UK Gov reaches an all-time low as it tries to monitor everyone.
UK Gov reaches an all-time low as it tries to monitor everyone.
I’ve ordered a machine to replace my Macbook Pro in the office: Dell Precision T3500 Xeon W3540 2.66GHz w/12GB 🙂
I have been suffering as a would-be Mac user for the best part of 10 months now, on and off. It’s been a painful experience, physically and mentally. I was only going to post a short “microblog” post and be done with this topic, but I felt the need to expand upon my decision to do this.
Perhaps it will help dissuade potential future purchasers of Apple‘s overpriced, underwhelming and non-expandable machines. I hope it does, as one of the worst problems we create for ourselves in the 21st century is planned obsolescence – something, arguably, which Apple is guilty of.
In my day job as managing director (CEO) of a UK web development & cloud hosting business, I – predictably – develop websites and administer servers. I’m the kind of guy who likes to keep his hands dirty, and my skills up.
Very basic things, in fact.
Very Basic Things I continue to rely upon, to get work done:
For me, the Macbook Pro fails in all of the above.
In April 2016, I bought this “Early 2015” Macbook Pro. It has a Core i5 5257U processor, 8GB RAM and 256GB PCIe SSD. When I mentioned to fellow designers I bought this, it was met with a knowing smile and the instant acknowledgement, “ahh wow, the SSD in those machines makes them so fast!”. I also, regretfully, bought a 27″ Thunderbolt display. The total cost of these two: a few pence short of £2,100. Two-thousand, one-hundred pounds for an average-spec 2015 laptop and 27-inch QHD monitor.
Fast is something I have never, ever considered a Mac to be, and especially this MBP. It booted quick, sure, but in general use… nah. Really, no. But I’m not in the habit of upsetting people, so more often than not I’d reply with some kind of non-opinionated remark like, “yeah? Right… I look forward to seeing that”. I’d argue, though, that the apparent lack of speed is much more to do with the operating system than the hardware.
This isn’t an Apple-bashing post. It’s just an expression of my preference. Yet there are things I really do like about the MBP:
I am typiubg this post on Apple’s “Magic Keyboard 2”. This section, including heading, is intentionally left with all the typos in as I make them. Why? Because the MAgic Ketword 2 is uterly crap compared to the keyvoard on the MBP itself. It pales in comparison in terms of typing experience. I would strongly recommend against anyone buying it, unless it’s vital to you to have a mininalist desk you can take photos of and swoon over all day. I spend hours of wasted time correcting typos that occur as a direct resylt of using this keyvoard.
By comparison, I was really quite glad how usable the keyboard on the MBO really is. ITs typing experience, much to my genuine surprisem ws excellent. The key travel is good abd the spacing between keys works really well. Although chiclet in style, with slightly rteduced key sizes compared to, say, an old school LEnobo Thinkpad (like my old T420), it’s so much more intuitive to use than the Magix Keyboard 2 that I shall no longer labvout the point and just move on.
But the most important thing is that GNU+Linux and GNOME (or really any other free software desktop environment) is so much better. At least for someone like me, working with remote servers, or SSH sessions in a terminal, or doing lots of text editing.
Here is a phrase you may have heard somewhen:
I believe this is true. I love my occupation and I am so privileged that people pay me to do it. When I get into the office, I cherish that feeling of biting off more than I can possibly chew, and working the problem towards a solution.
In the business, we make every effort to deliver the highest quality at the lowest possible cost. However, in web design, development and hosting, there are quite a number of significant costs to meet while trying to keep the end price reasonable. One such cost is test equipment.
Another cost is time; a hidden cost if, as a developer, you are always fighting your equipment in order to achieve a comfortable, efficient workflow. Using a Mac, while semi-enjoyable, also taught me just how efficient I had become using GNU+Linux to deliver results to clients. I can’t imagine a more fluid workflow than Emacs, Chrome and GNOME.
So, to the new (old) machine, which will be with me tomorrow. For the enormous sum of £179.99 + VAT and delivery (£9.99), I am getting:
There are a few discussions online about the merits of this workstation, and I’m glad I opted for one instead of a new laptop to supplant the MBP. The Xeon 3520 processor is not new by any stretch of the imagination. It’s 8 years old. But it’s still capable enough by far and comparable to a core i7 920; a processor we still have in use in a server at Warp.
But let’s focus instead on someone else’s video, which is a nice way to tail off…
Despite previous posts advocating the indieweb, sadly I need to trim down my WordPress plugin experience. This is mainly to seeing a lot more traffic on my site recently, and not having the time or resources to optimise the plugin code running on my virtual server. I found that the number of plugins in my site (around 48) was really starting to hamper performance.
So it’s with regret that I step out of the indieweb sharing platform, by removing all associated plugins from my WordPress. Despite being in full agreement with the indieweb mantra, of owning one’s own data, I do find some satisfaction and convenience of using WordPress.com‘s own tools to do the same job now. To some extent, they have embraced providing a richer, more social experience through WordPress sites – whether hosted by them, or by “us”.
My only regret is that I couldn’t contribute to the project, the principles of which I wholly believe in and support – if only on an intellectual level.
Good luck Indieweb!
A 100% functional desktop environment, that’s way more flexible than macOS or Windows, more secure, more resource-efficient, faster, cleaner, less obtrusive, quicker to navigate, more economic keyboard shortcuts to navigate, and (IMHO) better on the eye too.
Which all matters when you spend whole days looking at code.
Discovering the IndieWeb movement was a 2015 highlight for me. It addressed many of my concerns about the direction of the modern internet, especially regarding ownership and control over that data. But to truly own your own data, self-hosting is a must!
I’m an ideas person. I have a number of projects – or, rather, project ideas – lined up, which I need to record and review. My blog provides me with the ideal space for that, as some ideas may attract the attention of others who are also interested. But why does this matter?
As someone who naturally likes to share experiences and knowledge, I see no benefit in not sharing my ideas too. After all, the web is all about sharing ideas. This matters to me, because the web is widely regarded as the most valuable asset civilised society has today (aside from the usual – like natural resources, power, warmth and sustenance)!
As a small business owner, I sometimes benefit from various common business practices. For example, the standard accounting principle of straight-line depreciation means that after several years, capital assets once purchased by the business have little-to-no use for the business, meaning they become potential liabilities (both in the financial and risk-management sense). This means I am able to get hold of used, good-condition computing hardware of 4-5 years old at very little cost.
This is useful for me, as a blogger and an IndieWeb advocate, as I can not only publish and manage all my own data, but also physically host my own data too. As I have fibre broadband running to my house, it’s now feasible to serve my blog as reasonable speeds with 10-20 Mib/sec upstream (“download speed” to you), which is sufficient for my likely traffic and audience.
This ties in nicely with one of my core beliefs, that people should be able to manage all their own data if they choose. I am technically competent enough, and have the meants at my disposal to do it. So why not!
Another driver towards this is that I wish to permanently separate “work” and “pleasure”. My business web hosting and cloud service is for my customers. Yes, we host our own web content as a business, but personal content? Well, in the interests of security and vested interests, I am pushing towards making personal content something that is only hosted for a paying customer.
Of course, I would encourage anyone to start their own adventure self-hosting too!
Naturally, taking on this type of arrangement has various challenges attached. Here is a selection of the tasks still to be achieved:
Whilst I am progressing these endeavours, it would be remiss if I didn’t document them. There is a lot to be said for the benefits (to a devop, anyway) of hosting one’s own sites and data, but naturally my blog must carry on while I am in the process of building its new home.
A quick jiggle around of my site’s menu structure will hopefully clarify where you can see this work, going forwards (hint, check the projects menu).
If you are interested in hosting your own servers and being in direct control over your content/data, why not subscribe to this blog’s RSS feed or subscribe by email (form towards footer). Or if you have comments, just “Leave a Reply” beneath! 🙂
Let’s be clear from the outset: there’s no word that adequately defines MozFest. The Mozilla Festival is, simply, crazy. Perhaps it’s more kindly described as chaotic? Possibly. A loosely-coupled set of talks, discussion groups, workshops and hackathons, roughly organised into allocated floors, feed the strangely-complimenting hemispheres of work and relaxation.
Starting from the seeming calm of Ravensbourne’s smart entrance, you stroll in, unaware of the soon-experienced confusion. A bewildering and befuddling set of expectations and realisations come and go in rapid succession. From the very first thought – “ok, I’m signed in – what now?”, to the second – “perhaps I need to go upstairs?”, third – “or do I? there’s no obvious signage, just a load of small notices”…. and so on, descending quickly but briefly into self-doubt before emerging victorious from the uneasy, childlike dependency you have on others’ goodwill.
Volunteers in #MozHelp t-shirts, I’m looking at you. Thanks.
The opening evening started this year with the Science Fair, which featured – in my experience – a set of exciting hardware and software projects which were all in some way web-enabled, or web-connected, or web-controlled. Think Internet of Things, but built by enthusiasts, tinkerers and hackers – the way it should be.
“Open Hardware” projects, interactive story-telling, video games and robots being controlled by the orientation of the smartphone (by virtue of its gyroscopic capability).. the demonstration of genius and creativity is not even limited by the hardware available. If it didn’t already exist, it got designed and built.
As made clear from the opening keynotes on Saturday morning, MozFest is not a place for debate. Don’t think this as a bad thing. The intention is simply to help communicate ideas, as opposed to getting bogged down in the mire of detail. “Free” vs “Open”? Not here. The advice given was to use one’s ears much more than one’s mouth, and it’s sound advice – no pun intended. I have generally been considered a good listener, so I felt at home not having to “prove” anything by making a point. There was no point. 😉
Several themes were introduced in the keynote speeches which really resonated with the attendees – sorry, the participants of MozFest. That of online security and surveillance, more than two years after Edward Snowden’s revelations, was as prominent as ever. Participation was another key theme, and to me one of the most poignant ideas of the whole weekend. Participation was not encouraged or expected; it was simply threaded into the very fabric of one’s presence. You participated, to a lesser of greater degree. This was one of the most socially inclusive experiences I have ever known.
I cannot overstate how social inclusion at all levels permeated MozFest. From the smallest of teams – 2 individuals, to the largest groups I saw, people were constantly engaged in conversation, development – personal, social and technical, and – perhaps surprisingly – quiet reflection, too.
Quiet zones were available for those needing a little downtime. The cerebral intensity of the weekend is clearly felt.
The concept of the fire-side story appeared several times, reminding us that the web isn’t just a resource in and of itself, but rather a medium to convey information. Storytelling, one of the oldest methods of such conveyance, was a prescient theme. Represented through journalism, community and leadership, the scale of recognition (and a reminder) that the web is, primarily, a means to convey stories, took me somewhat aback. It’s inescpable logic, almost lost amidst the omnipresent noise of today’s social media.
Not only was MozFest a means to appreciate, understand and build upon the means to share information, it was also firmly invested in its future. Science and education were extremely well represented by group talks, workshops and forums.
In fact, the sheer number of topics on offer, and guaranteed clashing of events sure to interest you, simply went to prove one thing: the web is not just big, it’s bigger than you can imagine. How the event planners and coordinators of MozFest actually found a way to combine the multitude of themes and interests into “Spaces” and “Pathways” is a huge credit to the thought-leadership behind this event. By encouraging leadership, the Mozilla Foundaiton has shown itself to be a more-than-capable leader in as diverse a field as there can be.
On arrival, I didn’t know what to expect. First-timers don’t. I had a vague incling that I would face a learning curve, adapting to the culture and activities of the event. Like a wandering spirit, I probably stared starry-eyed at the overwhelming number of quickly-scribbled “adverts”, pinned, taped and hung up everywhere, telling me about “this event” or “that workshop”. Even now, in reflection, I feel that the above post barely scratches the surface of the experience.
It’s sensory-overload, pure and simple. 🙂
MozFest is a journey. Physically, many people made long journeys to attend and participate. To those people, I am grateful – you have made my life richer by your efforts. But psychologically, emotionally and intellectually MozFest is so much more than the sum of its multitudinous parts: It’s an idea, a belief that together we can build something better for much time to come; build something to last that has intrinsic “goodness”. And we are not actually talking about the web. The conversation has evolved. The web might be the medium, but the story is now about us.
The question is, how do we nurture our most sublime nature, and be all we can?
If you use Firefox and have recently come across this error, fear not. This intention of this page is to resolve these errors once and for all!
There are a few key steps to resolving it: