May 4th, 2013
I wrote some notes on using ‘ban’ in Varnish 3. Read at GitHub for better legibility.
April 7th, 2013
How Differential Steering Works (1937), and Diesel Engine Governors (1942): Two brilliant videos explaining these triumphs of mechanical engineering, which we today take for granted.
The pneumatic speed governor system is akin to a realtime monitoring and feedback computer program, only constructed with steel and oil instead of digital code – and all the more impressive for it.
Thanks to @jedrichards on Twitter for bringing these to my attention.
March 28th, 2013
After four years at Pirata I have very recently departed in order to pursue some personal ventures and to spend more time with my family. It’s been an incredible four years during which we created a bounty of outstanding and beautiful work, took on some brave challenges and had a lot of fun together.
For me as Technical Partner the biggest satisfactions came from putting together a great team of talented and creative developers, and from overseeing the evolution of our capabilities as we went from building Flash microsites for ad campaigns to creating high profile high capacity dot-com sites in the contemporary world of HTML5, mobile and ‘The Cloud’.
Much credit must of course also go to the design team which contains some remarkably talented individuals; Pirata’s design prowess has always been second to none under the creative direction of Eduardo, Stuart and David. And I’ll get in trouble now if I don’t also include a nod to the producers. Of course nothing would have ever launched without you.
The key to great digital design is Agile integration with the development process – something we achieved more consistently than anywhere I’ve worked before, particularly so in the last year. We’ve always ensured that designers and developers sit and work together, and the quality of the work really shows for it.
Among the work I’m most proud of is the that which we’ve been doing for Team GB, not least teamgb.com itself which was a roaring success during London 2012. And more recently Pirata has re-designed and re-built the McLaren Formula 1 team’s website from the ground up for the 2013 season. It still has McLaren Live during every Grand Prix, but it works better than ever before and looks fantastic.
I’d like to thank everyone past and present at Pirata for making it a brilliant four years, I’m going to miss everyone greatly and I wish you all the very best of luck! And likewise to all the splendid clients I’ve been fortunate enough to work with.
What now? Well I’m interested in talking to anyone about projets that lie anywhere around the cross section of technology and creativity. I have a lot of experience to bring to the table and would love to work with small teams of talented people to create tools, apps and games.
And in the short term I’d better get on because I have some websites to make. I still love doing that too.
March 19th, 2013
I know it’s been a bit ISS Overload recently – especially now that Earth’s newfound hero Commander Hadfield is up there in charge (you are following him on Twitter, I hope) and sending frequent updates and photos – but this video is worth a post because it contains some stunning high quality time-lapses put together by NASA Astronaut Dr. Don Pettit, to whom it is actually a tribute.
As usual, full screen + HD is recommended, obviously.
March 10th, 2013
March 10th, 2013
Click away now if you’re not interested in web servers.
Having spent much of the last few years making sure clients’ websites are fast and responsive, I finally got round to sorting my own blog out. It was letting the side down, being quite sluggish and unoptimised in its shared hosing environment. So I’ve moved this over to my own server which is running Varnish, nginx and also PHP 5.4 with APC.
WordPress, which this blog runs on, works out of the box in Apache + PHP environments but getting it running in nginx (with PHP-FPM) was a bit of a pain in the arse. This is mostly because .htaccess files are an Apache thing so don’t work in nginx. nginx has its own syntax for setting up redirects and there are tools out there for converting between the two but none of the ones I found converted my existing rules successfully.
Frustratingly, following these official instructions to the letter did not work either. Getting the main WordPress installation working was fine but the problem was WP Super cache which relies on some specific rewriting logic. Certain valid post URLs were throwing up 404 errors depending on the state of the cache and what characters were in the address. At that point it had reached 1am so I decided as an interim to put Apache on the server too. I’ll return to the nginx configuration sometime soon. I have other sites running off this server through nginx, it’s just that WordPress-plugin-specific problem that needs solving.
Running Varnish on the server means it’s now easy to route traffic to either Apache or nginx as required based on the request hostname and of course it caches the returned documents so speeds things up even more. Ideally I’d have assets going to a CDN but given that I only get a handful of visitors each day it doesn’t really seem worth the effort.
Anyway, that’s it for dev-ops news. Hopefully this blog will be a bit more responsive from now on.