Friday, February 29, 2008

City 17 -Life imitates Art

When I was in Manchester the other day I was struck by the resemblance between it and Half-lif2's City 17, largely as a result of the Beetham Tower. The top images is Manchester, the lower image is City 17

(credit: Brian Micklethwait from

City 17

Iomart responded

I received an email from Iomart in response to this posting about problems I'd had which, amongst the expected said this:

Customer Service is extremely important to us and as you can imagine the extended maintenance was disappointing from our own internal viewpoint, however it was at the same time unavoidable and we did everything in our power to restore services as quickly as possible.
Which is fine as it goes, but if they actually read the post they will see that my anger is directed at three things:

1/ We were not expecting to be affected, this wasn't "extended maintenance" for us it was unplanned downtime. Iomart advertise 100% uptime, how can they do that if they don't even know when things aren't working.
2/ Even if we had been expecting this we were not given enough time to come up with contingency arrangements.
3/ We couldn't contact anyone for several hours after we discovered the problem, and neither did they contact us to tell us that there even was a problem, therefore clearly not doing everything in their power, and it took several more hours to finally restore our services.

My correspondent also said:
is there anything we can do to perhaps help you find alternative solutions or ease the frustration you have clearly experienced with the maintenance on Sunday 27th January.
Which is nonsense because the two things which might have made a difference are clearly not going to be on Iomarts agenda,
a) compensate our clients who lost tens of £000's of revenue
or b) turn the clock back and warn us at least 10 working days before this happened.

Now don't get me wrong, I know that things can and do go wrong at times, I'm not complaining that things went wrong, I'm complaining that we weren't in the loop.
Customer service is about making your customers priorities and concerns your priorities and concerns. In this case Iomart's priorities and concerns were clearly their own.

Oh and if anyone from Iomart should choose to respond to this post, please use comments, and if anyone does choose to email me, don't try to be clever and use an address you discover, use the one advertised, find it using the "contact me" link, that's what its there for.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Went to collect my teenage daughter from her guitar lesson today for the 1st time, so I got Nikki to show me where it was on google maps. I took a good look at the satellite view so's I'd know exactly which house to go to, and how to get to the right street. Neither of us knew what the address was, and even if we did we're satNav luddites. Imagine my surprise when I got there to find the same maroon car parked in the same place in the drive as was in the satellite photo.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Gratuitous Shoe

I couldn't resist posting this picture, as you may guess we've got more shoe photography going on in the office today... but this time its going straight into the asset library, from where I plucked this beauty.

I still can't work out how to make Adobe Version Cue work with a linux samba fileserver, VC seems to use java and mysql, but for some reason even running the server on windows I can't select the network shares as the data location. :-(

I think I'll just admire the shoes and wait for inspiration ...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Another day another dollar

Today we had a visit from an extremely prominent Scottish Politician with a local (to us) background, which was weird but fun. At Quango X we were sheltered from the politicians by several layers of civil (and sexy, and grumpy, and anal-retentive, but not all at once) servants, so it was odd to meet One So Exalted on equal terms, he was pretty normal, but my cynicism nags me that perhaps he was being professionally normal. Anyhow I liked the guy.

Is this starting to sound like a Douglas Coupland novel? Perhaps. I'm currently enjoying JPod, read it you geeks...

We've also taken delivery of the subversion/asset library server, I set up samba and svn on friday, and any hints on how to make Adobe Version Cue use a linux/samba fileserver would be *much* appreciated, or how to integrate Bridge with svn. Comments *please*!!

I also set up our "pool" laptop for tethered photography directly into the library, we're starting to get perilously close to professionalism :-)

All in all another step closer to the dream, just gotta buy a rack full of servers now....

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Busy Busy ...

Well, things are settling down here at the not-so-new-anymore-New-Job.
The changes we've made in production seem to have had a beneficial effect in de-stressing the boys and girls (pictured above) and, touch wood, we're making progress.

This week sees the introduction of new release management procedures and the start of a two week push to get all of the code into subversion, and all of the tasks into JIRA.

All of which is slightly hampered, I have to say, by the fact that the server its all supposed to go onto isn't due here 'till the 27th. But I'm an adaptable guy, we're using a pc that used to be someone's prized gaming rig to tide us over. It was either that or put it on the windows sbs domain server, but if I break IIS, Exchange or Active Directory I'd have to hire someone to fix it, and I wouldn't be happy with that prospect.

A week or so ago we managed to make four releases in three days for four different clients, and there was no hint of panic about them. Hooray!

The only stress we had to contend with was the self imposed stress of no one in the whole office being happy with our own new site! What's there now is a complete re-write from what was originally requested.

But hey, if we've got scope creep and change-of-mind syndrome sorted out for the paying work we can live with our own deficiencies for now.

The releases were:
Duchamp Spring Summer 08 collection
Qube Shoes brand refresh
The Hunter Leadership Programme, site launched to coincide with the press launch,

And last but by no means least a long awaited update to our own Drive Business site, which as of today is still waiting for most of the case-studies to be completed, but at least it has a news section. I have to say I like the magazine style of the case-study that is there but I'm not sure that one big image of the PDF is quite such a smart move.

Oh, and we're still growing. More boxes from dell and ikea cluttering up the space, and more effort is being expended on building furniture and editing the organisational chart than is being exerted on the project plans. But such is the Way of the Small Business Employee.

Right, better get back to work now, whip-cracking to be done.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Put the Internet Down...

... and walk away with your hands in view...

I just read this.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Storing MIME email in JCR with James and Jackrabbit

I read a post on the James dev list that mentioned this blog posting which goes into some detail of the method Jukka Zitting used to create a JCR message repository (using Apache Jackrabbit) for Apache James in the James sandbox. I thought this would be a good excuse to mention that work here.

I find it an exciting idea because it takes the inherently richly structured MIME messages and stores them in a way that can cope with the full richness of the structure including the mixture of content types, the recursion of nesting, and the mixture of encodings and character sets supported very well by the totally fan-bloody-tastic MIME spec. In fact JCR is much more aptly suited to storing MIME structures than a traditional RDBMS or the filesystem because it is flexible in the right ways and can also manage the metadata.

The expensive act of parsing the MIME message is only carried out once, when the message is exploded into the store, and thereafter the whole message, or just specific parts of it, can be passed around as a serialisable reference to a location rather than as unserialisable streams, or big byte[]'s.

What's more any system that can manipulate the JCR repository can become involved in the life of the messages, for example web mail stops being a web interface for traditional mail protocols and becomes a first class citizen, web applications built straight ontop of the repository.

Add Web Services and the repository can participate in CRM systems which use WS to integrate channels and systems into a single Agent Desktop and a Single Customer View.

The fact that Jukka made the James JCR repository (with an html viewer as well) in a few hours at Apachecon EU is testament to the suitability of JCR, the extensibility of JAMES and the value of the Hackathon as a tool for innovation.

Have a look at the code here or subscribe to the list to discuss it.

I know nothing, I'm not a fortune teller, and you'd be insane to think that I am. This disclaimer was cribbed from an email footer I once received. It is so ridiculous I had to have it for myself.

Statements in this blog that are not purely historical are forward-looking statements including, without limitation, statements regarding my expectations, objectives, anticipations, plans, hopes, beliefs, intentions or strategies regarding the future. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from the forward looking statements include risks and uncertainties such as any unforeseen event or any unforeseen system failures, and other risks. It is important to note that actual outcomes could differ materially from those in such forward-looking statements.

Danny Angus Copyright © 2006-2013 (OMG that's seven years of this nonsense)