Code, Compose, Bike, Brew

…though not necessarily in that order

A Song a Day - Day 4 - Squarepusher - Beep Street

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A couple of friends have nominated me on FaceBook to post a song every day for seven days, and nominate someone each day to do the same. This is Day 4.

Today I’m giving you ‘Beep Street’ by Squarepusher. Why? Because it’s one of the most amazing tunes I’ve ever heard and because nobody will ever be able to program beats like Mr Tom Jenkinson can!

Get yer lugoles wrapped around this one!

A Song a Day - Day 3 - Lewis Parker - Communications (Feat. Jehst)

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A couple of friends have nominated me on FaceBook to post a song every day for seven days, and nominate someone each day to do the same. This is Day 3.

Today I’m going with some UK Hip-Hop. This is Lewis Parker - Communications (Feat. Jehst) from the album ‘It’s All Happening Now’ (The Ancients Series Three)

Lewis Parker and Jehst are two of my favourite producers/ MCs and have contributed a lot to the development of Hip Hop in the UK. Jehst’s verse on this track reminds me of my own childhood spending probably hundreds of hours starting at Notator/ Cubase on an old Atari ST and later a PC learning how to make beats and music.

A Song a Day - Day 2 - Cat Stevens - Where Do the Children Play

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A couple of friends have nominated me on FaceBook to post a song every day for seven days, and nominate someone each day to do the same. This is Day 2.

Today I’m sharing ‘Where do the children play’ by Cat Stevens (now known as Yusuf Islam), it’s from his album ‘Tea for the Tillerman’ which is one of my favourite albums.

The song was written in 1970 but I think the questions he asks are every bit as relevant today. As a dad of 3 it inspires me to think about and try to positively influence the environment that we’re building for our kids’ generation.

This song also makes me think of family, in particular my Mum, as it was through her record collection that I was introduced to Cat Stevens. Thanks Mum!

A Song a Day - Day 1 - Nuyorican Soul - I Am the Black Gold of the Sun (4 Hero Remix)

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A couple of friends have nominated me on FaceBook to post a piece of music which means something to me each day for 7 days. I haven’t written anything here in an awfully long time so I thought I’d post them here too.

It’s amazing what a simple nomination can do, my mind has immediately gone in to overdrive trying to figure out how to whittle down all the music I love to just 7 songs… I’m going to need to make a list!

This is Day 1. I’m starting with Nuyorican Soul: I am the black gold of the sun (4 Hero Remix). It’s a hugely positive tune and never fails to cheer me up if I’m down. I also love the fact that it puts together computers and real instruments so seamlessly. My favourite thing though is that the drop is four and a half minutes in! That’s four and a half minutes of Nuyourican goodness followed by another four or so of some of Luke Parkhouse’s finest beats all put together with Marc Mac and Dego’s wizardy!

Vagrant-roller Now Updated for Roller 5

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Last year I put together a little GitHub project called vagrant-roller which provisioned an Apache Roller VM with very little effort. The initial version of the project provisioned a Roller v4 VM but there were a couple of issues getting the latest version of Roller (v5) to work.

I have had a bit of spare time recently and managed to get everything working so you can now provision either v4 or v5 as you prefer. I have also re-written the provisioning mechanism to use Ansible as I find it to be a much more capable and productive tool than Puppet, which I was previously using.

Any questions etc welcome either on the vagrant-roller project itself or as comments here (see below).



Alpine 3552, 3353, 3354 Car Amplifier Manuals

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Waaaay back in 2005 I posted on a car audio forum asking if anyone had the manual for an Alpine 3553 amplifier. I had the amp but no manual and couldn’t figure out the power ratings and whether it was stable at 2 ohms. Unfortunately Alpine themselves didn’t seem to have it in their manual database.

Some kind soul sent me what they had of the 3553 manual along with the 3552 and 3554 manuals, from this I managed to figure out the information I needed. Every month or so I now get an email or two from people who happen upon my post asking me if I’ve still got the manuals, just goes to show how, after all these years, the 3553 is still alive and kicking!

So, for anyone who’s after these manuals here are the files as I received them:

Alpine 3552 Manual

Alpine 3553 Manual - Single Page only I’m afraid

Alpine 3554 Manual

Note: By posting these here I am not claiming any right of ownership of the files, which of course belong to Alpine.

@Alpine: If there’s a problem with me hosting these files please let me know and I’ll duly remove them (and please add them to your manual Database so people can get to them!).



Crossing the Line in to the Dark Side… Or More Aptly Put “I’ve Only Gone and Bought Myself a Shiny New Cyclo-Cross Bike!”

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For the last 4-5 years my trusty downhill/freeride/dirt-jump/trail centre/ hard-tail has been ferrying me back and forth from my places of work. Each day I cycle my 2 * 10 mile journey, trying (usually in vain) to keep up with the sensible folk on their fast road bikes. When I first started commuting on the hard-tail I got a bit of a kick out of the fact that it was so much fun riding a bike built for anything other than road-riding on the road. I could hop obstacles, manual over sleeping policemen and do massive stoppies in to the bike boxes at lights. Plus having a whopping 200mm disk on the front gave me bundles of confidence that I could stop in no time when bus or taxi drivers pull their seemingly obligatory crazy daily manoeuvres.

There’s always been one thing which I’ve found difficult though - getting good road speed. At first I didn’t really care as I was having so much fun, but over the years I guess my base level of fitness has improved and I’ve started trying to keep pace with the faster bikes on the road. This is when I realised that riding a heavy mountain bike with 2.4” dirt jump tyres, a chain device and lots of heavy components does not make for an easy time trying to break the london-commute-speed-record! And so over the years I’ve felt the gentle yet persistent tug from the dark side, that all mountain bikers fear… that’s right, I’ve started to want a road bike!

Ok, so I’m being dramatic, there is no “dark side”, I’m sure road bikes are ace, it’s just I’ve never ridden one before. Also given my limited distance of ~100 miles a week I wasn’t sure a full-on road bike was what I wanted (lots of roadies I know regularly do 100 miles in a day!).

So what then?

I’ve been hearing more and more about a discipline called Cyclo-cross recently and after chatting to a few mates who have some experience I decided it definitely sounded like something I should find out about. Cyclo-Cross is a mixture of on and off road riding on what is ostensibly a souped up road-bike (i.e. slightly different geometry, disk brakes (usually) and thin but treaded tyres for off-road). The folks who do it seem to be of fine fettle and essentially like throwing themselves down slippery trails on fairly inappropriate bikes (hang on I’m sensing a theme emriding tree roots on narrow tyres with drop bars seem like a good example here!). After watching a few YouTube entries my decision had been made - I needed a Cyclo-cross bike!

Fast forward through lots of internet research to last weekend when I picked up shiny new bike from BonVelo (who are lovely, friendly and generally awesome by the way), a Kinesis Crosslight Pro6… and it’s beauuuutiful!:

Alt text

Riding the thing

This Monday was my first commute on the Kinesis. I didn’t have much time to fettle over the weekend in preparation so I took a few tools in case I needed to make any adjustments en-route.

Things I thought would be scary:

  • SPDs: I was a bit nervous of riding SPDs as I’ve never used them before but after slightly slackening the cleats off from their default position I found that they were pretty easy to clip in and out of. On Monday I made sure to clip out uber early when approaching lights but on Tuesday I did a bit of trackstand practise and found that I could still trackstand easily enough on the new bike so as not to need to unclip at lights.

Things I didn’t think would be scary that are:

  • General balance: I’m used to riding my Easton MonkeyLites which are nice and wide, in contrast the bars on the Kinesis are so narrow and consequentially the bike feels massively unstable which makes me feel vulnerable to traffic.
  • Brakes don’t work very well (yet): Again being used to Avid Elixirs with a 200m disc my mechanical 160mm bb7’s feel somewhat lacking by comparison. They seem so be getting more grippy as they bed in though so should be easy enough to get used to.
  • Trying to stand up and pedal hard and nearly catapulting myself diagonally over the bars. This is getting easier each day as I get use to the bike but I think I could benefit from improving my core + upper body strength.
  • Cornering on those tiny little tyres: The road/tyre contact patch is literally tiny! Definitely an opportunity to improve my cornering skills!
  • General riding position: It’s mental, I’m hunched over like Quasimodo!
  • How in the name of all things sane am I supposed to ride this thing offroad?! Actually I’m quite looking forward to figuring this out so am going to try out for the London Cyclo-Cross Summer Series which looks like a noob friendly way of getting some off-road practise done just down the road in Herne Hill.

Things that are ace:

  • It is SO fast!
  • It it SO light!
  • Bunny Hops really easily

What next?

I’m enjoying riding the Kinesis more and more every day, so I think next steps are just to continue to get more familiar with the bike and then see if I can get some of that all important road speed I was after. Actually I can see that happening already, in the last few days I have started to consistently take 3 minutes out of my 35 minute to-work journey and 5 minutes off my 38 minute return journey. Something must be going right there!

I’m also really looking forwards to riding the bike offroad at the summer-series, that’s going to be quite a different kettle of fish to riding downhill I bet!

Looking for a Devops Engineer/ Release Manager to Join Us on the BBC Digital Archive Project

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We’re looking for the new member to join the devops team of the BBC’s digital archive project, the role is a split of soft and technical skills and is essentially a “devops engineer/ release manager” position. Experience has taught me that devops is a notoriously difficult thing to recruit for so I’m widening my search by posting here as well as using all the usual routes.

What follows is a summary of the characteristics that I’m looking for, I’m not expecting to find someone who fits all of these but hopefully they should give you a good insight in to what I’m after.

So then here’s what I think you might be like…


You may have worked as a full time developer in the past (you may still do so). You are probably somewhat of a programming polyglot and are definitely well versed in Java applications and their various containers (Tomcat, Jetty etc). You probably understand design patterns and have a passion for TDD and use this knowledge wherever you can when working on devops problems. If you have worked with Java in the past then you’re probably more interested in Spring, Groovy and Grails than J2EE and other ‘enterprisey’ things which are inherently difficult to use TDD techniques against.

You are well versed in several scripting languages, notably Ruby, Bash and Perl

You don’t like doing things by hand more than once or twice, you know what inconsistencies this can cause and prefer to automate using tools like Puppet, Chef, Ansible and Capistrano.

You hate technical debt with a passion, but rather than seeing it as an annoyance which you don’t enjoy fixing you relish the challenge of working it off, improving things, reducing build times, making deployments more robust and reliable.

You have a dislike for proprietary software and have a love of open source. You have a broad working knowledge of many reliable and popular open source projects. You also know when to avoid certain projects because they’re too immature or could lead to a support nightmare due to lack of community.

You like tools like Vagrant and love the fact that you can use Vagrant’s provisioners to test changes locally before deploying to development environments (which will inevitably break if you can’t test changes locally first).

You have a website/ blog which you set up as a technical experiment which may or not receive as much love as you know it should. You may spend some of your personal time learning and playing with new tech. You may have a github account and may have contributed to one or more open source projects.

You are a dab hand with source code control systems, you’ve definitely used Subversion and have probably used Git. You’ve taken the time to read the relevant documents and are competent at branching and merging in both.

You understand SSH to the extent that you can set up SSH config and SSH agents. You know how to use private and public keys.

You have high development standards and hold your self to these. You take pride in your work, you plan it, you don’t just hack your way there (Although you’ve probably done a lot of hacking about in your time, but you know when to hack and when not to).

You may use a Mac or Linux operating system, hey you might even run Windows, and you take your Laptop everywhere with you. Given the choice you would rather use your own laptop than a boring sanitised enterprise desktop machine.

Personally (Soft Skills):

You are an organised person and are used to context switching between tech and non tech work. You are probably an outgoing person and enjoy working collaboratively, you enjoy pulling together the various pieces of the release and deployment puzzle and getting everything prepped on time for releases. You accept that releases sometimes contain more manual steps than you’d like but have a desire to move towards a continuous deployment model (and the skills to help get there).

You enjoy working in a fast paced environment or one where it sometimes feels like you need to wade through a little treacle in order to get where you want to be, because you know the feeling of getting there will be worth it in the end.

You favour agile methodologies (Scrum, Kanban etc) over traditional ones (Waterfall, Prince2 etc). Your preference is derived from experience of working in a successful agile team.

Boring stuff:

You are available for interview as soon as possible (ideally in the next couple of weeks). If all goes well and we agree that you will join us you will be available to start work on site at the BBC’s White City campus in London within 1 - 4 weeks of offer. The role is intended to be a contract role however there might be an opportunity for it to be a permy role for those interested.

If much of the above sounds like you and you’re interested in discussing the role further I would love to hear from you, so please drop me a line at edd-AT-eddgrant-DOT-com



Introducing Vagrant-roller

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I have been working on a little project recently to enable me to spin up a fully configured and installed Apache roller system in a matter of minutes. The project has taken me a couple of evenings so far but is now in a position where it’s worth sharing.

Introducing vagrant-roller

What is it?

Very simple - it’s a Vagrant project which uses a Puppet provisioner to:

Why did I create this?

  • To provide a quick and easy means to test drive Roller - this will make testing migrations between versions easier and more predictable.
  • To provide a convenient and sandboxed way to author and test Roller themes - until now I have had only a single Roller install (this site), so it’s useful to be able to have more freedom in what I can easily change, knowing that I can simply blow away the changes and start again should I need to.
  • To provide some Puppet code with which a Roller install may be automated. I figured it’s time to practise what I preach professionally. ‘Work of art’ environments (i.e. hand crafted, unreproducible and each one slightly different to the last) are the last thing that any self-respecting devops or software engineer wants. Although I set this site up many years ago as an experiment it’s about time that I made it easily and autonomously reproducible for that ‘not if but when’ moment.

Installing and configuring Roller isn’t particularly difficult but it can be somewhat time consuming and fiddly, particularly to Roller newcomers or those unfamiliar with the technology. I hope that vagrant-roller is useful to people who want to play with Roller without wanting to go through the set-up steps themselves.

Go-on dive in

So if you’re interested in Roller, why not have a play with vagrant-roller, the project is very much in its infancy right now (only 2 evenings old!) but it works well enough to be useful already so is worth sharing.

I welcome any feedback, bugs, feature requests, pull requests etc that people have, just raise them on the issue tracker.



Our First Family Christmas

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Work has been crazy busy recently, so it seemed like a good time to re-charge and take a break. I agreed with my client that I’d take 2 weeks off over Christmas and was looking forward to this break for a number of reasons. It was our first Christmas together as a family, we’ve finally bought a new Car which is big enough for the four of us and all our assorted baby paraphernalia to allow us to go away for more than a single day and I was looking forward to relaxing with Tash and the babies. We had also planned to make quite a few changes to the babies routine in order to try and get them sleeping more solidly through the night.

It has been lovely spending so much time with the babies, seeing with them round the clock I noticed how visible their day-to-day development is. Both Luca and Finn have started to chatter and babble and are so funny to listen to. Luca has also figured out how to roll from front to back, although can’t yet do it consistently. And Finn has found a love for the Jumperoo and goes quite mad when he gets in it!

Going home was a mission, I don’t think either Tash or I could really believe how much stuff two babies need just to go away for a few days. Fortunately the new car had just about enough room for everything we needed. It was great catching up with family though and we really appreciated everyone’s willingness to muck in and help with baby feeding and entertaining. Tash’s brother Ben has been living in Cambodia recently and came back for Christmas, he hadn’t met the twins yet so it was great for them to get to meet their other Uncle. We were also lucky enough to catch up with Phil Cox and Ben Knighton and it was great for the littluns to meet them too.

When we got back home we instigated quite a few changes to the twins’ bedtime routine. We moved them from our room in to the nursery, stopped swaddling them and started trying to reduce their reliance on dummies at night. The net result of these changes was several nights with awful sleep and a few more where I ended up sleeping on the nursery room floor in a sleeping bag as it seemed easier than traipsing down the hall every 5 minutes to settle them… Things didn’t really improve from there and we have now regressed somewhat. They’re now back in our room and Finn is back in his swaddle. We are however making progress as they’re starting to sleep a little more reliably and we’re having much more luck at not using dummies… One step forward two steps back I suppose!

I’ve had a great break, but it has been exhausting. I don’t think either of us anticipated how much the travel and exposure to so many new places and faces would exhaust the twins. They both got really knackered as a result and their sleep was worse than usual. Having said that it felt really freeing to be able to leave London for more than a day and the new car is ace - so glad I finally found what I was after!

I went back to work this Monday, I was so tired that I felt like I was on another planet while I was bumbling around the flat getting ready. Fortunately the morning cycle and a few cups of strong Tea sorted me right out! Having a break has clearly done me good as I’m feeling really focussed on getting the team to address some of our more debilitating technical debt items so we can take then build the next sections of our deployment pipeline. Exciting stuff ahead!