Games Day 2013 Write-Up

Those of you who follow me on Twitter probably know I was a Games Day 2013 in Birmingham, yesterday. There’s a photo gallery coming later with the many pictures I took through the day, but I’m still waiting on those to transfer off my iPad and upload to the server. In this post I’ll give a a bit of an overview of the day, and recount my experiences.

I’ll mention up front that this was my first Games Day in a long time. The last time I attended, I was still young enough to enter the Young Bloods painting competition, so it’s been 18-19 years at least!

This entry is very long, so it’s behind a “Read More” link. Photos will be in a separate gallery post. Continue reading

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Learning New Stuff: Vim

It started as a throwaway comment:

But like all interesting ideas, it took root in my brain, and I started to wonder “no, really, what if…”

This morning I woke up deciding to finally learn Vim. It’s been on my “to-do” list for quite a while – years, in fact – my old boss used to be a bit of a Vim guru, who could edit file on the Linux boxes 10x faster than me using GEdit, which I used to marvel at as a junior.

Beyond the “code from my iPad” idea above, I have a couple more reasons for learning Vim:

  • Vim is near universal. It runs on pretty much any platform, and it’s standard on virtually any Linux distro
  • Since switching back to Linux, I spend half my time in the CLI anyway – Vim cuts down the need to switch away to something like Sublime
  • Having a CLI-based workflow reduces the amount of “stuff” I need to set-up on a computer to write some code

But coming back to the iPad, I’m quite keen to get this working because I’ll be moving house soon, and it’s more than likely I won’t have space for my current PC set-up, and a new laptop is out of my budget for now. So if this works it will let me keep tinkering on projects even without a “proper” computer. I’ve been in this position before, so I know the limitations. This time, however, I’m using an iPad Mini and a Logitech Bluetooth keyboard case.

My Set-up/Learning Resources

To get myself up and running, I’ve installed and configured Vim on my PC, and will install GVim on my work laptop. I’m going to try and use it in place of Sublime Text Editor as much as I can, but give no promises when it comes to anything work-related, as that generally needs done fast.

I’ve fired up a Ubuntu box on Joyent (starting with the first 5-minutes post I linked to last week), and replicated my PC’s Vim configuration, so I can start working from the iPad straight away. I installed Git, and authorised the box with my Github account, so I can push and pull to my heart’s content.

As I’m just starting out, the configuration I’ve gone for is very basic and minimal, but giving me room to grow as I get more experienced. Essentially, I’ve installed Pathogen, and applied their recommended beginner defaults.

For learning resources, I’ve found there’s a heck of a lot out there for Vim. So much so, I’ve chosen to limit myself for now so I don’t get overwhelmed.

  • The Pragmatic Programmers books are somewhere I always check when I want to learn something new. I find their books to be practical, well written, and informative. True to form, Practical Vim (from what I’ve read so far) is an excellent introduction to “real world” Vim.
  • Vim Adventures is a neat, interactive learning tool, which turns learning Vim into an 16-bit adventure game.
  • VimCasts has 50 free screencasts, dealing – unsurprisingly – with learning Vim

Feel free to suggest some more good resources though – as I get more experience I’ll need to branch out into other areas!

Licensing Your Open Source Code

I received an email from a developer the other day, who had forked the repository for my “IIS Express Here” shell extension on GitHub. He had noticed there was no license information available in the project, so asked if I could either add a license, or give him written permission to adapt my code and share it to others (as is the spirit of GitHub and OSS).

To be honest, this wasn’t something I’d thought about before, and was a bit of an oversight on my part. I’d not really considered the need to add explicit licenses to my repositories. After all, the code is out there anyway – it’s open to use on GitHub, and I’ve often shared it on this blog… if someone wanted to copy the code, they could, right?

Unfortunately, this creates a grey-area, which some are naturally uncomfortable with. Can I use this code in something else? Can I modify it at all? Do I have to pay royalties if I do?

But licensing is hard, isn’t it? All the different types, with different caveats, liabilities, and legal mumbo-jumbo… well, yes, it can be hard. The good folks at GitHub have a solution: is attempting to demystify open source licenses so you can pick the right one for your project. More than this, when you create a new repository on GitHub, the site will ask if you want to add a template license during the initialisation process:


Coming back to the developer who emailed me – I mailed him back to let him know that IIS Express Here is now licensed under the MIT license. This fits best with how I see the code and projects I share on this blog (unless noted otherwise) – free for anyone else to use, but with no warranty, so if something goes wrong then I’m not liable and it’s not my responsibility to fix it. This license has also been added to Pseudonym. I haven’t got around to updating all of my repos with licenses, as I’m evaluating each one in turn, based on my goals and even whether the project is going to archived.


Today is my son’s tenth birthday. How time flies! It’s a little scary to think that 10 years ago I was nervously pacing the corridors of Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, mind completely blown at the thought of being a dad.

It feels like yesterday, and yet like a lifetime ago.


Pseudonym for Jekyll

Earlier this summer I started messing around with Jekyll. In the end I didn’t migrate to it, but I at least gained a little knowledge.

One way that I tried to learn more about how Jekyll works, was by creating a test site and building a theme. That theme sat locked away in a private Github repository. Until now.

I’ve just opened up the source for Pseudonym, the name I gave to the project. It’s really very basic, but I hope at least somebody gets some use out of it.

You can find the demo site at (yes, I own a .XXX domain), and source can be found in the Github repository, here.

A few notes and attributions (some copied from the readme)

  • I was also experimenting with Grunt.js. There’s a rudimentary gruntfile included, but the setup is incomplete. It was designed to build, concat and minify LESS files into CSS, various JavaScript files, and generate multiple sizes of the header images.
  • The theme is slightly responsive, but more work needs to be done here. Only tested on/targeted at desktop, iPad Mini, and my Nexus 4.
  • Header images are from Unsplash
  • Icons are by Font Awesome
  • I was messing around about with some newer CSS properties – the theme uses CSS columns in many places. While I’ve made it as cross-browser as I could in the time I spent on it, IE doesn’t look as pretty.
  • I’ve used Zepto, with a fallback to jQuery for IE.

Sunday Reads: Securing Servers and NSA-proof Email

For someone who’s primarily a developer/support person, I spend a lot of time setting up and configuring – or fixing – servers. I guess this came from an eagerness to learn and I got tarred with the “Linux/Server” Guy brushes at some point!

My interest in Operations has had an uptick again recently, so I’ve been doing a bit of reading of late. This morning, while waiting on news about some work-related activities I’ve come across a couple of interesting articles:

My First 5 Minutes On A Server; Or, Essential Security for Linux Servers by Brian Kennedy is a fantastic little quick-start for securing a Linux server. It’s not everything you need to do, but as noted in the article, it sets the foundations for a secure server which is easy to keep secure. Do these steps first, then go about securing any additional services you need to run.

One thing I’ve been wondering about, is setting up my own email system, rather than run on Google Apps. As convenient as the Google platform is, I do sometimes think I’m trusting them with a bit too much of my information. Recent revelations about the NSA/GCHQ, PRISM, and whatever-comes-next, from Edward Snowden haven’t done much to allay those worries.

But Google Apps is convenient. It wraps my mail, calander, contacts, and many other things into a nice package that is available everywhere and syncs across platform, with Push notifications, search, and other modern conveniences… but never the less, I’ve been thinking about how I could move away from the “Do-No-Evil” Empire, which is why Drew Crawford’s excellent, in-depth article “NSA-proof your e-mail in 2 hours” was a great find. I might spin up an instance on my dormant Joyent account and give it a try on one of my spare domains, so I can evaluate the process and benefits before deciding on moving my primary mail domain.

Other topics which have crossed my path this weekend are system configuration, maintenance, and automation using tools such as Chef and Puppet. The idea of taking a known-good environment and replicating it with just a few commands is definitely appealing – particularly when it comes to tasks such as setting up development/test environments! I haven’t gone too far into these topics yet, but I’m hoping to find the time in the next few weeks to go through some of the articles I’ve found.

Run Coder for Raspberry Pi on Your Linux PC

That cool little “Coder for Raspberry Pi” project from Google which I linked to earlier doesn’t just run on Raspberry Pi. You can run it on any old Linux PC (Mac works too, but the instructions are slightly different).

I set it up in less than 2 minutes using these commands (note that I’m running Debian Sid):

    sudo useradd -M pi
    sudo apt-get install redis-server
    cd ~/projects
    git clone
    cd coder/coder-base
    npm install
    npm start

Node.js is also a requirement, so if you don’t have that, you’ll need to install that at step 2 as well.

Once everything is up and running, point your browser at https://localhost:8081/. You’ll need to specify a password the first time you run Coder, after which you’ll be able to try the environment out. It’s pretty neat, and the sample clone of Asteroids is quite addictive!

Interesting Links 2013-09-12

This is just a bunch of stuff I’ve wanted to link to over the last few days, but didn’t get around to doing individual link posts for: