A weird solar blockchain thing – Rowan Energy

I blog about my solar panels - probably a bit too much! Recently, a reader asked me if I'd heard of Rowan Energy's solar payback scheme - so I took a look into it. Here's how it works:

Rowan installer a "miner" next to your solar inverter (the big box that turns DC from solar panels into AC for home use).
The "miner" monitors how



The 74,000 numbers of Barclays Bank

The UK faces an epidemic of telephone scams. Fraudsters are constantly calling people up pretending to be their bank. But how can you be sure the number displayed on your screen in genuine? You can't. The telecom system is hopelessly insecure and shouldn't be trusted for anything more complicated than dialling the speaking clock.

Barclays bank kno



Book review: A Brief History of Motion – Tom Standage

Our society has been shaped by the car in innumerable ways, many of which are so familiar that we no longer notice them. Why does red mean stop and green mean go? Why do some countries drive on the left, and some on the right? How did cars, introduced only a little over a century ago, change the way the world was administere



How not to sort a list of countries

Being from the United Kingdom is hard sometimes. When scrolling through a list of countries, we might be found down the bottom as "UK" or near the top as "Great Britain". Occasionally someone files us under "England" - thus ignoring Wales, Scotland, NI etc. Once in a while, it'll be "The UK". Truly, no one has suffered as we have suffered⸮

Here's a l



Book Review: Quarantine Comix

It's hard reviewing a comic book like this. A weekly or daily feed of little vignettes of lockdown life regularly raises a chuckle. But it long-form, it doesn't quite work. We already know how the story ends - after a year, you're still in lockdown. You've grown around the belly, but have you grown as a person? No, probably not.

The sketches are chee



Book Review: Record of a Spaceborn Few (Wayfarers 3) – Becky Chambers

Hundreds of years ago, the last humans left Earth. After centuries wandering empty space, humanity was welcomed – mostly – by the species that govern the Milky Way, and their generational journey came to an end.
But this is old history. Today, the Exodus Fleet is a living relic, a



Book Review: A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers #2) by Becky Chambers

Beginning during the final events of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, this standalone sequel branches out to explore new characters and new corners of the galaxy.

Once, Lovelace had eyes and ears everywhere. She was a ship’s artificial intelligence system, tasked with caring for th



How to fake AVIF thumbnail images

AVIF is the hip new image format. It is born out of video compression technology. Modern video streaming services have a complicated relationship with multiple resolutions. A video is usually encoded several time - for high, medium, and low bandwidths. When you start streaming, your playback device usually picks the lowest quality stream to start with. If



Homebrew Wanker™! Review of the Pinter fresh brewing kit

Do you like beer? Do you like cider? Would you like to brew your own? Would you like a frustrating experience? Well, gang, do I have a treat for you!

This is the Pinter from the Greater Good Fresh Brewing Company. It promises to introduce you to the wonderful world of beer and cider brewing. It is only mild



Let’s make football matches shorter!!


On the face of it, I sort of get it. Viral football clips of sporting prowess (or failures) do Big Numbers™ on social media. Casual fans love them, and even non-fans might watch them.

A regular football match is a 2-3 hour commitment to watch - if you include half-time, extra-time, pre



Book Review: Our Biggest Experiment – A History of the Climate Crisis by Alice Bell

Maybe it's the weirdness of the weather. Maybe it's another way to pour scorn on politicians. Maybe the steady stream of headlines about fires, floods and droughts is finally starting to get to us. Whatever it is, for more and more of us



Book Review: Handmade – A Scientist’s Search for Meaning through Making by Anna Ploszajski

From atomic structures to theories about magnetic forces, scientific progress has given us a good grasp on the properties of many different materials. However, most scientists cannot measure the temperature of steel just by looking



What playing football taught me about hacking – Part 2

As part of my MSc, I'm reading MoneyBall. OK, I just watched the film! Cut me some slack!

The basic thesis of the book is this:

Our baseball team doesn't have much money to buy new players
Which baseball players have the best Statistic X for the lowest price?
Buy undervalued players which increase your Stat X





What playing football taught me about hacking – Part 1

This is a two-part blog post about rewriting the rules.

I hated playing sports as a teenager quelle surprise. In a vain attempt to get me to love the beautiful game, a PE teacher once made me team captain for a kickabout. My rival? Sporty Dave. Head boy, house captain, and conqueror of puberty.

The PE teacher made us pick our teams. I went first and, naturally, c



Excel as a mapping tool

About a million years ago, my wife's work sent her on a training course optimistically titled "How To Use Excel As A Database."

We were both horrified. Excel is a perfectly good spreadsheet program - but it is categorically not a database!

OK, it has rows and columns which sorta look like a database table. And you can put constraints on cells which mimic a schema. And, yes, yo



Howto: Remove Twitter’s Trending Topics

Twitter's trending topics are... inflammatory. Probably deliberately so in order to drive engagement. It's a mix of "who shall we hate today" and lowest-common-denominator "celebrity" gossip. I hate it. There are various ways you can block content on the web - but they usually involve installing a plugin to your browser.

Here's a simple hack to remove



What’s the cost of going to work?

(This blog post is going to be UK specific, and biased towards jobs that I've personally done.)

How much does it cost to go to work in a physical office? I'm going to try and list all the things I have to pay for just in order to be able to show up. This ignores things I can claim back on expenses (although that's an issue if you don't have sufficient credit access).



Are APIs Elitist?

(This post written partly to tease my delightful colleague Charles, but also as a way of thinking about user needs.)

During a recent Open Data Café, one of the guests made an entirely reasonable point. An API only method of getting data is elitist.


I'd like to briefly discuss that idea.

Downloading a CSV, for example, is simpl



security.txt now uses ISO8601 (sorta…)

If you're unfamiliar, security.txt is a proposed Internet standard. The idea is simple, your website hosts a plain text file at /.well-known/security.txt which tells people who your security contacts are, what your vulnerability disclosure policies are, where your PGP key is, etc. Useful!

Because it is in draft, people can comment on it to make things better. So



Have ComputerShare screwed up your EquatePlus account? Call them on 08009231507

I hope this rant is useful to someone...

I have some shares leftover from an old employer. The sharesave account was managed by ComputerShare who are pretty crap. For some reason, ComputerShare have decided to migrate lots of their customers to an equally crap service called Equ



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