film is more important because this was repeated on telly almost every summer holiday from the mid-70s onwards so several generations of Doctor Who fans grew up with this version in their childhood memories. So much so, that at least one later TV episode references events as they took place in the film, not the original.

The Italian Job (1969)

(Also got some London bits) I haven’t seen the remake. Why would I want to?

Kelly’s Heroes (1970)

Just a private enterprise operation.

The Sting (1973)

Probably the best confidence trick movie ever. And parts of it are ripped off by almost every episode of Hustle.

Star Wars (1977)

I am a member of the Star Wars generation. This film came out at the exact moment in my childhood for me to be hooked. And that’s why we have the original here, not the “more grown-up” The Empire Strikes Back. This was when George Lucas knew how to have fun, before CGI, before the “expanded universe”, before we all became cynical.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

There have been 11 Star Trek movies to date. Some of them are rubbish; some of them are good fun; two of them are really quite splendid. This is the film that saved Star Trek. After the worthy but dull and expensive Star Trek The (Slow) Motion Picture, this is the film that remembered that Trek should be fun and brash and really over acted. This is the film that gave us some of the finest Shatnerisms. (Including, of course, Khaaaaaan! )

Aliens (1986)

I think that the Special Edition of this was the first film I owned on video tape. An incredibly influential film – twenty years later and films, comics, computer games are still playing with variations of the future-war look created here. “I say we take off and nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”

The Usual Suspects (1995)

This was from a period when I was going to the cinema a lot and seeing a lot films that have really stuck in my mind (Unforgiven, Apollo 13, Once Were Warriors, Quiz Show, Strange Days, Ed Wood) but this one stands out. Repeated viewings are about spotting clues and inconsistencies but if you saw it first without any spoilers, watching the story unfold without knowing how what came next was something special.

Hot Fuzz (2007)

(Also got some London bits) Best British film of the decade? If you grew up in the home counties, where winning village of the year was a big deal, then parts of this film are worryingly accurate…


I’ve been writing JavaScript for almost as long as the language has existed. My first “script” was a simple onMouseOver="window.status='Hello World'" affair back in the days of Netscape 2. I spent the dot.com years writing popup windows and hover images and scrolling boxes and other basic stuff. Then I took a break from doing much JavaScript – this almost exactly coincided with the years that some “proper” programmers took a a look at the language and applied a bit of rigour to it. So when I got back into JavaScript a few years ago I was way behind the curve.

I’ve managed to catch up a little and by using the jQuery library plus a few plugins I’ve done some quite cool things despite not having the sort of knowledge that real JavaScript pros have these days.

I’m a front end engineer, I’m not a “proper” programmer, I don’t come from a programming background and have had close to zero formal training. I only vaguely understand the principles behind object oriented programming and design patterns and so on and I think that I think that they are good things, but I have no real idea of how to apply them to my code.

Speaking of which, unminified it’s 70Kb, 1500 lines and growing. There’s a big refactoring job that needs doing there before it becomes impossible to maintain. But how to start?

Bookwise, I have Jon Resig’s Pro JavaScript Techniques and Douglas Crockford’s JavaScript: The Good Parts and a few others. Are there any others that I should be looking at? What about training? Web sites? Blogs I should be following? Where do I go from here?


Today I …

  • Had my photo used in a (gay) mockup of a what our Valentine’s Day homepage could look like.
  • Had lots of fun combining Ajax, JSON, RSS, JSP and jQuery in various combinations.
  • Moved the breadcrumb trail from just inside the main content area to just before it … in many, many templates.
  • Wondered whether any of the ARIA landmark roles was suitable for a block that contained a breadcrumb trail, a print button and an RSS feed button. contentinfo or nothing seem to be the options.
  • Told my boss that I needed to refactor all the JavasScript (that I had written in the first place) on the whole site.
  • Wasn’t ill enough to go home to bed, maybe tomorrow. (Damn this really quite good immune system!)
  • Boggled at the photos of Ben Dalby in a straight jacket!
  • Spent most of Survivors thinking about the benefits of CGI vs something actually decent looking when it came to collapsing buildings.

2000

At the start of the year I was working Wicked Web in Clerkenwell, living in West Norwood and had been going out with for six months. We went on holiday to Boston and Tennessee. WW moved office to Old Street in the spring. I went to Las Vegas for Andy’s stag weekend.

2001

I took Lettice to Budapest for her birthday. WW started laying staff off towards the end of the year.

2002

WW went into liquidation and hence I was made redundant. I became self-employed and started freelancing for many ex-WW clients. Went to the south of France with Lettice’s family – first time I’d ever seen the Mediterranean.

2003

I spent the first part of the year working on a site for the BBC. Towards the end of the year I started doing contract work via an agency which meant that I got a large refund from the tax man, eventually. I went on a falconry day and flew a Harris Hawk. I asked Lettice to marry me.

2004

I started this blog and spent several months working for the Home Office.

2005

I gave up freelancing and started work at Visit London. I started cross posting this blog to LiveJournal and joined LibraryThing and Last.FM. I moved house to larger flat, ten minutes down the road from the old one, and Lettice moved in. We got married and went on honeymoon in Canada. :-)

2006

I learnt XSLT. :-( Lettice also started to work at VL. I joined Flickr

2007

Relaunched visitlondon.com with a new CMS, clocking up a stupid number of days off in lieu in the process. I did jury duty. I joined Facebook. We went to Dublin and Amsterdam.

2008

We went to Venice. I learnt JSP and jQuery. I joined Twitter

2009

We went to Barcelona and tried to buy a house. I grew a moustache for charity.


We have an web application at work that’s used by thirty or so people, many of whom are non-technical. The application runs in the browser window and is a mixture of standard HTML forms and Java applets.

The most comment “it doesn’t work” message I get from users is caused when the application displays this message:

Unspecified error invoking method or accessing property “showWindow”

The pop-up blocker built into Internet Explorer seems not to like Java applets trying to launch new browser windows. It blocks these by default even though they are “requested” by the user via a click and not launched automatically by a sneaky script. I guess IE can’t or won’t work out what’s happened inside the applet before it calls out to create a new window.

Not once have the users noticed the yellow bar at the top of their browser window informing them that a pop-up has been blocked.

I can see the problem for browser producers – if you make the notification too prominent it becomes as annoying as the pop-up would have been; if you make it too subtle it goes unnoticed when the pop-up needs to be noticed.

Compounding the issue is that Internet Explorer seems to maintain three separate lists of trusted/permitted sites for privacy (i.e. cookies), security, and pop-ups. Would a master list of trusted sites with the ability to fine tune options on a site-by-site basis as an advanced option be easier to use? Or is the interface just leading me to the wrong conclusion? Oh well, maybe IE9 will streamline things.

Oh, and don’t get me started on the Google Toolbar’s pop-up blocker…


Part 1 of a few.

It seems that everyone has started talking about HTML5. I’ve recently converted sfsfw.org (still a work in progress) to HTML5 (ditto) and built a microsite at work in the language.

So, what parts of the brave new world am I embracing?

The new doctype

<!DOCTYPE html>, well that will save a few bytes per page. I’ve never tried to type a doctype from memory before, I’ve always cut and pasted from another project or from an authoritative source, but now I might just type it, saving a few seconds. I can’t help feeling that the lack of versioning information is a making a problem for the future (and let’s not get into the related area of all the things that HTML doctypes do/mean in comparison with what SGML or XML doctypes are meant to mean…).

The new character encoding

<meta charset="utf-8" />, again that will save a few bytes on those pages where I bother to include a meta tag rather than just trusting to the HTTP header (and I know why the belt and braces approach is useful, so long as they both tell the same story).

The new block level elements

<section>, <article>, <header>, <footer>, <aside> and <nav>. These are rather cool. Not immediataly earth shaking but they make code cleaner and debugging easier – less often will I be staring at </div></div></div></div> and wondering whether my current problem is caused by having too few or too many closing div tags.

The new input types

number, tel, email, url are already being used in several forms on visitlondon.com and it makes me smile ‘cos me and a handful of other Opera users get to see the benefit right now. I think these will be my favourite part of the new spec for some time to come.

There’s a lot more to HTML5. This isn’t meant to be a tutorial, just some personal observations and use cases. I’ll try to delve a bit deeper into how I’m using these pieces of code and why I’m using these but not others in future posts.


Just a quick one to point out that when you build a Christmas web site in October, sometimes things go a little strange…