Tag Archives: 2012

Looking back, looking forward

As I close in on my first year anniversary joining the Cloud Foundry team, we’ve passed the New Year marker and some things are in the process of changing, so I thought it was high time for a blog post – now there’s a thing!

Last year was one full of changes for me, not all of which are things I’ve posted about online – those who know me well know that I had an “interesting” year! Like many folks, I’ve just gone through the corporate annual review cycle, and that was a good chance to think over what I got up to in 2012.

Looking back

I’m not going to quote word for word from what I submitted in my review, but pick out some of my personal highlights:

  • I’ve had a blast in the Cloud Foundry team, and particularly feel at home with my Developer Advocate colleagues. I was able to co-present sessions with Monica at MongoDB UK (she’s now moved on to more awesomeness), and Raja at our Cloud Foundry Open Tour event in London… I co-wrote a Cloud Foundry and Spring article for JAX with the legendary Josh… and in the past few weeks I’ve been working more with Raja and others on some new content that is coming soon. Teamwork and collaboration FTW 🙂
  • I built a few simple samples for Cloud Foundry – not quite the uber-app that I had planned, that’s still in my head – and learned a bunch of new (to me) languages and technologies in a short period of time.
  • I’m very pleased with my “reach” in terms of audiences, talks, and the numbers of people referring to videos, screencasts and slidecasts I built in the past 12 months. Always room to improve!
  • I had an excellent time working with our Cloud Foundry ecosystem partners and friends in 2012, getting to know Diane, Adron, the Uhuru team, AppFog, etc. For me, the partners and community around Cloud Foundry are what make my role a real pleasure.

Beyond the day job, I did a bunch of other things last year, too:

  • Visited San Francisco for the first time… which sounds weird given my IT background and the tech concentration there. I love that city! Next time I might actually get to do the tourist thing, but I really enjoyed being over there with my colleagues.
  • Saw IBM’s MQTT code move into the Eclipse Paho project, where I became a Committer. I was able to represent the project at EclipseCon in the US and in Europe and at the Eclipse Day in Toulouse organised by my good friend Benjamin. There was some big growth in the MQTT community last year – lots of new software implementations, another significant use of the protocol in Facebook’s updated mobile apps, and increasing numbers of folks discovering the protocol.
  • Attended both of the Redmonk Brew events – the Monkigras and the Monktoberfest. Hands-down the best technology events that I’ve been too. Can’t wait for the Monkigras 2013 next week. Sell your own arm to buy a ticket. A leg too, if necessary.
  • Took part in the London Green Hackathon, the Field Studies Council Hackday, the IDEO Make-a-thon (gutted that I cannot go to the event this year), spoke at Digital Bristol, attended Horizons and the Raspberry Jam in London…
  • Was on the crew at OggCamp, Hack to the Future, the Brighton Mini Maker Faire…
  • Rediscovered my love of LEGO.

Looking forward

So that was last year, and it’s late January already – way past time to think about how 2013 will shape up. Despite my good buddy James Governor not doing New Year’s Resolutions, I made myself a short list of things I want to focus on this year – and ignoring some of what he says, I am actually going to try to follow through…

  • Be as awesome as possible in my role on the Cloud Foundry team. I work with great people and they deserve the best I can offer. Looking forward to seeing where the Pivotal Initiative takes us, and there are some great things happening!
  • Attend fewer events in one week / month. A couple of times last year, I definitely pushed myself too hard. In the London tech scene you can pretty much choose from 2 or 3 good developer meetups on any evening of the week, and I over-committed on several occasions. I’m also going to be more picky about exactly how I get involved in them… I loved all of the events I crewed for last year, but I scheduled things poorly and need to cut back.
  • Blog more frequently. Yes, this is the obvious one… but I really do want to, and have intended to for a long time. I have moments where I compose whole blog entries in my head while I sit on the train, and I wish they could just be transcribed in the moment. I do regret having let other social sites take over my online presence, particularly when it comes to the end of a year with the chance to look back. I should have been able to link every “big event” in the lists above, back to a blog post about what happened. So, I’m committing myself to writing more again this year.
  • Improve my Ruby and Javascript skills. I’ve started out well on this with a couple of projects I’ve been tinkering with lately.
  • Make cool things. LEGO things. Raspberry Pi things. Arduino things. I want to learn, hack, and make more. I talk about Maker culture, and I want to remind myself that I’m part of it.
  • Focus on improving my public speaking habits. I know I sometimes talk too quickly, get sidetracked, etc… every time I listen back or watch a talk I gave, I spot another thing I want to adjust. I think this is one of those lifetime improvement resolutions more than it is something I can “fix” in a 12 month period, but it’s certainly an area I want to look at.
  • Take. Proper. Holidays. I nearly managed to entirely detach from Twitter over the Christmas period, and definitely didn’t keep checking my work email, for the first time in many years. It felt good. I want to do that more often from now on.

Seven simple (?!) thoughts. I guess the only one that will easily be measurable by watching my blog will be the one about writing more, and this is my start on that one!

Happy 2013, friends – hope to see you soon!

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My first VMworld

I’m very excited to be here with my colleagues and our customers and partners at the annual VMworld conference, this year held in San Francisco (conveniently close to our HQ and also the location where my fellow Cloud Foundry Developer Advocates are based).

I’m primarily here to talk with folks about Cloud Foundry, of course – I’ll spend some time on the Solutions Center floor today doing so. Another important reason that I wanted to be here, as a new employee of just under five months, was to soak up the broader story around the VMware story and portfolio – there’s some very cool stuff happening around cloud, virtualisation, and end user computing and I’m excited to hear what gets announced during the keynotes this week.

If you are attending, do try to get along to the Cloud Foundry Bootcamp session (Monday pm), or some of the other Cloud Foundry and BOSH sessions that are on the agenda – I was really pleased to have met folks like Brian McClain already and to have reconnected with friends like Dave McCrory and the legendary Josh Long who are involved with some of these sessions.

First impressions? big, lots of energy. Exciting. Love the range of chillout activities (foosball, air hockey, video game cabinets, board games and LEGO!) in the Hang Space. Love the social aspects with a giant 360 degree LED display showing tweets, photos etc, and a Socialcast site setup for the attendees to network. There’s a lot to explore in the Solutions Center. It is going to be a busy week! Do come and introduce yourself and say hi if you’re here… always delighted to meet new folks… and of course I’m tweeting like crazy about the event and announcements as well, so feel free to follow me online to learn more.

 

Geekery in 8-bits and more

In which I get misty-eyed and nostalgic, geek out over electronics, and think about mobile and the cloud.

Then

On Saturday I went along to the Horizons 30th anniversary of the ZX Spectrum event, organised by Paul Squires and Leila Johnston and held at the BFI in London. The event ran on both days but I wasn’t able to stay on the Sunday, so I missed at least half of the fun!

Steven Goodwin reads Sinclair User

Although I’m full of nostalgia for the 8-bit era, I have to confess I never actually owned a Speccy or any Sinclair hardware. My friends did, but I was primarily an Acorn enthusiast and our first home computer was an Electron (although the first computer I used at primary school was a Commodore PET).

I fondly remember some of the hacks I did on/with/to the Electron, including soldering a pair of headphones into the motherboard to avoid annoying my parents with the music from various Superior Software titles 🙂

Regardless of “allegiance”, Horizons was a really great day. Highlights for me included a fantastic history of computing by PJ Evans from The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park (if you haven’t been there yet, you should visit!); Spectranet, an Ethernet adapter for the Spectrum which had me wanting one for no good excuse that I can come up with; and the mind-blowing live composition of a chip tune by Matt Westcott which I saw, but I struggled to comprehend. Matt’s ability to reverse engineer a tune in his head was remarkable.

Oh, and if you haven’t downloaded or bought MJ Hibbett‘s Hey Hey 16k yet, or at least streamed it, you really should.

aside: since Horizons was part of SciFi London, I tried to get Micro Men director Saul Metzstein to drop some hints about his upcoming S7 Dr Who episodes. All he would say was that the western episodes were filmed in Spain (knew that), and that the script for the Christmas episode hasn’t been written yet (didn’t know that).

Now

Components

After the event on Saturday evening, I found it a real struggle to avoid crazy, nostalgia-fuelled eBay purchases, but I did manage to resist! Instead, I resolved to finally get around to building the Fignition I’d picked up at the Hack to the Future event a couple of months ago.

For those who are not familiar with it, the Fignition is a credit card sized build-it-yourself 8-bit computer based around the ATMega chip (the same one used in the Arduino and Nanode Open Source hardware boards). It’s really a remarkable little device – I guess it took me about an hour to assemble and solder, although your mileage may vary. The build guide is excellent and very clear. After performing a couple of power on tests with and without the ICs inserted, it was time to connect up to the TV – and it worked first time. It boots into a simplified Forth environment, which was reminiscent of that BBC BASIC> prompt I am so familiar with from my childhood. The only real downside is that the keyboard – built from 8 clicker buttons – is a bit fiddly to get to grips with, but hey – I just assembled a complete 8-bit computer including video out and keyboard! It’s hard not to be excited.

The board I built was a RevD – the new RevE board has onboard audio in/out (get ready for some fun loading stuff from audio cassettes, again!), and is also slightly modified so that in principle, it is possible to add Arduino-footprint shields. That’s kind of cool, as it means that it might be possible to add a PS/2 keyboard or a network interface.

Ready to test!

What’s “the point” of something so simple, by today’s standards? Well, actually – the simplicity. I went from a bag of components, to a fully working computer in the palm of my hand – no surface-mount components – to a programmable device. It’s “primitive” by the standards of today’s machines, but it’s not that hard to understand how an 8-bit “brain” works, in comparison to the 32 or 64-bit mulitcore CPUs and GPUs in modern laptops and mobile phones. In my opinion, the Fignition, Arduino and Nanode fulfil an important role in helping youngsters to understand the basic principles of electronics and computing.

Next

Last night I headed along to the fantastic Mozilla offices in London.

Mozilla Space, London

The main LJC event was Simon Maple from IBM showing off the new WebSphere 8.5 Liberty Profile running on a Raspberry Pi. I’d hooked Simon up with Sukkin Pang recently so that he could get one of the smart enclosures he provides for the Pi. It was pretty cool to see a full Java app server running on such a small computer – actually almost exactly the same size as the Fignition, only considerably more powerful of course.

The whole talk was live streamed on Mozilla Air – but if you missed it, there’s a video available (complete with semi-professional heckling from yours truly!)

Boot 2 Gecko

What stole the evening for me, though, was two other glimpses of what lies ahead. First, Tom Banks from IBM Hursley came on stage after Simon and showed off the Liberty profile running on a mobile phone. Let me clarify – he was running Android 2.3 on a Nexus One (an “old” phone), running Ubuntu Linux as a virtual image inside of that, and WebSphere inside of that. Kind of mind-blowing! A proof-of-concept and arguably not very useful… not sure when I would want to put a full JEE app server in a phone… but extremely cool. Finally, @cyberdees let Tom and I have a play with Boot to Gecko – Mozilla’s new mobile play. B2G was something I’d heard about, but not touched. I have to say that even in an early form, it’s looking very slick, boots extremely fast – much more quickly than any Android or iOS device I’ve seen – and the device integration (GPS, camera, access to hardware settings, etc) was impressive.

With the Open Web as the platform, ubiquitous mobile devices, and increasingly sophisticated cloud-based backends to interact with, the future is looking pretty cool.