pinkegobox.net

A blog by Rob Gough. Developer, Geek and (amateur) Broadcaster

Sep 3, 2013

I've recently taken a new job, which has meant attacking ASP.Net in anger for the first time. While it's always fun to learn something new, my first impressions of this (now outdated) technology are that it's a hodge-podge of hacks and ducttape. No wonder MS are throwing everything into MVC for web development!

I'm going to attempt to document some of my favourite GOTCHA!'s here mostly for my own usefulness... as I can't imagine there's too many people still struggling with this.

So, I've finally added in some ajax/partial-page rendering and got all that working... no thanks to the <xhtmlConformance mode="Legacy" /> switch in the app.config. For anyone searching for help on this I'm going to reiterate that...

If you have enabled partial-page rendering, but it's still forcing a full page reload then make sure you don't have the <xhtmlConformance mode="Legacy" /> set in your app.config as it will force it to perform full page reloads. FACT!

Next up, when using jQuery's Uniform CSS and partial-rendering you might find that the styles all disappear. For me, this was because I had something like the following in in your ready function

$(document).ready(function () {
    $("select, input:text, input:radio, input:password, input:checkbox, textarea").uniform();
});

Which is great, except on the post-back the $(document).ready() isn't being fired. There's probably a neater way to solve this, but a quick-and-dirty&tm; solution is to put this same code inside a script tag under your content template.

<asp:updatepanel runat="server">
<ContentTemplate>
<script type="text/javascript">
    Sys.Application.add_load(function () {
        $("select, input:text, input:radio, input:password, input:checkbox, textarea").uniform();
    });
</script>

Though of course, to make this slightly less disgusting you should refactor the ... .uniform(); line into a function of it's own, and have both document ready and this add_load function call it.

Nov 3, 2012

Last weekend saw the latest tech event to hit the city, Hack Manchester.

Organised by Gemma Cameron and Sean Handley, it saw 150+ dev's working over 24 hours to build 50+ hacks.

Museum of Science and Industry

It was hosted at the Museum of Science and Industry in the heart of Manchester. It had been several years since I'd last visited, and while I thought the location initially sounded cool I was quite nervous that it just wouldn't be up to the task of hosting this many developers.

Thankfully I was wrong. There has obviously been a lot of work to the museum in the interim, and it quickly became and phenomenal venue. The upstairs has been converted into conference facilities, which after the addition of many tables, handled the 150+ dev's with room to spare.

Hack Manchester upstairs at MOSI

The only downside here was WiFi. 150+ laptops, then 150+ phones and probably a fair few tablets too - soon took it's toll on the WiFi. Most people managed to work around this by tethering to their phone (or borrowing someone else's). Thankfully the 3G reception was great.

I can't mention the venue, without mentioning the award ceremony. It was held in the downside area of them museum, and made quite the stunning backdrop. I don't know if the museum hosts many events like that, but it'd be damn shame if it didn't.

Award Ceremony Panorama at Hack Manchester

Team Berr

After quickly choosing a name during the initial signups (say "team berr" out load, then feel free to groan) I was left with the daunting task of actually thinking of something to build.

I decided to go with a tag-based discussion forum, and time permitting I had hoped to stick a real-time component in there and enter for the Pusher challenge.

So what is a tag-based discussion forum? Instead of artificially dividing up a forum into various topics, there's essentially just one "room" where you can post whatever you want. However, "Berr" would force you to add 1-3 tags to each new post. This means that on your home page, you can choose which tags you want to see ... and thusly avoid a great many things you don't want to see.

tag-based discussion forum by Rob Gough

I think this is superior mostly because it reduces the chance of you missing an important post, especially when the board isn't particularly busy. If you want a brief introduction, feel free to check my entry video.

Thanks

I'd like to take a moment to say thanks to all the organisers and sponsors of this event. It really was great, and I think they all did themselves proud. I can't wait until the next one...

Mar 12, 2012

Tonight I attended the first Show and Tell at the Manchester Bootstrap Club. It's a new group that started only a few months ago, for people in and around Manchester who are in the process of building a company outside of their day job.

So far the meetings have been small affairs, chatting around a pub… but after discussion on the Google group a few people decided it might be nice to have a show and tell evening, and so it was done.

Anyone who wanted could have five minutes to showcase their idea, progress, or anything they want really.

And the people came. The turn out was impressive - filling the top floor of the Madlab. Some interesting talks, from the extremely early stages (that'd be me, with Giglr) to those with several paying customers!

I'm not sure what the format will be going forward, but it certainly seemed like there was a lot of ideas and enthusiasm. If you're in the Manchester area, and looking to bootstrap your own business you should definately come along to a meeting.

Aug 30, 2011

I recently launched Weighted Down and I wanted to take a little time to explain the what and why.

Weighted Down

For the last 8 years or so I've had a problem with my weight. To begin with I put it on at an astronomical rate, and ever since then it's been steadily climbing. Any weight loss routine I started ended up back firing, with me putting on more weight that I lost. At my worst, I put on 7 stone in less than two years.

The most sustained period of weight loss was when I wrote a quick and dirty site that I could use to log how many calories I was eating, how many of my 5-a-day I was getting, and what my daily weight loss was.

simple weight

It was a quick and dirty app, but for a while there I was seeing some great success with it. However, I fell into my old trap of "rewarding" myself for being so good - and before you know it, I was rewarding myself more often than I was having good days. After a while I simply lost the enthusiasm for it, my confidence was shot… and I was back to square one.

Here we go again

I'd been planning on rebuilding the app from scratch, allowing it to have more than one user. That way I could maybe build in a social element too. Certainly I could then give each user an optional public profile, so if they want they can share their progress with friends. I'd tried using sites like myfitnesspal which track foods, along with calories - but it was taking too long to input what I was eating, and I found myself sticking to foods that were in it's database - feeling guilty if it wasn't.

I wanted my site to allow you to simply guess. Over time you become quite attuned to how many calories are in any given food, and I figured that'd be good enough. For my, the secret to weight loss is not simply in how many calories, but just being aware of how much food I'm eating. When to say no.

Leeds Hack

Leeds Hack is a 24 hour event where a group of developers and designers get together in a room, split into teams of 1-4 people, and build something from scratch. There are often competitions to build something using the Sponsors API's, but I already knew what I wanted to build… and I finally had a name too… Weighted Down.

After the initial 24 hours I had the first version of the site. I've made a few tweaks since then, and I'll continue to do so, but the basic food diary and weight tracking functionality is already there.

Spoilers

I thought I'd give you a sneak peak into some of the features that I'm hoping will make it to the site in the next few weeks. I'm making no promises at this site, but these are currently in the roadmap.

  • Graphs of Weight Loss & Calorie Intake
  • Weekly Food Diary Printout
  • 'Quick Select' of previous goods
  • Ability to 'tag' food log entries

I'd love to hear your feedback, which you can send to rob@weighteddown.co.uk

Mar 10, 2011

There is an old adage that no news is good news.

That is not always the case.

On the plus side, I have so far managed to keep to the weekly squash games with Dave, and in fact so far I'm rather enjoying them. I would play more, but it's not cheap (not expensive either, mind - the problem is compounding). And that assumes I could find the time, whereas right now it basically takes up all my Monday evening for a 45 minute game.

My basic failure has been a steadfast refusal to remain strong in the face of certain dominos.co.uk orders (Have you seen the "NUSEXTRA" voucher code?!?) and other cake like temptations. Bad robert!

I am eating less, but I'm not eating better. Nor am I getting the exercise that I hoped I would be at this point. I'm still struggling to be awake enough in the morning to not get back into bed and doze for another hour or so. On the plus side, there's a PureGym opening 5 minutes walk from the office in the next month or so - and I'm planning on joining there and forcing myself to go at least two evenings a week.

I've stopped putting everything I eat into MyFitnessPal, but that's mostly because I found myself choosing pre-packaged things that had a nice calorie count on the side. I was feeling really guilty if I was eating something and having to take educated guesses as the calorie count. It would, of course, be better to record something instead of nothing - so I need to try and get over that stumbling block sooner rather than later.

Obviously a pound a week is out the window, but I've not given up all hope yet. Consider this an admission of guilt and a refocusing of my efforts. If anyone from Dominos is reading this, please consider this ... not a goodbye, but more a "see you later" ... I've got some weight to lose.

Current Weight: 19 stone 1 pound (and a cheeky half) (aka 267.5 pounds)

Jan 20, 2011

Initially I thought it would be a smart idea to update this blog near daily with weight loss progress updates. The thing is, daily progress is frustratingly slow.

I figured that at the beginning it's not a bad idea to have a little breathing room to get into my stride. Though I've never typically had problems starting a weight loss program. It's sticking to it that proves tricky.

And so here we are, nearly two weeks into my latest weight loss endeavour - time for an update.

It's already getting harder to avoid "slippage".

Traditionally it's weekdays where I have the most problems with hunger, I've been known to go a whole weekend with only one meal. Sitting at my desk in the office, every 15 minutes I'm thinking about food. This is not good. So to combat this I've taken to using my fitness pal to record everything I eat on weekdays. Allowing myself 1600 calories, which should allow me to lose 1 pound every week. Which should see me easily meeting my target of 16 stone by the end of 2011.

Don't get me wrong, I've gone over 1600 calories once or twice - but now I'm acutely aware of when that's happening and it's making me think a little more about what it is I'm eating - or rather, how much it is I'm eating.

That site also allows you to track your weight, but I'm actually putting my weight into three different sites every single weekday. my fitness pal, skinnyo and one I wrote myself. This is completely redundant of course, but having to put it into those three makes it a little bit more of a morning ritual and reminds me to do it. This in turn reminds me to watch what I'm eating for that day. It only takes a minute to update all those sites (if that).

Since I started tracking my weight (so January 5th 2011) I've managed to lose 4.5 pounds. This is far above the 2 pounds I needed to lose so far. I'm actually a little disappointed, as in this first few weeks I should lose quite a lot as my intake has changed dramatically. I need to give it the first month really, to see how's it's going - but I am frustrated by this. I was hoping to be under 19 stone by the end of January - which with a bit of effort is still possible, but it will be close.

As you can see from the graph below, I've actually been stuck on the same weight for 4 days now, which is incredibly frustrating. I'm rather hoping tomorrow will have some better news, but thanks to the free pizza at this months NWRUG I'm really just hoping it's not gone up. I did avoid beer though, that was hard.

Weight Loss 1

Jan 4, 2011

The way I use this blog is going to change. I am going to start being really blunt about how fat I am, and it's going to be bloody awful to read. I have no plans to apologise for this, but I do plan on being so candid that I really ought to.

At the beginning of December 2010 I was more than a little over 19 stone. Note that this was before Christmas. It is relevant that I'm just short of 6 foot and 2 inches tall; I would have to be well into 10 foot tall* for that weight to be normal. As of the new year I'm now hovering around 19 and a half stone.

By the end of 2011 I plan to be under 16 stone. This is 3 and-a-bit stone in one year, which I think is a fair amount to lose. It's also a safe amount*.

I will begin this year in earnest on 5th January 2011. The 1st, 2nd and third are a write-off anyway. And I may have eaten a chocolate orange today. Oops.

No hard feelings if you're one of my few subscribers, and feel the need to stop. I won't mind.

For the duration of this weight loss my "happy place" blog will be at my posterous

*probably

Dec 29, 2010

<spoiler>Yes.</spoiler>

Ten points for guessing what I got for Christmas.

There are two good reasons not to do this.

  1. Per GB of storage, they're frigging expensive.
  2. They don't even make particularly big ones yet, so if you need a lot of storage and you're made of money - you're still stuffed.

Here is a complete list of reasons that you should.

  1. They're f-cking fast. Like really fast.
  2. So f-cking fast, that I'm putting it down twice.

Most people will give you a write up about how awesome they are, how to install them etc. A cursory google search is your friend here - I'm not. Suffice to say that even without TRIM support on the Mac, the OCZ Vertex 2E is great.

Seriously great. I love it. This laptop is over 2 years old now, and it feels brand new. If you can deal with the space constraints, and an external portable HDD should help with that, then you will have zero regrets. In fact, once you've had SSD fast you can (probably) never go back.

iTunes is fast, and pleasant to use - not had a beach ball yet, even with an iPhone plugged in. My iPhoto library is 12GB big, and is now instantaneous.

Holy feck people, the revolution is here.

(p.s. and for you status monkeys, here's my already fast 7200rpm Western Digital Caviar Black vs. my Time Machine restored 1 week old SSD)

Western Digital Caviar Black

Results 42.78   
System Info     
    Xbench Version      1.3
    System Version      10.6.5 (10H574)
    Physical RAM        4096 MB
    Model       MacBookPro5,1
    Drive Type      WDC WD3200BEKT-00F3T0
Disk Test   42.78   
    Sequential  74.21   
        Uncached Write  78.48   48.18 MB/sec [4K blocks]
        Uncached Write  92.37   52.26 MB/sec [256K blocks]
        Uncached Read   52.33   15.31 MB/sec [4K blocks]
        Uncached Read   89.13   44.80 MB/sec [256K blocks]
    Random  30.05   
        Uncached Write  10.73   1.14 MB/sec [4K blocks]
        Uncached Write  114.71  36.72 MB/sec [256K blocks]
        Uncached Read   50.37   0.36 MB/sec [4K blocks]
        Uncached Read   87.75   16.28 MB/sec [256K blocks]

OCZ Vertex 2E 120GB

Results 300.38  
System Info     
    Xbench Version      1.3
    System Version      10.6.5 (10H574)
    Physical RAM        4096 MB
    Model       MacBookPro5,1
    Drive Type      OCZ-VERTEX2
Disk Test   300.38  
    Sequential  179.84  
        Uncached Write  253.70  155.77 MB/sec [4K blocks]
        Uncached Write  259.22  146.67 MB/sec [256K blocks]
        Uncached Read   85.55   25.04 MB/sec [4K blocks]
        Uncached Read   363.08  182.48 MB/sec [256K blocks]
    Random  911.14  
        Uncached Write  1305.36 138.19 MB/sec [4K blocks]
        Uncached Write  456.34  146.09 MB/sec [256K blocks]
        Uncached Read   2459.83 17.43 MB/sec [4K blocks]
        Uncached Read   974.48  180.82 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Dec 28, 2010

Shortly it will be the only time of a year when broken promises aren't just quietly ignored, they're practically de rigueur. Starting your year with failure doesn't seem particularly smart to me, but what the heck...

Lose weight.

Now a constant and friendly fixture in my resolution list. In fact, it went so well last year that I went full circle and actually put on quite a bit of weight.

Launch Giglr.

Nearly everyone I've met in the last 3 years has heard about this site, and yet I've still not got around to properly coding it up. Time to stop talking and get on with it. If I don't complete it by the end of summer, then I need to forget all about it.

Work at least 1 hour a day on non-work projects.

I've so many ideas, but I need to actually devote some time to getting them down. Not to mention all the Northern Air website stuff and the various sites for friends & family.

Spend less money on food.

No rules about health here, I just need to stop wasting so much money on eating all the damn time.

Leave the UK on a holiday.

I need to get away, and not with work. Somewhere hot.

Write for at least 2 hours every week.

Blog, Short Stories, Screenplays. Coding doesn't count.

Be more social.

I'm retreating again, I can tell. This path does not lead to good things.

Save up at least £2000 to add to the "house deposit" fund.

My friends are buying their own places, and I'm years away from being able to even think about it seriously.

Sep 7, 2010

I've not written about this yet, but a few weeks ago I attended the third Barcamp to be held here in Manchester, at the popular Madlab.

With only ~60 people, as opposed to the 200 or so at the previous one held in this city, it felt like a decidedly smaller affair. With these being the only two Barcamps that I've attended, I'm not much of a judge - however, I think it's fair to say that number 3 was a great success.

I'm not going to wax lyrical about why you should keep an eye out for Barcamps in your own city, I'll simply say that you should (they're great!). I had no idea what to talk about this time round (and not much of an idea last time either), but you shouldn't let that stop you going. I used my session to host a not-at-all to mildly successful game of internet-meme-cherades, but those few who got involved seemed to enjoy themselves - for at least 10 of my 30 minutes.

Bigger = Better?

The smaller Barcamp had a different feel to the larger one of the previous year, and if I'm being honest I can't help but prefer the larger version. I appreciate that these are, above all else, simply more expensive to run - and for what is a free event, then you can't really complain. However, it's the very nature of the un-conference style that the more people you have the higher the volume of sessions, and it's not a great leap to say that the more sessions you have, the higher the likelihood of finding a session in each block that you really want to see. There seemed to be, at least at some times, difficulty in filling up all the available sessions with talks.

Saying that, there were two standout talks for me. I didn't write down any names, so apologies for vagueness...

First was an (ocassionally patchy) Skype hookup to a project in India, where they built a hackspace not dissimilar to Madlab except that it was made entirely out of warehouse grade shelving equipment. It was fascinating to hear about, and even more interesting when we got a guided tour via webcam.

The second was a talk about an audio processing type language whose name escapes me. It's biggest standout feature for me was how it was a language programmed entirely via visual interface, rather than the text based methods of the majority of programming languages. I don't want to downplay it's power here, but it seemed to me to be a great language for getting youngsters interested in what you can do with computers.

The Future

I can only imagine how much effort it must take to organise an event like this, and don't envy anyone who takes on the task. Saying that, I hope someone does as these are great events and I for one would love to see more than one of these being hosted in Manchester every year.

I've already stated that I'd prefer to see bigger events, and I don't think I'm alone in saying that I'd happily pay £10-20 (and probably more) for entry to an event like this. Especially if it was an overnighter, with room for you to lay down in your sleeping bag... in the traditional Barcamp style. Though I have to admit, if it was inner-city I would find it difficult to avoid jumping in a taxi back to the flat. Perhaps there are interesting venues outside of the city centre that are worth considering? Is there an easy way to go about finding these venues? If not - perhaps there should be!

Thanks

I'd like to say thank you to all of those involved in organising what was a great event, and of course all those sponsors who helped make it happen. If you want to see more information about those involved, you can find it all here