Capistrano Task Graph and 3 reasons why it sucks

Capistrano comes with a set of tasks ready to deploy your application. Unfortunately it doesn’t come with an easy way to view  those tasks, and how they are related. Here is the graph you are probably looking for

This is a pretty crappy state of play! Given that Capistrano is the recommended way to deploy your applications. Let me justify that

  1. The deploy target: Why would I ever want to deploy and not run the migrations? If there are migrations, not running them is going to give me an untested environment, (new code, old database) and if there are no migrations, then there is no cost to running them.
  2. Inconsistent: Why is it that the deploy target wraps update_code and symlink in a transaction, but deploy:migrations does not?
  3. Unclear Naming: Its not imediatly clear what the difference between deploy:migrate and deploy:migrations is.

Capistrano is a really cool tool, but problems like this with the default tasks make it really confusing to use. I want to see it having default tasks that are named in a clear way, with a new convention if necessary, and consistent behaviour.

By |September 22nd, 2008|Technical|1 Comment

Shoot Shoreditch

Shoot ShoreditchA year or so ago now a good friend of mine asked me if I had ever heard of Shoot Experience, and was I interested in acompanying her on one of their shoot days. Naturally I jumped at the chance, and with typical speed it took over a year to actually sign up and do to the day.

Shoot experience organise various day shoot trips, and the one we did was “Shoot Shoreditch”, perfect as we both live right round the corner from Shoreditch. Not so great for Olly and Nicky, who trecked over all the way from somewhere in West London for the day to complete our team.

I was a little bit worried when I looked at thier T&C page. Seems they demand the right to sell any photos you enter for comercial purposes, and I have heard enough horror stories of photo competitions and events being run as ways to build up photo libraries…, but I decided to give it ago anyway. At the day they claimed this was because they are trying to help the people who attend the days earn money from their hobby, which would be a great thing for them to be doing – but untill someone tries to buy one of my photos – I can’t tell you how true that is. They did however give us the option to opt out of granting our model releases, and giving them exclusive rights to the photos. So I do get to show you what we shot!

We were given the theme of “light” and 10 clues, 7 pointing to locations, and 3 creative clues; a map, and five hours to go and be creative. This is what we got:

Once generating “out of the dust light and power” –  Nowadays home to acrobatic flight and squirty flowers

This strange phrase refers to the motto of the Vestry of St Leonard Shoreditch Electric Light Station, which is now a pretty cool circus school.

Once generating "out of the dust light and power" -  Nowadays home to acrobatic flight and squirty flowers

A sun powered beacon for the lost and Foundry

Just opposite the Foundry Bar is a new solar powerd art installation called the Beacon

A sun powered beacon for the lost and Foundry

Electrifying Shoreditch with Eddison’s invention since 1920

Eddison of course invented the light bulbe, and there is a famous bar in Shoreditch called the Electric Showrooms, with the name in lightbulbs, however, this Bluu bar nearby provided a much nicer photo

Electrifying Shoreditch with Eddison's invention since 1920

Olympic Torch
Ok, maybe we were not as creative on this one as we could have been.

Olympic Torch

Underground Overground near the Great Eastern Corner
We actually got this one wrong. Its meant to be a overground and underground train lifted up onto the top of a building nearby – but quite frankly that was dull, and this is really quite a cool architecture shot

Underground Overground near the Great Eastern Corner

Uncover an explosive plot on Hoxton Street

On Friday, October 26th 1604  Lord Monteagle received the following letter at his house, on Hoxton Street:

My lord out of the love i bear to some of youre frends i have a care of your preseruasion therefore i would advise you as you tender your life to devise some excuse to shift of your attendance at this parliament for god and man hath concurred to punish the wickedness of this time and think not slightly of this advertisement but retire youre self into youre control where you may expect the event in saftey for though there be no appearance of any stir yet i say they shall receive a terrible blow this parliament and yet they shall not see who hurts them this councel is not to be condemned because it may do you good and can do you no harm for the danger is passed as soon as you have burnt the letter and i hope god will give you the grace to make good use of it to whose holy protection i commend you.”

Uncover an explosive plot on Hoxton Street

More Light More Power

I really really liked this photo. I like the idea and the execution, but I don’t think anyone at who saw it on the slide show at the end of the day got it

More Light More Power

Here comes a candle to light you to bed

This refers to the lyrics of a populer nursery rhyme:

Oranges and lemons”, say the bells of St. Clement’s
You owe me three farthings”, say the bells of St. Martin’s
When will you pay me?” say the bells of Old Bailey
When I grow rich”, say the bells of Shoreditch
When will that be?” say the bells of Stepney
I do not know”, says the great bell of Bow
Here comes a candle to light you to bed
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!
Chip chop chip chop – The last man’s dead.

The bells of Shoreditch are in the St Leonards Church, the photo was taken on the front steps.

Here comes a candle to light you to bed

Beam me up
We got creative on this one

Beam me up

Barbarella’s bubbling force sheds new light on Kingsland Road

We one a prize for this one – the best answer to the clue

This was taken outside of Barbarellas Shoe, Belt and Bag shop. However apparently this clue was meant to point to the Mathmos light shop (!?!)

Barbarella's bubbling force sheds new light on Kingsland Road

It was a really great day, and we took some awesome photos. As long as you don’t mind them making some money off of your photos (if they are good enough) then well worth a day, just try to bring your umbrealla!

By |September 7th, 2008|Photography|2 Comments

Silly Algorithms Over Lunch

One of the things I absolutely knew I wanted when I was looking for a job, was to recapture the glory days of my student years, when we used to take a coffee break every morning, and come up with totally cool and utterly insane ideas. Such as proving that it was worth doing nothing for the first 18 months of any 3 year research project (we were so busy doing nothing that we never wrote up this proof).

I once again got the chance yesterday to take 30 mins out of the otherwise stressful day to create a new compression algorithm which can reduce the content of Wikipedia (100Mb) down to 225 bytes, beating the previous record of 16Mb. The downside to this particular algorithm is that the decompression is a tad slow, taking longer than the current age of the universe.

Oh well – back to the day job

By |September 5th, 2008|Comp Science|1 Comment

Designing a Homeopathic Website Strategy

Announcing two new websites, CrystalFlower and Avilian

Its a few years now since I set my mother up with her first blog site. As a practicing homeopath I felt she needed to have an on-line web presence – more and more people rely on on-line search, so it seems an absolute necessity. Since then her use of her site has increased and diversified way beyond the original intent of the site.

This caused a problem. There were several totally different types of content on her site – the first was a professional facing site; information about her practice as a homeopath and so on. Secondly there was a whole variety of content, posts and essays on a diverse range of topics; scientific research on homeopathy, case studies, history essays, and many more. Finally in the last year she started to write a LOT of biographies on people connected to homeopathy. In addition to this the site was hosted on a sub-domain of this site, which was causing Google to get confused as to what was going on.

This lead to a very confusing site, difficult to navigate, with the sheer volume of biographies making it even harder to find any of the other content. So a total redesign we necessary. We moved the professional practicing homeopath content to CrystalFlower. This site is intended for people looking for a homeopath to consult. Most of the rest of the content, which broadly speaking it categorised as anything she is interested in writing on, has moved to a new personal blog Avilian. The homeopathy biographies are remaining on Homeopathy.Wildfalcon for now, till we find something better to do with it.

By |September 4th, 2008|General|1 Comment

5 Tips for completing your PhD

I seem to know a whole host of people, and veritable league in fact, of people who are finishing their PhD as I type this. This causes me no end of joy, daily tormenting them, asking how many words they wrote today (so far numbers like 200 look pretty good). However I remember when I was in the same position, and what helped me. So here are my top tips for finishing your PhD.

Spend some time each morning just writing
Unless you already have all the words you need, each morning, set aside 30 minutes to just write down text. Don’t worry if its good text, and certainty do NOT allow yourself to stop and thing “this is crap” just generate text. You can tidy it up later, but doing this will soon get your word count up to where it should be. Whatever you do, do not stop and ask yourself why your word count isn’t already where it should be – that way leads to madness.

Don’t worry about corrections
Its very rare to get no corrections, if your thesis is one of the few that gets no corrections at all, if your spending your time going though making the whole thing really shine, then your well into the territory of diminishing returns. This is not an excuse to do a bad job, or a sloppy thesis. But don’t forget that often examiners will see things from a different perspective, and want a different view, or an edge case you missed to be considered in addition to what you have already done. I know your thinking you can never survive another few months making corrections, but you can, and in a year’s time when you look back, and realise how much better your thesis is because of it – you will be glad the examiner asked for the corrections

Set yourself a deadline if one isn’t imposed on you
This will force you to make the hard decisions about what to write up, and what to leave out. You will (I hope) have done a lot of work by now, and you want to put it all in, but does it all add to the central message of your thesis? If something is adjunct to your main message, leave it out. I left out an entire journal paper from my thesis (after the examiners pointed out to be that it was irrelevant).

Leave time for binding it
Even though you often get to submit at least one electronic copy now – for the time being you still have to submit a bound copy. Every college has its own, often strange, and always pedantic rules about how to bind it. What size the lettering can be, what colour the 7th page must be. Submitting your thesis is a stressful time, and faffing about with stupid binding regulations is something you are going to want to take a little bit of time over – just to convince yourself you got it right

And finally
Submit the thesis when its ready – not when you are ready
Your thesis will be good enough to pass before you are psychologically convinced of this. This is pretty much guaranteed. You have spent such a long part of your life working on this, and you just have to get it right. If your normal (probably not if your doing a PhD) then you’re scared its going to fail, and you want to keep polishing it and making it better. Listen to your supervisor – its what they are there for (even if its all they are there for). They look bad if they tell you to submit before its ready – so once they say submit – submit it already!

By |September 3rd, 2008|General|1 Comment