Podcasting is hard

Image by Patrick Breitenbach

Image by Patrick Breitenbach

You know how some people jump out of perfectly good airplanes, climb mountains or cuddle a tarantula to confront their fears? Well I launched a podcast to confront mine and it’s called A Bit More Backendy.

My fear is a pretty minor one: it’s a fear of being put on the spot publicly and because the narrative in my brain is running 5000 times faster than my mouth can keep up – or my hand if I’m writing, whole words gets missed out, transposed or just messed up – that I might come across as a moron, all eloquence gone. Words on the tip of my tongue a few nano-seconds ago have completely disappeared with me groping around trying to get the thread back. It’s a bit like a stutter I guess, there’s definitely *something* broken in there, but generally I muddle along OK. Anyway, for now whilst I work on it, my subscriber (Hi Mum) will have to put up with the forced pauses, so’s and ‘interesting’ fillers when I regularly scrabble around trying to get those thoughts back together; hopefully practice will make perfect.

Self-improvement notwithstanding, there are three other reasons I’ve done this.

Firstly, on & offline conversations with Casey Cole, bemoaning the rise of micro-content and other people’s opinions marketed as one’s own (that’ll be the re-tweet) to the detriment of blogging and the resulting comment thread. Whilst Casey has always been an excellent content producer, sorry I mean writer, I’ve always struggled with it (see above) but I do feel that at times I have things to say, so I thought I’d try an audio stream of consciousness instead.

Then there was a conversation between Laura Kalbag and Andy Clark on Andy’s excellent Unfinished Business podcast where they discussed the term Web Designer, the basic thrust I took to be that the term Web Designer fits all producers within the web industry. As I say in v0.1 of Backendy their arguments were reasonable, namely 1) developers are creative – yep totally – and 2) the client/non-industry types don’t give a monkey’s what you call your niche of the industry, it’s just a generic term: true also. Taken in the context of the front end, the UI, I think they are 100% right, but when it comes to my little area of the web, the stuff in the background, the heavy lifting, the term simply doesn’t fit; actually it’s wholly inaccurate. So, whilst I was motivating myself to blog since when did the term developer only apply to the front end and BTW I’m totally not a Web Designer, the third reason came to mind.

Where are all the back end related podcasts?

I had a 5 minute exhaustive search around and couldn’t find any. For example take a look at the .net awards podcast shortlist this year. I’ve listened to over 50% of these and they are all pretty good, (I’m torn between Andy’s and The Freelance Web for my vote) but based on what I’ve heard and the rest of the descriptions, they all mostly lean towards the front end.

I did find one which is Keir Whitaker’s Back to Front show that, if the last episode is anything to go by, is definitely more backend but even so, where are the rest? Regardless, even if I do find a few more over the coming weeks it still seems to me that my front end brothers and sisters already have a lot of choice, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try and represent for the backenders out there.

It may be that I’m solving a non-existent problem, backenders don’t consume podcasts, hence lack of content, but I don’t really buy that.

To finally reach the point of this post, I’m finding that podcasting is really not as easy as it might seem. Sure you can ramble into a mic for half an hour but to get a crystal-clear, tight recording with decent levels definitely takes some doing. Searching on the tech side you can find advice on microphone choice and billy-basic audio editing, but  – for example – how to get quality remote interviews is a larger challenge.

So, its, ahem, definitely a work in, um, progress.


I’ve since found:

  • Dev Hell. PHP devs, entertaining and very much back-end focused.

Default changes to Vim

Quick post for future reference.

Just installed Debian or Ubuntu, need Vim back to what you’re used to?

edit /etc/vim/vimrc

set background=dark
set autoindent
set expandtab
set softtabstop=2
set shiftwidth=2

Tabs are now always (2) spaces and you can actually see the text.

Don’t forget to add export EDITOR=vim to .bashrc either.

MySQL one-liner to obfuscate live user details

Problem: you need to get someone else to set up your web application on another server. Even with a signed NDA it’s not really a good idea to be sending over MySQL dumps containing real people’s details and it is almost certainly against data protection rules.

If so, and you need to do it right now, then this’ll do you nicely as a quick & dirty hack. Clearly, if you had some more time then you could come up with something a bit more elegant.
UPDATE some_table 
/** in this case it's an email address */
SET username = CONCAT(SUBSTRING(MD5(RAND()), -10), "@", SUBSTRING(MD5(RAND()), -10), ".com"), 
/** this might be some IDs that you want to remain unchanged, say a test login */
WHERE (id != 1);

Scarlett’s Energy Saving Mission

My youngest (5) came home from school this week with some homework relating to her school’s theme of educating the kids on ways to save energy.

The premise was to involve the entire family in looking at devices that are left switched on in the home that might be power hungry.

I jumped on this and may have got ever-so-slightly carried away.

My Scarlett’s homework follows:


We have a device fitted to the house electricity meter it sends a signal to a display unit in the kitchen.


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Unable to programmatically download a Onenote file from Skydrive

ImageThis is not a how-to it is more of a how-do-i? The thinking is that if I distill the problem into words I may figure out where I’m going wrong.

Also, there’s always the outside chance that someone else might have the answer and put me out of my misery.

I’ll map out the problem in detail below with some background for context. If you want to cut to the chase then the summary of the problem is here.

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Woodland for sale

P1010154Ever since I visited Ben Law and spent a week learning in some detail how he built his amazing house from trees in his woodland I have dreamt of doing something similar.

So much so that when it became available we scraped up the money and bought a 4 acre plantation of slow-grown, straight and tall Japanese Larch that was perfect as a building material.

A year later we found a suitable building plot and sank all of our savings into purchasing it with a view of building our house.

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