Blues Saxophone Lessons

I have been listening to more blues than jazz recently and started to hanker to play some on the saxophone. As usual, the first place to start was YouTube. I found these really nice beginner lessons which start you on some scales for 'Chicago' style blues from Derrick Big Walker:

Lesson 2

Lesson 3

Scale Score

Although this is the simplest scale, Derrick quickly moves on to runs around A, C, C#, E, F# which are also pretty straightforward. These are the basic scales:

C Major Scale

The point of the lesson is to move quickly from changing the base of the C Major arpeggio.

C Major Arpeggio

The lesson then quickly moves to transposing your C Major arpeggio, starting at D: D, F, A, C, D.

The lesson then goes on to add E, G and B to the scale around 10 minutes into lesson 2.

Hope you find that useful. Note that I am just a beginner and may have misquoted some of the above :-)


Getting Back Into Android

This week I am trying to get started on an android demo of the Click Date Love site. To help get up to speed reviewing the Android fundamentals to see how much has changed was a great place to start: Android Fundamentals. It must be said that documentation has improved a lot in the last couple of years and getting started is pure child's play these days. This project is an exercise but, with a little luck it could turn into a full product that we launch on the android App store.

Before getting started with any project like this it is good to think about the design. When I say design I really mean the user interface. It can go a long way to helping define the data model and operations of an app at a lower level. In this case I am following the main layout components of the Click Date Love website as a starting point. See below for some of my initial sketches for activities.

Android Studio

Android Studio Preview

Last time I tried to get into Android development the best (only) choice was the Eclipse plugin and tools which were probably the worst thing about creating an app at the time for me. Now though there is android studio

The initial setup of studio was hampered for me by some of the hard linking meaning I was missing certain system libraries compared to a Ubuntu target build. Once I had rebooted into Kubuntu all was good and I had my first sample app online in a few minutes.


Discover Other Users

One of the things that we wanted to make work really differently with Click Date Love was the way that people discover other people that they may be interested in.

[caption id="attachment_216" align="alignright" width="300"]Click Date Love Discovery Activity A new way to discover people[/caption]

One of the truths of dating that also applies Online is that first impressions count. With our site we are trying to do a few things to help out our lovers to be make the right impression and we want to translate that into our app too.

The thing that makes Online dating different is that it is possible to browse through literally thousands of people. Even picking someone you know out of a crowd of a thousand people can be hard. Imagine how hard it is to pick out someone you like. Sure, browsing photos at a rate of one per second can be fun, but are you really giving those people a chance to make an impression? Chances are you are probably just playing 'hot'-enough or 'not'!

As a social experiment, we are going to see how behaviour changes is you take away the opportunity to search through every single profile. There are probably a few people out there who are right for you so the trick is to help you find them. Ultimately that probably doesn't mean scanning ten thousand profiles thumbnails a day.

When you are discovering new people you really only need to have a vague idea if you would consider them based on that all important first impression. If you would then you go on to learning more about them.

View your Favourites

[caption id="attachment_218" align="alignright" width="300"]Click date love favourites View your favourites[/caption]

Once someone has piqued your interest you will want to get to know a little more about them and perhaps break the ice. Like with discovering new potential matches, how you deal with favourites is really important. Let's face it, most of us that have used Online dating know at least one person (or have been on a date with someone) who spends all of their time doing first dates. Perhaps that girl (or guy) has twenty or fifty different chat threads going with different people. If the goal is to have more than a hundred first dates a year that is probably going to work out fine for you.

The other problem is the 'one that got away'. It is far too easy to fixate and hang on to the hope that someone will respond to you rather than moving on. Or perhaps you keep a spark of a conversation going from time to time just because, who knows right? Wrong: If you haven't clicked, move on, discover new people! There are always more fish in the sea!

The point is to choose, that is why we are going to limit the number of favourites you can have, and, you guessed it, if you want to add someone new to your favourites you might have to give up on one of those 'old hopes', dropping them from your favourites to add the next Mr or Ms right.

View A Profile

In our launch blog post Why The World Needs Another Dating Website, we know that for lots of people, breaking the ice is tricky and there are ways to make it easier. Looking at a profile should be as much about starting a conversation as it is getting to know someone.

Click Date Love profile activity

Click Date Love doesn't have any long forms to fill out and you don't have to write an essay. A lot of the time the things people write don't tell you anything anyway. It is understanding when you think about it that people don't want to say too much in their profile. Unlike in a real chance encounter every word will be poured over and debated as potential reasons not to respond to the message you spent hours writing, or in some senses, milliseconds pasting. Why bother, most people are terrible at describing themselves in the way that other people see them.

Keep an eye out for future announcements on the click date love blog about how we are making breaking the ice easier.

Chat With A Favourite

The biggest headache for the build if this demo app is the chat application. Not just on the app but on the main site, chat is a pain and there are lots of vendors doing it well out there. Hopefully I can find one.


Services in Android allow you to run background tasks. For the initial build of the demo app it is unlikely that we will do more than is presented in the web UI but services that would seem to make sense are:

  • Updates of your favourites.

  • New discovery updates.

  • New message sync.

  • Caching profiles and data about a user.

  • Syncing your profile.



Startup Founder's Crisis of Confidence

The chances are that if you have ever tried to do something totally new to you, like starting your own company, you have had to find away of dealing with your own fear of failure.

The thing with being at the "top" is that you need to make a lot more decisions, and a lot of the time you won't have good data to help you choose. Having a vision for your venture will help you make polarising decisions based on whether they agree with the vision. For a great deal of the time you will need to rely on your intuition.

"If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine." - Jim Barksdale, former CEO of Netscape.

Launching a startup, like with any unproven product, means that you are going to have to deal with doubters. You are going to have to be comfortable that you can sell your idea in the face of scepticism and doubt. For those, like me who are used to having a brand behind them, this can be a real challenge. On the up side it will make you grow by finding the strength that comes from doing something you believe in.

"The more time you spend in control the more you will feel confident... " - Anon sports coach.

The thing you need to remember about running a startup is that your main role is to sell your concept to customers, investors and others. Unless you are blessed with the salesman's touch of being able to 'sell ice to Eskimos' you need to find your way of selling. The first and most important thing to remember is to be confident. If you need to step up your game then there is one little trick that can help: confidence is transferable. By that I mean that you can boost your confidence using an unrelated activity and use that to help you in other situations.

"If you aren't falling off then you aren't trying hard enough" - Anon sports coach

It's important to remember that whatever you do to help you keep your reserves of Confidence topped up; if you are truly trying to change things, you have to start with changing yourself, and expect to fail and use what you learn to move forward . Lots of very successful athletes have talked about how many times they failed in order to succeed. Perhaps it is also fair to say that they never accepted that bitter taste of defeat. Instead they learn from their mistakes and continue to push themselves beyond their current understanding of their limits.

One of the most common issues working on an unfunded startup is that you have to become a jack of all trades. While it is important to be flexible, spending a lot of time doing things you are just learning can present challenges. Remember that in a startup you have the best chance of everyone is maximising their potential.

Bottom line : even if you are a CEO, take the time to enjoy what you are good at and challenging yourself to grow outside of your job. Your feelings about your wider life will translate into you being a better leader and ultimately to your bottom line.


Protubuf Persistence for Fun and Profit

Impossible Object

Note: This post is about the recently open sourced proto store project as part of a SiteMorph Open Source initiative.

Since my days writing code at Google I have always been a huge fan of using protobuf to generate all simple POJO object classes. There are a few good reasons for this:

  • Code that is generated by protoc doesn't have to be tested.

  • You avoid writing repetitive boiler plate code like get* and set*. Yes, I realise that your IDE can generate a lot of these for you...

  • The coding style of protobuf makes them easy to use.

  • Protobuf supports data interchange between programming environments.

  • Protobuf in Java are inherently thread safe as they are immutable.

Let's just say that writing protobuf code rocks. An example could be:

message Picture {
required string urn = 1;
required string url = 2;
required string profileUrn = 3;
required Moderated moderated = 4 [default = OK];
optional int32 width = 5;
optional int32 height = 6;

This proto message creates a picture. Note that I am using meta references here with references, a lot like you would in a relational database. Many of the rest APIs I am working on also use meta references rather than fully materialising related objects. Proto does have some disadvantages though which are about 'what it is'. I typically use protobuf for internal representation of data which is persisted. I use a different set of objects for external representations, for example for web services I tend to use Jackson.

In previous versions of projects, SiteMorph, Shomei, Connect, Click Date Love I used to write data access or try to use libraries for object persistence. A few things struck me about these.

  • They were very large, necessarily because they were general purpose.

  • Some were not very performance oriented, XML is usually going to be slow.

  • They are often tricky to configure to work with legacy databases.

  • Re-factoring isn't as clear a process as it could be.

Given all of that, one Saturday a few months ago I decided to try and create a very light weight library that solved 80% of my database coding problems. The answer was to write a CRUD driver that stored protobuf messages into tables. The assumption is that you then use your database SQL to re-factor your data across version changes. This might sound like an unnecessary consideration right? Your database only changes every few months right? Wrong: for some projects I am making more than 10 structural database changes per month. Simply mapping the proto to the table was a clear choice as it lets you read messages based on a really simple interface.

  • Very small library footprint. Version 2.6.1 packed as a jar is only 26KB.

  • Create a message by passing a semi constructed builder and the storage system sets the identifier.

  • Read with support for primary key (unique identifier) and secondary indexes. Also read all.

  • Update an message given a builder created from MyMessage.toBuilder().

  • Delete.

  • Basic ordering of records returned.

  • Support for auto ID primary key column.

  • Support for urn keyed primary key column.

  • Support for reading basic message types as well as enumeration values but not nested messages.

  • A very simple iterator interface for accessing data.

  • Performance comparable to writing prepared statements manually.

  • No more writing SQL for basic operations.

  • Eliminate the need for testing SQL on version migrations.

Don't get me wrong. Writing tests is a great thing. Avoiding the need for them is even better. Take this re-factoring example process where you rename and modify a field.

  1. Do your SQL re-factoring renaming / setting the new value of your field.

  2. Use your IDE to rename the method for the proto field in your code to the new field name. get[Field], has[Field] and builder methods set[Field] and clear[Field]. This updates all of your code to use the new naming convention.

  3. Update your proto field names and rebuild. Everything should just work.

  4. Deploy the updated code which now uses the new field.

  5. Delete your old field in the database table.

Pretty simple right? You may still have to change the semantic interpretation of the underlying data, that is worth testing but we have avoided a few very repetitive tasks and the need to test the code. Combined with the power of using protobuf to generate your object representations you can be a much more effective coder. To give an example, in most projects, between 20% and 50% of the code used in the project is just object representations. Admittedly proto generated code is somewhat verbose but the point stands. Using the protostore means that 80% of your data access layer doesn't need to be written either. All you need to do is create a factory somewhere which returns a protostore for your type of database table.


Falling Down

The last week has presented a lot of challenges not least being knocked off my motorbike, financial issues and a heavy crash on my BMX. After all of that I spent the whole of Sunday lying around, hardly able to move without whimpering like a sick old dog! My injury list is now: right knee ligaments, right wrist strain, strained kneck, left wrist strain, bruised ribs, bruised knees and sprained left foot.

This all started at the beginning of the week when I found myself lying face down in traffic. A pedestrian had run out into the road and appeared from behind a bus - the lights were on green for me but hey...

After the motorbike crash I noticed a few things in the days after where I was being more cautious. On the BMX too, I found myself being more hesitant. The answer is simple: I need a way to regain my confidence. I spent a couple of hours at my local track, basically cruising around and trying to regain the strength in my right knee. I tore the ligaments behind my knee over a month ago. Unfortunately they don't seem to have recovered :-( After only an hour of light riding they were hurting again so I called it a day.

Later on riding home, buoyed on by my session I was feeling good. A windsurfing coach years ago had two pieces of advice for dealing with the fear of crashing:

  • You gain confidence when you feel like you are in control and comfortable.

  • If you aren't falling off, you aren't trying hard enough.

You may be able to spot the inherent contradiction in these two different pieces of advice! As is often the case, after riding for a while I was probably more tired than I realised and stacked a landing on a little jump on the ride home :-(

The psychological effect of falling off is quite strange because you are more likely to hesitate and crash.

At a recent event by Stewart Bewley, part of the discussion was how you call upon all of your power and confidence even if you are having the worst week of your life. In that context, using a routine to put yourself into a ready mental and emotional state made a lot of sense. I think this is what you can see gladiator like MotoGP riders doing before the race. These guys fall off at high speeds every week. Some of them even get back on with broken bones, such is their will to win. They all have different routines, be it crouching beside the bike like Rossi or listening to Phil Collins (seriously JL?).

The main problem is most likely just that I am getting older so it takes much longer to recover from injuries. The trick looks like it will be to train and get a lot stronger physically so that I can roll out of the crashes more comfortably. Time to hit youtube to find some good training tips. Unfortunately my doc said I have to stay off interval training for at least another week for the neck strain I picked up at the beginning.

What do you do to train after a crash? Tweet Me.


Time To Train: Coaching For Saxophone

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have started to learn the Saxophone as it was a long time ambition. I have made some progress with the Hite premier mouth piece, and getting a nice sound. I have been using the tune a day book and trying to supliment that with inspirational lessons from YouTube like this one from Nigel McGill.

From my time learning the clarinet I can see I have made progress adapting to the Sax. It is quite a different embouchure and breathing technique in a way and the very low notes present a particular problem as they require very fine control on the reed.

To try and learn faster I have decided to take some lessons and have found a teacher in East London.

Before you suggest I play something here I should say that piece above is 'inspiring' and currently completely unattainable :-)


Track Day at Rockingham International Motorbike Circuit with NoLimits Track Days

This weekend for my birthday I finally managed to get along to a track day. At the last minute I managed to find a place on a NoLimits track day at www.rockingham.co.uk on the international motorcycle track.

As this was my first ever track day I wanted to take it easy in the morning and get to know the track. I was going pretty slow and had quite a few people passing me but it was fun. I started off riding at about the same pace I ride on the road to give myself time to learn the track. The idea was to build up speed once I had learned where to turn in etc.

Right from the get go I realised just how big a difference there was between my riding and that of some of the others there. The main thing being their interpretation of 'close'. I really struggled with holding lines and focusing on my riding with so many other bikes darting around me. As I said, I was in the novice group. From the roll call in the morning it looked like I was the only track day virgin there!

After quite a few 'oh *&$%£' moments where I thought I was going to hit people who were riding where I was about to be, block passing me on the inside I started to get used to the barging. As you can see from my tyre (right) I was carrying a fair bit of speed. It should be said that I was the only person on a sports bike. Almost every other bike in the novice group was a modified race / track only machine.

Heart in mouth I continued to increase both my entry and apex speed to the point that, on the right handers, where I was more confident I was carrying the same apex speed as some of the slower in my group. After lunch I took a few training sessions from different instructors to learn the cornering lines from them. One of them, a guy called Alan, went around for a few laps as I followed him and he built up speed. Thanks to Alan and the other instructors for their help. I definitely needed it.

The video was taken on my first few laps under instruction. The first lap was slow to get everyone (including me) on line. After that Alan did a faster lap then I overtook him so that he could check out my riding. The advice and help I had from Alan and the other volunteers from NoLimits was really helpful and I felt that over the course of the day my riding really improved.

tyre wear
To show what a difference it made check out this picture of my tyres later in the day.

Overall I really enjoyed the day. It took the whole day to get used to how close some of the other riders get when they are passing you. If someone rode that close to me on the road I would likely pull them over. Given that it was my first track day I think it was just part of learning the ropes. I could see though how a novice or nervous rider would really have struggled. The main problem I found was that I was stood up a lot of the time while trying to ride on line by a block pass. I expect as I increased my speed this would happen less and less.

Although the fazer is no track machine it did really well. The tires were really amasing and well worth the money - they gripped like they were on rails and inspired me to push the bike over while slowly increasing my speed all day. I really had a chance to push the bike to it's limit - scratching the pegs quite a few times. No knee down though. I can only figure that this was due to my riding position combined with seat height as the riders I could keep mid corner pace with were all knee down while I was far from it. The main issues with the fazer were the suspension and acceleration. When, on the rare occasions I wanted to pass someone the bike really struggled for power so I had to do it under breaking which was always an interesting experience - throwing you really deep in the corner. The other thing that let the fazer down was it's general height: under heavy breaking I had the back wheel off the ground on quite a few occasions.

When I do another track day I think it would be worth removing the centre stand to reduce the risk of scratching it. I would also seriously consider renting a bike both to try out a different machine and avoid the mental challenge of not wanting to risk a crash as I needed to ride it home.

The track it's self is really surprising. the chicane at turn 1 provides a challenging and technical start to your lap with turn in point being critical. Later in the day a skid mark provided the perfect signal. After that the long sweeping left provided bags of fun, probably the fastest I have ever travelled at those lean angles. The hair pin double left with late apex was probably my favourite corner but the bump as you transition from the oval to the inner track presented a challenge for the fazer's soft suspension. This was where I caught the pegs on quite a few laps. This opened up into one of the three right hand corners, the first feels tight and the second, not long after it is compromised for the line into turn 5, a chain of four left handers. This was the area I was initially weakest. Most of the other riders took an early apex into turn 6 and connected the rest of 7, 8 and 9, riding around the outside - ignoring the apexes. This allowed them to carry a lot more speed through that section. The last left in the run became my favourite later in the day as it had such a fun flowing speed including, exaggerated by the elevation change. Turn 10 was the slowest, being a right hander, lots of people came off here, no doubt with cold right hand tire shoulders. The final chicane complex was hard to figure out at first as it was all about the positioning and late turn in to the final corner to maximise speed down the straight.

I can't wait until I get another chance to ride on a track. Hopefully next time will also be as hot and dry (and Brands Hatch).


It's Time For a Little Music: Picking Up the Alto Saxophone

prelude by conn selmer
Today I finally started to learn the Saxophone. It has been a desire to learn the Saxophone for a long time. On a recent trip to see family I managed to get my hands on one that a friend was hanging onto.

My first step was to try and find my old 'tune a day' for alto sax. Unfortunately I think it is still with the friend who had the instrument. Luckily I still have the clarinet edition so had some basic music to play. Obviously there are some things that are going to be different but I didn't want that to stop me from getting started.

One thing I am doing a lot more these days is trying to find video guides on YouTube and one in particular seemed well made and really helpful: beginner saxophone first notes. I then went and found the site which has a free fingering chart. I signed up for the course but the first free lesson didn't work. Most likely it was only design to play video on Windows :-(

saxophone mouth piece
One of the biggest differences that I noticed straight away switching to Sax from Clarinet was the mouth piece. The clarinet did a lot to help me improve embouchure, it couldn't prepare me for the vibrations that come through the mouth piece. A little research turned up a lot of recommendations to replace the premier's mouth piece so I ordered one that comes with a tooth guard on the top to help reduce tooth wear. Can't wait to try it.


Improving Image Layout with JQuery

Image Scale Icon

I recently decided to start pushing more of my code onto GitHub to help other people speed up. I haven't done much in the open source space for a while so it feels good to be pushing some changes.

This morning I was reviewing JQuery plugins to align pictures for in the page of my latest project. The brief was pretty straight forward but getting CSS to work in all situations was getting very frustrating. Given images of any size and aspect, fit them as best as possible into four different layout sizes. the issue was that they were four very different layouts so had very little commonality in css.

The obvious solution presented it's self of finding a jQuery plugin that does the job. I did find some but they didn't do exactly what I wanted. I found some examples and it looked like I could probably do it in about fifty lines so I created a new project on github and away I went, reinventing the wheel.

This is a quick post just to let people know about the key features of the plugin: image zoom, like css background cover, and aligning the image with centring so that you see the middle of the picture. The github project is jquery-image-scale if you are interested in using or contributing to the project. Comments are also welcome. Please raise issues in the github issue tracker.

Happy coding.


Startup Risk Management: Mitigate the Cost of Failure

slot machine gambling

I recently had a really nice chat with some old colleagues on the subject of the 'risk of running a startup'. This reminded me that I wanted to expand on a point that I mentioned in a previous posting on SiteMorph about advice from Richard Brandson on being an entrepreneur. One thing that came up was the concept of limiting risk by setting a maximum liability before you start. In the example from Brandson, this meant he negotiated a 'sale or return' type contract with the aeroplane company so he could return the planes after a year if it all went wrong.

The core principle of this approach is that you can limit your exposure to trying something out. This kid of risk limitation approach is seen in a few fields, including stocks and shares approaches like the ones used in Trade Your Way to Financial Freedom. The goal is to run with the successes and limit your exposure to the failures. Failing is a very common outcome for a startup. If you don't have any risk in your business plan then it is likely you either aren't building a startup (there are no unknowns and you are just executing a formula like a franchise) or you don't understand what they are.

Van Tharp's approach is to put a limit on how much you will loose on something that starts failing. In his examples he often uses the example of a 10%percent; drop. The trick is that you let the winners run and cut the losses fast. You also need to be ready to buy back in as soon as things turn around. The analogy doesn't translate precisely to investing your time in a startup as a founder as time is not as fluid as cash. Ten percent of your career is probably a little over three years. If you can find a way to keep yourself in food and shelter then the question becomes why wouldn't you try?

I was also asked what drives me to continue doing these ventures in light of the missed opportunity of earning cash as an employee. The answer is simple, right now, for me, working on start ups is the best way of pushing myself forward. Ultimately this comes down to my instinctual need to keep pushing myself to improve. One of the reasons SiteMorph appealed to me as a project is that it has the potential to scale into an international product helping hundreds of thousands of web site owners grow their business. There is a lot of talk in the media at the moment about 'thinking big'. This is usually along the lines of "you have to think, so you may as well think big". I believe that this is good advice when it comes to deciding which projects to invest your time in. At the end of the day, it is your most valuable commodity.

Bottom line: before you take the leap, write down what the limits of what you are willing to sacrifice are, as well as what you want to achieve and look back periodically. This way you can 'afford' to give something a go knowing that there is a limit on what you risk to loose if it doesn't work out.

Thanks to Jeff Kubina from the milky way galaxy (Slot Machine) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons available at wiki commons.


Motorbikes are The Way Forward: Yes I am Looking At You Camden Council

Camden council parking zone
This weekend while at the MotoGP with my GF, she took the chance to have a free bike training taster session provided by Get On motobike training. The advantages of riding a bike or scooter are clear. They are cheap to buy, with some new scooters costing just £600; their fuel economy is often in excess of 150MPG and they can help you cut your journey times by 30%.




Camden Full motorbike bay
Given all of that it would seem sensible that the Government and local councils, especially in London support the increasing use of scooters and motorbikes. To their credit, the Hackney council where I live does allow motorbikes to park in almost all bays and only asks that they are parked at the end. Good on you Hackney. Unfortunately not all councils are as forward thinking. One example that comes to mind is Camden council - where I was recently given a ticket after parking in a bay visible to where I was staying because the local motorbike parking bay was full. There has been a spate of motorbike theft in the Camden area and the police have attached posters to many of the motorcycle parking bays offering some useful advice on keeping your wheels.


The police advice is:

  1. Try to park yDCIM100GOPROour bike in a well lit, overlooked area.

  2. Secure your bik to a solid piece of street furniture, for example a post in a motorbike parking bay.

  3. Use a cover to deter theft.

This all makes sense and will probably make a huge difference in you avoiding an insurance claim. At the same time councils are not making it easier. A recent article reported that councils have collected £635M in parking charges. It's not clear how much of this was from parking fines. Obviously with congestion in London some kind of controls are needed but surely motorbikes are part of the solution not the problem? Let's face it, if most people rode scooters there would be less need for parking control and congestion would be greatly reduced.

Last of all, a call to Camden council and it's constituents to change your policy on motorbike parking! They are green, economical, reduce congestion and reduce parking pressure so those of you with Chelsea tractors have even more room for your house on wheels.



What Would You Do With 20 Million Dollars?

This month (September edition) of Wired UK focused on inspiration. I must admit that my pile of unread wired magazines was starting to get out of hand. Thirsty for inspiration I started reading. At first I was a bit confused. This issue has a lot of inspirational stories from the wider world beyond the confines of the UK.

These are some of the startups featured. What came across so strongly in this issue was that many (read most) of the inspirational companies featured have serious funding.


Their vision is clear: create a platform your mom could use to create an ecommerce store. Carl's stated goal is to create an evolution of the ecommerce concept. At its heart their platform focuses on the core concept of how to help your customers have a great experience.

The team launched with $1.5M in seed funding. See Alibaba figures below for an idea of the market size, these guys have made it to 15K stores in 15 months. To give them credit, they have achieved the kind of growth most startups dream of.

Team: Carl Waldekranz, Kaj Droning, Birk Nilson and Silva Ghorbani.


This startup has figured out a way of beating DDOS attacks on legitimate  sites.  Their technology is described as a having two parts:

A my gun is  bigger than yours way of deferring the immediate threat of DDOS.

The opportunity to learn from identifying common sources of attacks. In the fight against cyber attack, it is easy to see how network effects on this kind of model become really valuable. They have raised $22.1M according to crunch Base.

Team: Lee Holloway, Matthew Price and Michelle Zatlyn


These guys can show you how to do a kick start! They aimed to raise $30K but raised $2.43M in 34 days. 3D scribbling are the new way!

Team: Peter Dilhorne and Max Bogue


Michael reveals his tips on limiting the cost of failure so you can live to fight again. Crunch Base reports they have raised $10M.

Team: Michael Acton Smith


A startup trying to revolutionise online payments and deliver a product fit for 2013. The team received $20M in funding including from PayPal.

Team: John Collison


Alibaba: Quarterly sales passing $160Bn eclipsing eBay or Amazon.

The Web Is Dead: Last year the average time on the Web shrank to 70 minis per day vs 72 the previous year, the first annual reduction, according to comscore. At the same time American mobile app usage went up from 94 to 124 minutes respectively.

Top Idea

My top inspirational idea from this edition of wired: "a stream of messages telling retailers how to run their shop" allowed Tictail to differentiate themselves. /me makes note to do a tweet a day on ideas to boost your site revenue.


The Problem with Second Hand Vehicles

20130709_145050I recently purchased an 'old' FZ6 Fazer. Old, in this case being a 2005 model. I noticed a few minor bumps when I bought it but couldn't have noticed some of the other issues.

The bike had obviously been in a bump but it wasn't apparent that a number of parts in the cowling were cracked and one of the fork legs was ever so slightly bent.

So far the list of work carried out includes:

  • Replacing the tyres as they were a crazy square shape and unmatched. I decided to go for the Pirelli Rosso 2 over the Rosso corsa. I have previously tried, on this and other bikes, BT-020, BT-021, BT-016, Michelin power pure, Dunlop 211 and the rosso. Of them all the rosso 2 from pirelli was by a far the best tyre. You may be thinking 'that tyre is a waste on a FZ6'? Without getting into a personal discussion of 'what ever makes you happy'; I am riding using the whole area of the tyre. The reason I am on a FZ6 is because I was involved in an accident a while back while on an R1. Bottom line: the other driver said that they didn't leave their lane so it went against me. R1 with 0 years no claims is not something I can afford :-) Doesn't stop me riding like I am still on it though.

  • Front fork springs: The stock springs on the FZ6 are almost crazy soft. After doing a bit of research I found a performance shop  who stocked and fitted RaceTech springs. This made a huge difference to the overall handling of the bike. On the down side - I should have probably done the valves too as the compression damping is pretty hard now.

  • New wind screen: The screen was cracked near one of the screws and was making a horrible buzzing noise. It took a while to figure out what was going wrong with this.

  • Tail bulb / dipped bulb: I have never had to replace a bulb on a motorbike before but this bike seems to be special and has already had a few replaced. For reference, as the FZ6 uses a split left / right , dipped / main setup respectively, you will need a H4 bulb. As I side note: when I needed to replace the dipped bulb I found myself in a service station on the A1 in the dark. I thought I needed a screw driver to get it done: I asked an AA guy if I could borrow one for a minute and he said no due to health and safety - are you kidding me?.

  • Rear suspension sag setup: I watched a lot of YouTube videos like this one on sag setup. As the FZ6 doesn't offer anything but pre-load adjustment on the rear mono-shock that was as far as I can go. The net effect was that before the front spring upgrade, the front had too much damping and sagged a long way slowly. After the spring upgrade on the front the sag is right but the damping on the front is now much harder than the back. Next step in this ongoing upgrade will probably be front valves and new fixed rear mono - with matched damping.

  • Over a litre of engine oil: one of the things that I noticed early with this particular bike was that it was drinking oil at an alarming rate. It looks like it was getting through about 400ml per 650 miles. I investigated the air box to see if an oil return was feeding vapour into the engine and also checked the water. The water seemed to have a film of oil. I have dropped the bike off but the garage believe it is not a noticeable amount. The next area for attention is the stem seals to see if they are leaking. Deep joy. To give the garage credit they offered to check the stem seals under their three month warranty. Nice of them.

  • Heated hand grips. OK - I am getting old. These babies mean I can ride 12 months of the year!

The saga of the bike that doesn't want to run while the sun is out continues...

Time To Try WordPress

For quite a while I have been letting my personal site slip.

In an effort to increase the amount of bloging I manage to get done I have decided to go for a non-technical solution. I reviewed a couple of different technologies and platforms including:

  • Blogger.com

  • Joomla

  • Code Ignitor

  • WordPress

The bottom line is that while I would like to be able to extend the platform I use - most will offer some level of customisation. The reality though, is that I need a tool that lets me concentrate on writing. Given that, the obvious place to start seemed to be WordPress as I have experience scripting plugins from a previous contracting role.

Hopefully this means you will see an increase in posts. If you want to connect with me follow me on twitter.