fun stuff

November 26th 2019

This is a dormant blog. To see what I’ve been up to here is some stuff over on,,, and

Engineer fun stuff peering

UK & Ireland Peering Forum Social

Informal social event for Network Engineers and Peering coordinators during London Technology Week – UK & I PF Social

Once again LONAP is joining forces with the other mutual IXPs in the UK and Ireland to promote Peering and facilitate the exchange of ideas in an informal atmosphere. Attending this event will enable you to network and engage in technical discussions with participants of all the major UK and Ireland Internet exchange points.

This event is specifically for Network Engineers, Peering coordinators and anyone who has organisational responsibility for arranging settlement free interconnection across one of the organising IXs.

This informal Social event is being held in London during The London Technology Week on the evening of the 12th June, address and registration link below.

Please do register early as places are limited.

I look forward to seeing you on the 12th June.

PS I’ve had lunch a the the Fellow, the venue for this UK & Ireland Peering Forum Social. It is very convivial and we are guaranteed to have a pleasant and useful networking evening. The pub is on York Road down the side of Kings Cross Station.

Loads of other peering posts on this blog. LONAP btw is  a ‘not for profit’ Layer 2 Internet Exchange Point (IXP) based in London. Our data-centres host a network of interconnected switches providing free-flowing peering to help minimise interconnection costs. We provide exclusive connectivity between members, who are effectively LONAP stakeholders. This ensures that LONAP members enjoy excellent value and maximum benefits.

Traffic exchanged between LONAP members, reduces volumes sent through upstream providers, reduces IP transit cost and bandwidth usage. Our membership includes ISPs, network operators and content providers with their own data networks. We provide regular opportunities for members to network and meet new suppliers, and support operators in growing their portfolio and reselling LONAP connectivity to networks outside of London.

End User fun stuff servers

BT speaking clock is 80 years old on Sunday

At the third stroke lets all sing happy birthday

I usually ignore the zillions of press releases I get in my inbox. I made the mistake of once agreeing to go on some PR database and I get lots of crap from people I’ve never heard of.

On this occasion however I am going to republish verbatim the whole press release because I find it of interest. I’ll just add that it would make sense to me to provide an octogenarian voice to the clock for the day. Something along the lines of “hello dearie, at the third stroke it will be time for my weak tea and a biscuit”. All spoken in a shaky voice.

No offence intended to the many fit and healthy octogenarians still in possession of all their teeth and faculties.

Whilst feeling nostalgic and warm towards the speaking clock I must say it is probably thirty years since I rang them. Who needs it with the time on your phone and pc being right on the beep.

Anyway here’s the press release – happy birthday to the speaking clock.


Speaking Clock celebrates its 80th birthday on July 24, 2016

Audio and images can be found here

Britain’s famous Speaking Clock celebrates its 80th birthday on July 24, 2016. Now a national institution and part of Britain’s heritage, the Speaking Clock was the first of the pre-recorded information services in the UK, provided through telephones.

Created for people who wanted to know the time and did not have a watch or clock to hand, the clock was initially only available in the London directory area, with the first British Speaking Clock introduced on July 24, 1936.

The Speaking Clock was designed and constructed at the Post Office Engineering Research Station at Dollis Hill in North London. The time announcements were automatically co-ordinated on the hour with Greenwich meantime signals.

In order to access the service, subscribers would dial the first three letters of the word ‘time’ as dials at the time included letters as well as numbers to aid automatic calls. Dialling T. I. M. led to its common name ‘TIM’. The service went national six years later.

David Hay, head of BT Heritage, said: “The BT Speaking Clock is a national treasure. Even though we live in the digital age, more than 12 million calls are made each year to the BT Speaking Clock to get an accurate time check.

“Eighty years ago BT’s technology created the Speaking Clock which remains a much loved part of British life today. The Speaking Clock has reached octogenarian status and celebrating its birthday demonstrates BT’s determination to preserve the heritage of the world’s oldest communications company.”

Jane Cain was the first voice, winner of a Post Office ‘Golden Voice’ competition, and used from 1936 until 1963. Pat Simmons, a London telephone exchange supervisor, became the second voice from 1963 until 1985. The third voice belonged to Brian Cobby who became the first male voice at 11am on April 2, 1985. An actor by profession before he joined BT as an assistant supervisor at a Brighton exchange, Brian was selected from 12 finalists in BT’s competition on December 5, 1984. Users who were around in the 1960s who listen hard enough might detect a familiarity – Brian was also the voice of “5-4-3-2-1 Thunderbirds are go!” in the famous Gerry Anderson TV series.

The fourth and current voice is Sara Mendes da Costa from Brighton & Hove. She became Speaking Clock voice at 8am on April 2, 2007. Sara won a BT competition during 2006 to find a new voice from the public, which had almost 18,500 entrants, simultaneously raising more than £200,000 for BBC Children in Need.

Sara Mendes da Costa, said: “I am very proud to be the fourth permanent voice for the Speaking Clock and have been since April 2, 2007, nearly ten years ago.”

Originally the accuracy of the BT Speaking Clock was one-tenth of a second, but it is now accurate to within 30 microseconds.


Permanent voices


First voice             Jane Cain                                1936 – 1963

Second voice        Pat Simmons                          1963 – 1985

Third voice                        Brian Cobby                            1985 – 2007

Fourth voice          Sara Mendes da Costa           2007 – to present


Quick facts


  • The BT Speaking Clock has been ticking 24-hours a day, seven days a week since 24 July 1936 – which is 80 years, more than 29,000 days, more than 700,000 hours or more than 42 million minutes, more than 2.5 billion seconds
  • Big Ben checks its time with the Speaking Clock
  • The Speaking Clock is accurate to within 30 microseconds
  • In its first year the service registered nearly 13 million calls
  • Initially only available in the London area and went nationwide in 1942
  • The Speaking Clock is also known as TIM and Timeline


Temporary voices


There have been a number of temporary Speaking Clock voices, recorded for charity:

Lenny Henry: March 10 to March 23, 2003 (Sport Relief)

Alicia Roland (12-year-old schoolgirl): October 13 to October 23, 2003 (Childline)

Mae Whitman: October 26, 2008 until February 9, 2009 (to promote Disney’s Tinker Bell)

Kimberley Walsh, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, Gary Barlow, Chris Moyles and Fearne Cotton: February 3 to March 23, 2009 (Sport Relief)

David Walliams, Gary Barlow, Chris Moyles, Kimberley Walsh and Fearne Cotton: March 7 to April 9, 2012 (Sport Relief)

Clare Balding: February 12 to March 15, 2013 (Comic Relief)

Davina McCall: January 27 to March 23 2014 (Sport Relief)

Sir Ian McKellen: February 24 to March 13, 2015 (Comic Relief)

Jo Brand: January 20 to March 20, 2016 (Sport Relief)

Engineer fun stuff peering


LONAP is at RIPE72

Wearing my LONAP hat again today. Actually that is a figure of speech. You can see from the featured image that I’m really wearing my LONAP shirt. Facebook friends will know that I’m at the RIPE72 conference in Copenhagen.

We, LONAP, get a lot out of these conferences. Not only is there a lot of good content but it is a fantastic place to meet existing and prospective members. The LONAP community is growing.

LONAP are also slap bang in the middle of a total core network upgrade. Our new network is going to be based on Arista 100GigE kit. 100GigE has been around for perhaps four years but the first generation of equipment was very expensive. The introduction of cheaper more powerful silicon has brought the pricing down with the timing being just right for our roll out. It feels as if 100Gig is only now reaching the same stage of commoditisation that 10Gig was at 7 years ago.

Other benefits that Arista bring include programmability (API) and VXLAN for loop free layer-two. It’s worth noting that the Internet Exchange Point market has specific technical needs that aren’t addressed by all vendors.  The fact that Arista has an industry category specifically for identifying IXPs in its customer sign up page is very telling. I’ve not seen this in any other vendor (am prepared to be corrected here).

Check out the image


It’s an exciting time to be at LONAP. Our IXP in the middle of a transition from being “just a small exchange run by people with other day jobs” to a professional outfit that is attracting big players from both the content provider and eyeball network communities.

We still like to think of it as a family business though. We are a community that does things on behalf of the community. Our low overhead base means we are amongst the most cost effective IXPs in the game.

More in due course. In the meantime if you are  at RIPE72 and want to chat to us look out for our LONAP branded shirts.

Check out all peering posts here.

Business fun stuff webrtc

WebRTC: hacking apps for mental health services

WebRTC hacks for social benefit

Last week I explained how we at IPCortex were working with a social enterprise called Founders and Coders to use WebRTC to help solve some social challenges.

The plan was to introduce the ambitious FAC team (16 trainee Javascript developers), to WebRTC via a week long workshop. We’d then support them in using the IPCortex API to quickly put together proof of concept applications for other social enterprises. Afterwards, we’d demo it together at TADHack, the go-to event for devs pushing the boundaries of WebRTC.

TADHack was last weekend and I’m proud to be able to share more about the application we developed, called Confidant, and what we learned during the process.

Developing an idea

The idea we selected comes from a real life requirement brought to us by a charity and an NHS Trust. Their aim was to enhance the provision of youth mental health counselling services remotely: an idea that demonstrates the feasibility of using WebRTC to provide better access to support services. They’d use a community of volunteers on related university courses to provide supervised mentoring services – with the mentors receiving credit for professional experience gained by volunteering their time.

The original intention was to split the development team up and do several different smaller scale hacks. However, the use case for Confidant was very tangible and so well thought out that it immediately caught the team’s imagination. They were excited about making a real difference and decided they wanted to work as one team to deliver the best possible proof of concept hack in the time available.

From zero to demo in 7 days flat

By the time we got to talking about the hack we’d been working with the Founders and Coders students in the WebRTC workshop for a couple of days. I’d seen them working individually or in small groups on some basic WebRTC practical exercises, but wasn’t sure how a huge project with 16 student developers, all working to deliver one application, was going to work. To add to the challenge, they mostly work in React, a technology about which I knew nearly nothing before this week. It looked like I would be learning a lot too.

What came next was a big surprise. Just to recap, this was a team of 16 trainee developers who are about 12 weeks in on an intensive Javascript course. This was their first taste of the real time web and telecoms APIs, and I think also the first time they had worked on a project of this magnitude in a large team. They pretty much immediately, and with no externally obvious single point of leadership, organised themselves into a couple of sub-teams to analyse the requirements and map user journeys for the mentor and client respectively.

The sub teams then presented their results back and a working priority feature list and realistic plan of what was feasible in a couple of days development was quickly produced. A git repository and wiki were there from the start to share information and track issues from the requirements analysis stage. This was by far the most professional hack development process I have ever seen!

Three incredibly intense days later they presented Confidant together at TADHack (video at the bottom of this post). I had the opportunity to present with them about the whole process at the WebRTC Global Summit on Monday, and the positive feedback was overwhelming. You can read a bit more in the Prezi I created for the session.

The next step is to present the application back to the charity customer, and hopefully find some buy-in and resources to start work on taking it a minimum viable product, so that it can be deployed as a pilot to see how it works in real life.

Overall it’s been a fascinating process. We’re delighted to have had the opportunity to use WebRTC for social good and hopefully do our bit to help improve mental health services for young people.

Rob Pickering is CEO of communications company IPCortex and is a good friend of this blog.

Loads of other WebRTC posts here.

fun stuff Weekend

trefbash 2015 is today – SOLD OUT

trefbash 2015 est arrivee

trefbash 2015 is a sellout, as usual and I’m looking forward to meeting y’all. Hopefully the theme of Bond meets Rocky Horror will have given people food for thought. Early indications are positive.

Don’t expect much feedback tomorrow as trefbash has traditionally grown into a two day event. Doors open tonight at 6pm and revelry continues until the official 2pm ish closing time.

Tomorrow morning (9 – 9.30 ish) we will be at Silvas on Shaftesbury avenue for one of the best greasy spoon breakfasts in London. In fact it’s almost a travesty to call Silvas a greasy spoon but hey…

Past performance suggests we will then find a pub and carry on the party. I’m on the 15.08 home from town on Friday.

trefbash marks the end of activities for the year for the blog. There will be a video released at some point hopefully next week once the dust has settled. trefbash 2015 also has a Facebook photo Album. You have to be a friend to post pics there but I guess if you are coming tonight that qualifies you for friendship. Just invite me and I’ll accept.

If you are coming tonight see you there. If not too bad – sgonna be a goodun. If you’ve never been to a trefbash you can see what you’re missing in these previous years’ trefbash posts.

fun stuff

RIPE71 Tuesday afternoon – international cyberwarfare – the internet as a field of war


This talk promises to be very interesting – is presented by  team from Leiden University

End User fun stuff

trefbash 2015 update

trefbash 2015 update – registrations over the halfway mark

Signups for trefbash 2015 are roughly on par with last year with over a 100 tickets now “sold”, most of which have gone to regulars. It’s quite interesting to see which ticket types have been selling fastest – I’ve crested a number of different tickets in line with the Bond meets Rocky Horror theme of this year’s bash.

Ticket Type Number sold so far
My name is Bond 39
Dr Frank N. Furter 7
Janet Weiss (s!^£) 1
Brad Majors (a$$h0!3) 1
Pussy Galore 5
Jaws 4
Goldfinger 5
Scaramanga 5
Dr No 7
Tiffany Case 3
Honey Ryder 2
M 17
Moneypenny 5

It’s quite telling that lots of people fancy themselves a bit of a James Bond. Also I haven’t looked but I wonder how many of the 17 people currently going as M are female in line with the Judi Dench portrayal in Skyfall.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the 7 people signed up as Frank N. Furter turn up. Also up until yesterday nobody had signed up as Janet Weiss (slut) and there was only one Brad Majors (asshole). There are now one of each.

Although we have the Christmas Market here in Lincoln the weekend before trefbash seems to be the start of the party season proper, after which nothing much gets done. I know some of you will be slogging away with month/quarter/year end impending but hey…

Traditionally some of us also have a few sherberts in town the following day before catching the train nowf so if you can plan that into your busy schedule then you are welcome to join us.

Still time to get yer name down if you plan on coming. trefbash 2015 is four weeks today. Signup page here.

End User fun stuff

Ten past four and it’s getting dark!

Custard is a dish best served cold

I’m a great believer in knocking off work when it gets dark. If it had been intended that we should work in the dark we would have invented torches been born with a light on our foreheads.

It’s ten past four and it’s getting dark. Time to huddle round the hearth, nice woollen blanket on our laps. Only illumination is the glow from the fire. On this occasion I’ll have to settle for switching on the central heating and stick with the glow from my laptop screen.

Way back when we lived in Waunfawr near Caernarfon we had a coal fire which my mum used to like to lie in front of. Then we moved to the Isle of Man where we only had radiators. Mum used to lie in front of the radiator! I digress though there isn’t really much point to this post. Just thought I’d take a break from doing other things.

It’s a good job I can type without having to look at the keyboard. Ish. Cos it’s dark. I mentioned that. It’s also chucking it down. Quite relaxing here in the conservatory with the sound of the rain on the roof. My office is in the conservatory. It’s all cabled up but I only use the Cat5 connection for the SIP phone. Also have a SIP DECT phone fwiw.

Screenshot_2015-11-05-07-46-33A car has just driven by on the main road outside with its siren going. Couldn’t tell whether it was a police car or ambulance (or fire engine for that matter). Wouldn’t have been able to see anyway because of the hedge. Also I’ve had to switch on a light – have just realised my touch typing ain’t all that good anymore. It’s a consequence of changing laptop sizes too many times. Each keyboard is a different size – messes up your spatial awareness ifyaknowworramean.

Now I’m multitasking, writing this post and communicating with an offspring using Facebook. Of course you can’t tell that I’m doing it but hey… It has meant that my productivity rate has slowed.

It’s really dark out now and the heating is at last taking effect. Another siren goes by. The mean streets of Lincoln. Buzzing tourist spot by day. Gangland by night. Not really. Just sounded exciting. Sometimes you have to jazz life up a bit. Like, for example, by coming along to trefbash 2015. You know it makes sense. Also still have a few tix left for my Danny Prieskel dinner where we will be discussing telecom fraud. Get signed up.

Couple more sirens go by in short order. Must be something big going down. Mean streets, like I said. More likely to be a traffic accident. When it rains, as it is still doing right now, we have road traffic accidents (RTAs) and the Lincoln roads get gridlocked. On such occasions the only sensible course of action is to park up and head for the pub. You can always come back in the morning for the car.

If you live near Lincoln one thing you might be interested in is the carol singing night at teh Morning Star pub – my local. Details on Facebook. It’s on 23rd of December this year. We have Colin Dudman accompanying the singing on the piano and when we’ve done with the singing Joe Davies joins in on trumpet and we finish off the night with some jazz.

I think that’ll do for the mo and will leave you with the following saying to muse over:

custard is a dish best served cold

fun stuff travel Weekend

Beach clean – Tref is on Holiday #9

Rhossili beach clean

Keep that beach clean – this is a pic from last week’s campervan surfin’ holiday in the Gower. Absolutely no mobile connectivity so a bit of a delay in posting.

Gonna buy a T2 bay btw – just need to find one.

fun stuff travel Weekend

Selfie by firelight at Hillend

selfie by firelight

Taken whilst sat around the fireplace the other night. Today the heavens opened and we set off for home a day early.

trefor davies by campfire light


fun stuff travel Weekend

Tref is on holiday #5

Camping 2012

fun stuff travel Weekend

tref is on holiday #3

August 2013

broadband End User fun stuff

GoPro Pigs GoPro

GoPro Pigs GoPro on

Needs no introduction really but if you were one of the global audience that saw the original broadbandrating pig racing video you will know that a GoPro camera was strapped to the back of one of the pigs as part of the filming. GoPro pigs!

Well this is that pure GoPro footage – you occasionally get a glimpse of  one of our cameramen tracking the pigs as they raced around the course.

That original vid had around 11,000 views in its first week online – mostly on Facebook. The YouTube version had far fewer.

See the original video over on broadbandrating here.

fun stuff Weekend

Trent Bridge Cricket Report – “You’ll be sacked in the morning”

Ashes Trent Bridge Day 2 Report

The 2015 Ashes tour has come to Trent Bridge, my nearest test ground. I go every year with the lads. Ground capacity being what it is not everyone can go and indeed some prefer to stay at home and watch it on the telly. However when you do that you don’t get the atmosphere. Here’s some of that atmosphere:

I’m not going to attempt to cover the cricket. You can tap into a match report from any of the mainstream sources – here’s the Beeb.

What the press doesn’t cover is the nature of the fans’ day out. This is, to a greater or lesser extent,  pretty ubiquitous unless you are taking the kids along in which case it is an alcohol free day out travelling by car.

trent bridge
The lads L-R Coops, Ashley, Ajax & me

08.10 meet lads outside Lincoln Central Station. Hand out match tickets in exchange for £75 in used notes each. Very conscious about carrying so much cash but hey. Purchase day return to Nottinham, large tea from caff and mosey over to platform 4 to get on train which is waiting for us. Good job we got there earlyish (08.35 dep) as the train fills up very quickly. I recognise some faces from the Lindum Cricket Club.

09.30 arr Nottingham on a train which is by now crammed with cricket supporters – squeezed into the aisle. Taxi to ground for a fiver. It is very walkable but we have a table reserved at The Southbank Bar, owned by a mate of Ashley’s.

09.35 we order 4 “Big Ones” and 4 pints of Peroni.

I’ve already described the general pace of the rest of the day here. There are a few auxiliary notes relevant to this particular day out.

10.30 pay up and nip over the road to the ground. Huge queue if you have a bag but 3 out of 4 of us are bag free. Ajax has a bag that contains cheese, pork pies, coronation chicken sandwiches, 4 plastic glasses and a 3 litre box of Banrock Station Australian (appropriately) red wine. We worry about Ajax because they don’t allow you to bring drink in to the ground. Ajax succeeds in smuggling it in. The box was hidden at the bottom of the bag.

10.45 we establish a kitty and purchase 4 pints of lager at the bar before settling into our seats.

The one thing I particularly noticed about yesterday at Trent Bridge was the hugely partisan nature of the crowd. We have to remember this is Australia we are playing. They give no quarter themselves and are famous for their sledging (look it up). So when we get the opportunity to give some back they get it back by the tankerful.

The Australian captain Michael Clarke is under huge pressure because his team hasn’t been performing and his own person performance has been very much under par. As he came out to bat the merciless crowd sang “You’ll be sacked in the morning” to the tune of Guantanamera. We also sang it as he trudged a lonely path back to the pavilion after scoring 13 runs.

Immense psychological pressure. That guy had almost the whole ground sticking the knife in and twisting it, foot on the throat (etc).

We had a great day which was only very slightly tempered by the fact that bad light stopped us from finishing it off last night.

I’ll leave you with Stuart Broad (I think) bowling at someone.

The end.

fun stuff Weekend

More tea vicar?

That’s a random blog title. I am not drinking tea and the vicar doesn’t come round to our house since the day a few years back I dropped a hot leg of lamb onto his lap. Not deliberately of course but drop it I did. I also spent the rest of that Sunday afternoon plying him with booze but there came a time when the hand was raised indicating that he had had sufficient. He had to go and set up the ping pong table for youth group later.

I’m at home listening to the cricket. Anne is in the kitchen preparing a delicious paneer curry and the one offspring that currently remains in the house is out somewhere. Or hidden away in the West wing. Anyway he is silent.

The cricket is going very well but I shall refrain from any forecast. That would be unlucky. I’ll be at Trent Bridge for the 4th test next Friday. Look out for me in the crowd. Not the corporate boxes. Nobody invited me to their corporate box. I don’t mind. I go with my mates and we have a great time.

A day out at the cricket goes something like this:

  • Early train to Nottingham from Lincoln
  • Breakfast in the Southbank Bar over the road to the ground at 9 – 9.30ish. Full English with a pint of lager. Ash knows the owner and we reserve a table.
  • Into the ground around 10.30ish. Find our seats. Settle in.
  • Just before the start of play someone gets a round in. There are 4 of us. Means you don’t have to go too often. The queues are not bad for beer at Trent Bridge. They have separate teams for serving and pulling pints. The queue goes down quickly.
  • Someone buys the next round. This carries on in a pseudo infinite loop punctuated by a burger at lunchtime and the occasional visit to the loo in between overs.
  • The pace of the day is self regulating. We settle into a sustainable rate of consumption that may be supplemented by a jug of pimms sometime in the afternoon, especially if it is hot.
  • At the close of play we tread a weary trail back towards Nottingham train station. En route we call in for a rest and a cold drink. Hooters is one of the stops, conveniently situated half way between the ground and the station.
  • There is a Sainsburys Local next to Nottingham station. We buy some supplies for consumption on the train.
  • Back in Lincoln the options are go home, go to the Electric Bar or go for a curry.

I’ll let you know how we get on. Maybe.

Meanwhile the paneer curry has been eaten. Delicious. It is stumps at Edgebaston. Australia lead with 3 wickets remaining. Life ain’t bad… More tea vicar?

broadband Business fun stuff

How to choose the fastest broadband provider – go pig racing

fastest broadband pig race

Fastest broadband pig race brought to you by

The video says it all really. This is the latest in a fun filled series of videos by which brings a different slant to how to go about choosing a broadband provider.

In this case the fastest broadband provider is represented by the winning pig. The ISP names are all made up in case the losers make a complaint.

The funny thing is that one day you could be eating a bacon sandwich made from our winning pig – Uswine Bolt.

Filmed on location at Piglets Adventure Farm Park in York to whom we are extremely grateful for their enthusiastic cooperation.

Thanks also to Tom Davies of If you visit his website you may notice something in the way of a family resemblance. Video production is part of the portfolio of service s offered by Marketing Services. If you are looking for your own corporate video or videos please do get in touch.

End User fun stuff gadgets


iBeani pirate product

Sick and tired of having a cushion on your lap to prop up the iPad or laptop but don’t want to risk radiating your gonads? Look no further. Introducing the iBeani™ – a stylish bean bag, specifically designed to hold tablets or e-readers on any surface at the perfect angle.

Tired of holding your iPad or tablet whilst lying in bed or sitting on the sofa? The iBeani is the perfect solution. Whilst other tablet stands will only work on flat surfaces, the iBeani is able to shift its shape to support and keep your device in the position you want, wherever you are. On the train, on the sofa or on a kitchen worktop, the iBeani works everywhere!

What more can I say. Oh ok then.

The iBeani is manufactured entirely hand made in the UK from carefully selected quality fabrics to ensure customers get the highest quality and durable product possible. There are 16 different variations of the iBeani with different materials and designs such as Harris Tweed tartan, faded blue cord, butterfly, techno black, denim, and many more coming soon to appeal to men, women and children of all ages.

iBeani pirateThis blurb is lifted from the press release. I’ve started getting millions of them occasionally. The gonads bit is mine. Not the gonads themselves you understand. Just the sentence, though I am a bloke obvs.

I only noticed the release because a) it’s manufactured in Nottinghamshire, just over the county border from my parish, and actually it isn’t a bad idea. I do have a cushion on my lap when using the laptop whilst sat on the settee. There ya go. A market need being fulfilled by a British company. A simple idea that just works.

pirate flagI liked the iBeani pirate version that you see in the featured image. Goes with the pirate flag we have when we go camping (also see it inset in this post). I’m going to have a week of writing posts in pirate speak in September in the run up to International Talk Like A Pirate day on the 19th of the month. Maybe we will see if we can do a promo and sell the iBeani pirate version that week. Sounds like a plan to me.

PS lets hope they don’t get pirated – we don’t want the market flooded with cheap imitations from China do we? The modern day pirates!

PPS there are over 20 designs to choose from if Piracy isn’t your game, or it’s a bit frightening.

fun stuff travel Weekend

Chllan-did-noh and the hot wax treatment

hot wax treatment – has to be experienced

writing desk at Dunoon Hotel in LlandudnoSat in the period luxury of the lounge of the Dunoon Hotel in Llandudno. That’s Chllan-did-noh, not landudnoe. The Dunoon Hotel it all its finery is however not the subject of this post. This afternoon I had my first experience of the hot wax treatment.

This was at a Turkish barbers in Chllan-did-noh. I am here for some quality time with my wife, 81 year old mother in law and my wife’s sister Sarah. Such a Chllan-did-noh excursion to  is not something to be taken lightly. It involves the amassing of a giant container full of brownie points but they have to be paid for.

On this occasion payment was of the following kind:

  • cafe ba hot wax treatmentStroll to cafe for coffee. In this case it was somewhere called Cafe Ba. I wondered about the name and was intending to ask, when I realised it was actually Cafe Bar but the r had fallen off. Chllan-did-noh has probably seen better days although it was heaving yesterday in the sun.

From the Coffee Ba we saw a couple of casualties from the broken scooter in llandudno rainScooter gathering we had seen yesterday. I missed the first photo opportunity but ran out to catch the second.

  • Stroll from coffee shop to shopping arcade. En route I bought a Ddraig Goch. I’ve already said there will be more mentions of flags in due course. Rushing to catch up with the ladies I used the last of my mobile phone battery to pinpoint their location. Auntie Sarah wanted the loo so they disappeared from the precinct for a short diversion.

I spent the time chatting to the bloke at the Sky stand. Busman’s holiday. He told me what the best pub was in Chllan-did-noh. I’ll be heading there later for a pre prandial pint, or whatever they call it in Chllan-did-noh.

  • Lunch at non-descript cafe in shopping precinct. I had a ploughman’s lunch, fwiw. Something to keep me going between the full blown breakfast this morning and the 5 course meal dished up at the hotel in the evening.
  • Stroll round M&S ladies wear department.

At this point I sat down next to some bloke in the same predicament as me and had a bit of a chat about the game of golf he was planning for later this pm. His wife eventually came to fetch him and i contented myself with making a start on the new translation of The Mabinogion (Google it) newly purchased from Waterstones en route from the non-descript cafe.

I didn’t get very far. The ladies returned and we began a gentle meander back in the general direction of the hotel, stopping to gaze in at every shop window and 70% off reduced sale bargain we came across, which was in pretty much every shop.

hot wax treatmentIt came to a point where a further sit down was called for and I managed to slip the leash and head for the  Red One Turkish Barber Shop for a trim and a shave. Seemed reasonable.

Skipping gaily, if somewhat damply into the shop I conveyed my requirements to Adnan the barber. He pointed out that for just a little bit more I could get the full works. The works included hot wax treatment on my nostrils, burning off any hair around the ears, a wax trim of my eyebrows, head and neck massage, a cut throat shave with all the towels and steam treatment and of course a number 3 back and sides with a bit off the top.

The whole process must have taken a good hour.  I’ve reached the tender age of 53 and never before had a Turkish barber. It will not be the last time. The guy was not only professional hair artiste but had  pro conversation skills. He found out that  I was a director of an internet exchange. I always have to think with hat to put on when asked what I do for a living because I have a few.

Back at the hotel I was given 5 mins to turn around before heading back out again to the amusements on the pier. As we approached they looked closed for the day – a wet Sunday afternoon in Chllan-did-noh does not see the crowds rushing onto the pier. Rushing back to Liverpool and Brum more like.

So there we have it. Chllan-did-noh and the hot wax treatment. Not too painful and it certainly clears out the nostril hair.

I’d recommend Adnan at Red One Turkish Barber in Chllan-did-noh any day of the week and they are open every one of them. Something for the weekend sir? Hot wax treatment:) End result below:

hot wax treatment

fun stuff Weekend

Summertime and the Avon SSS has arrived

Avon SSS sung to the tune of Summertime

The Avon SSS has arrived. Avon Skin So Soft, the ultimate in midge repellant. No boy scout serious beach surfin’ camper should be without. As used by the Royal Marines in jungle warfare training, apparently. And perfect for going to Hillend campsite in the Gower.

We aren’t going for another month but it doesn’t stop me from getting excited and starting the preparations.

You can’t buy Avon SSS in the shops but don’t worry. I have for your convenience provided a link direct to the right page on the Avon website. Voila

Note the two bottles – better safe than sorry.

This is one of a series of summer holiday posts. The next one, if I remember will be all about flags and flagpoles with a specific mention of Uganda.

Stay tuned to to find out more. You heard it first etc etc etc…

fun stuff travel Weekend

Holiday season on advanced notice and offer to contribute guest posts

It’s gonna be a fun fun place to be this summer 🙂

Holiday season (if you have kids) is rapidly approaching and it gets pretty dead from a business perspective. So I’m offering slots to people who might fancy writing guest posts on about where they have been/are going/are on their holidays.

Feels like the right thing to do. Photos from a beach somewhere (keep em clean – this is a family show), views from atop peaks climbed at great personal risk, blurry photos of drunken nights in tavernas (Greek holidays are being discounted) etc etc etc

If you want to include tech used whilst on holiday that is good. Description of airline upgrades. Anything you like really. It can also be something written during the boring periods in the office whilst the rest of the world is on holiday – someone has to man the phones in case that one customer not on holiday wants to call.

If anyone is interested btw I’m off surfing to the Gower, then the Flashback Festival and thence on to the Isle of Man for a seafood diet.

PS not going for another month mind you.

Bad Stuff End User fun stuff scams

Stop Press – wonderful LinkedIn invite

LinkedIn spam

Just seen this wonderful invitation to connect on LinkedIn. See the featured image. As you can see it’s from


I was so excited by it I had to drop writing a post on how I’m going about choosing a new broadband provider and share it with you straight away.

We are back to the old Nigerian General with money to get out of the country scam. I assume so anyway. It’s such a pleasure to have them try it on through this new platform. Taken a while mind you but hey…

I didn’t click on anything or accept the invitation although I am just about to report it. It’s the first scam I’ve seen via LinkedIn. Facebook went through a phase of it whereby gorgeous women with large breasts (apparently) wanted to be my friends. Pained me but I declined them all (yes I did).

When I first saw this invite I thought it was from Wales – Bala is a place in North Wales. Anyway I leave you with a tune in my head – Abdul the BullBull Khadir. Olden but golden 🙂
Back to the other post. Mundane bread and butter stuff but just as important 🙂
Still time to enter the Wimbledon Competition btw.
Apps Business fun stuff

Women in tech week social stats

Women in tech week on attracts high level of social media engagement

It looks as if we will be carrying one or two women in tech week posts over into this week but as of this morning the statistics look very good.

12 posts received a total of 694 shares split as follows:

  • 275 Facebook
  • 245 LinkedIn
  • 133 Twitter
  • 17 Google+

Makes you wonder why anyone bothers with Google+. I certainly only do so on the basis that it may help with SEO rankings. As far as comment numbers go there does appear to be a trend to comment in the social media streams of sharers rather than on the blog itself, particularly on Facebook and Twitter. The number of LinkedIn shares points to a high proportion of business people reading the posts.

Three posts drove the numbers. Chris Conder’s exposition on rural broadband, Liz Fletcher on the acceptability of drinking prosecco for geeks (ok it was about more than that) and Helen Jeffrey on how to be a woman in tech.

Chris Conder stimulated comment and debate from a number of prominent individuals both in the media and the internet industry. The issue of rural broadband still generates a very emotional response from people affected. ie those who can’t get decent internet access.

The common denominator here was I think the size of an individual’s social network. Liz is very well known in both prosecco drinking circles and the internet plumbing industry and Helen is internationally known in the publishing game. She must be because her Facebook posts over the weekend contained views from plush bars in New York where she was celebrating the 4th July.

Regardless of the number of shares received by any individual none of this week could not have happened without the support of contributors who have been very generous with their time and for which I am very grateful. There was a terrific mix of posts covering a range of tech subjects, most of which demonstrated an in depth mastery of their subject.

The themed weeks on this blog are becoming increasingly popular. To call a “women in tech” week a themed week is somewhat unfair labelling, or at least a poor application of a label. It’s not like a week of posts on the Internet of Things, or Cloud Technology. Women in Tech is not a theme per se. However most of the contributors are friends (and hopefully the one or two I didn’t already know are now friends) so perhaps we can call it a female friends of Tref week.

If you have a good idea for a future themed week feel free to drop me a line. I have started to get quite a few unsolicited approaches offering guest posts. These mostly get ditched, especially the ones that begin “Hi there” but some do make it through so don’t worry if we don’t know each other. You do need to be someone working in industry though and not a professional writer placing posts on behalf of clients.

Updated numbers Wednesday morning bring the total to 743 shares and comments split as follows:

  • 279 Facebook
  • 280 LinkedIn
  • 141 Twitter
  • 18 Google+
Business business applications fun stuff

How to be a woman in tech

How to be a woman in tech

When the wonderful @tref was looking for ‘women in tech’ to write a guest blog I had to answer a few questions: am I in tech, how did I get here, and what can I do to encourage others?

What do you do?

I perform the pivotal role of interpreting business needs to technical people and analysing the potential of technical developments for the board and business team.  To do this one has to be an excellent communicator, be able to manage demanding priorities calmly and effectively, and have an understanding of the evolving technical context.  The publishing company I currently work for is small but ambitious, constantly looking to implement new projects and initiatives.  The continually-evolving technical environment demands drive, the ability to evaluate systematically, and unswerving support for and appreciation of our tech team..

How successful is this?

The magazine I work for has had constant growth in both circulation and revenue.  This is even more impressive when considered against the backdrop of declining print in many sectors of the publishing industry and publishers’ struggle to embrace the benefits and culture of new digital technology.  The challenge is an ongoing one and not to be underestimated.

How did you get here?

I am living proof that coming from a non-technical background is not a barrier.  Women can combine their innate communication skills and strategic abilities with an analytical approach, to support and implement complex projects – ideal attributes for a digital world.

I first worked (in the distant past) at a small consultancy firm, initially as receptionist, moving on to the documentation department (they had the first word processors from the USA – with 8 inch floppy disks!), where I supported projects by creating inputs on punch cards for mainframe processing.  Exposure to the first home computers, the ZX81, C64 and Spectrum, led to playing with machine-code programming, contributing to ‘Zipper Flipper’, a game produced for the Spectrum, earning a grand total of around £4,000 in royalties!

I spent the next 20-odd years working with databases (dBase and Pervasive SQL) and personal computers/networks, principally specifying, implementing, and supporting software (developed in Psion Archive initially, then C and C++) to manage subscriptions and royalties for publishing companies.  At its height we provided software and support to over 100 publishers, sending billions of copies to subscribers, and processing millions in revenues.  (I also had two children).

Six years ago I joined the London Review of Books to lead a new team, initially to manage the build and implementation of a (then) new @LRB website and newly digitised archive (and no, I had never done that before).  This intense period of work culminated in a successful launch, on time, and very positive feedback.  Now I am an Associate Publisher and lead on the analysis of digital performance and the development of digital strategy for the business.

What about outside of work?

As a long-time supporter of Scouting, I used a global database to run an international educational programme for 40,000 people at a huge camp in 2007.  I have a great interest in the campaign for rural broadband access, which led to the choice of my MA research topic; “The use of social media in enhancing volunteer engagement”, a case study of a community website fighting for rural broadband in Cumbria.

I like to think that the re-evaluation of the ‘fibre tax’ and its impact on rural broadband initiatives was prompted in some part by my advocacy on behalf of rural communities with BDUK in 2010. As a follow-on from that discussion, I was invited to write a report for BDUK considering the implementation of a practical strategy to support data-led community-based decisions in the delivery of super-fast broadband.

I supported a local school in a voluntary role, working as part of their Membership and Development Committee and helping them to become the first state school to implement an alumni database and website.

How can I become a woman in tech?

Be curious.  I believe it is vital to examine how different sectors approach the use of technology and social media.  I believe that the educational, arts, public, private and voluntary sectors have much to learn from each other.  I am actively engaged and interested in the use of technology to empower individuals, companies, not-for-profit companies and charities.

Find your ‘digital north’.  I have often wondered why some people ‘get’ digital, and some do not – most often when facing barriers constructed of anxiety and fear.  I put my comparative ease with the digital world down to playing around with machine code and BASIC all those years ago.  So – make something.  It has never been easier to learn.  You do not need to be a coder to work in tech – but it really helps to understand the basics of how coding works!

venn_diagram_example (1)

Image credit: @davidshrigley

Be digitally creative. Take part in a hackday or two. I have been to several hackdays: Culturehack East, the National Archives hackday, EdTech hackathon at Google Campus, and Hackthespace at Tate Modern.  Meeting and working with people in a creative digital space is incredibly motivating and I have always learned a lot.  You do not need to be a coder to take part – just enthusiastic about digital.

Find your passion.  Mine is data – I love it.  This has led me to great conversations and connections – entity extraction from our archive with the BBC R&D department, for example.  I also have the innate conviction that you should build capacity over one-offs (almost) every time.  The exception is if you are making digital art!

Experiment.  If you have the opportunity to push the boundaries, take it.  I was lucky enough to run a fantastic digital project for The Space, a BBC and Arts Council project.  The project explored the idea of a ‘digital essay’.  The work, created in collaboration with the writer Will Self, and Brunel University, is called ‘Kafka’s Wound’.

Bring others with you.  This can be very hard to do.  There is fear and anxiety around the unknown.  I am about to run a second mini-hackday for my colleagues.  Last year we had a great day mixing up mostly non-techie people and letting them loose with paper and pens as well as laptops.  The results were brilliant and the follow-up survey provided both solid evidence of the benefits, and suggestions for improvements.

Connect. This is fairly obvious.  I can trace much of what I have achieved in the digital space to the decision in 2009 to find out what Twitter could be good for, and if I could make a difference using social media.  I have met many, many people on Twitter before meeting them in real life (and some I am yet to meet).

Draw.  Use paper and marker pen.  If you can’t draw something, it’s very hard to explain it, even to yourself.  It works for me (and I am terrible at drawing).

Listen.  Engage with your technical people – have discussions, find out what they find interesting, ask questions, encourage everyone to speak. Understand as much as you can.  Be patient.

Volunteer.  Use your technical knowledge to support a local cause that inspires you, be that World Scouting, community broadband, or your local school.  If you find others there to work with, all the better, but I have often found myself the lead in terms of technical understanding.

Get to grips with business.  All technology is embedded in a business.  Understanding the structure of business and how it works is vital if you want to straddle the tech and business divide.  Running my own business was the foundation of my expertise, backed up with an MA in management, which I really enjoyed.

Explore organisational culture.  Understanding the culture of an organisation will help you make moves towards organisational change.  If you work in an organisation that is not a start-up (likely) then there will probably be a big shift required in order to embrace and take advantage of the opportunities digital can provide.

Look ahead.  See what’s coming up – keep an eye on it.  Expend some budget on R&D and make some of the advances in tech real for your organisation – it need not be expensive (cardboard headset and smartphone to demonstrate 3D video, for example).

What’s next for you?

As everything continues to shift the possibilities have never been more interesting.  I am looking at how the cultural sector is adapting to digital, and there are some big projects out there.  In my dreams I will one day do a PhD.

Final words?

Follow your interests. Become (almost) indispensible.  Experiment. It’s great if you can manage it!

Other posts in our women in tech week include:

Geeks do drink prosecco by Liz Fletcher
Network filter bypass solutions by Rhosyn Celyn
Network Automation by Leslie Parr
IX model defended by Valeria Rossi
Board level veteran sees progress by Lesley Hansen
Rural broadband solutions by Chris Conder
Pebbles, Pebbles everywhere by Sarah Baskerville

Business fun stuff

Do you challenge the norm?

Norm challengers of the world unite

Howard Fisher from LINX just posted a comment on Facebook:

“Junk mail just received advertising a presentation says “Simon’s extensive global experience, providing bespoke solutions for clients, ‘challenging the norm’ to leverage competitive advantage. This is achieved via understanding leading agile workstyles and combining them with brand enhancing concepts to create award-winning environments in which to work.” I think I’ll give it a miss.”

When you think about it I know it wasn’t put like this but Norm Challenger could be the name of a bloke. He’d obviously be American. He is either a management consultant or a duck hunter. The latter for no reason other than Duck Dynasty is one of my fave TV progs.

Woa Tref you’re moving off the subject son. No no no don’t worry. It’s just as relevant as any of the marketing blurb in Howard’s junk mail.

Presumably Simon ain’t going to pay to send out good junk like that if there isn’t a business case for doing so. If there is a business case the worrying this is that someone must be dumb enough to buy from his pitch. Norm might do it but he doesn’t sound like he is in the right job, being a duck hunter and all.

We can see from the blurb that Simon designs offices. One wonders whether he makes use of Feng shui. You’d think so wouldn’t you but it just doesn’t say in the spiel. Gone are the days of just making sure the colour scheme was right and the desks at the right height. I’m getting “chill out space”, gymnasium, kitchen with fridge full of free beer, pizza on demand, hammocks above the desks. You get the gist.

Only working in a small office with three people (with a spare desk for expansion) I just didn’t realise there was so much to office design. We could have used Simon when they designed ours. Gets bloomin hot in the summer. I had to nip out and buy a portable aircon unit last year. The original architects still have an office in the building. They are in denial I think.

All I will say, in finishing off this quickly thrown together post whilst I was in the mood is that Simon and his marketing people need to start targeting their mailshots better. Howard is a semi retired engineer. He won’t have much interest in office design and LINX have just moved so they will already have engaged the professional services of an office designer, presumably one of Simon’s competitors. Unless it was indeed Simon himself in which case he was selling to the converted. Doesn’t seem to have been the case though.

Quite a nice office design in the featured image don’t you think? Norm challengers of the world unite.

Howard btw tells me he’s deleted the email now but recalls that it included an offer of free hospitality at the top of the Shard in London. Simon is clearly an upwardly mobile kinda guy – in this case all the way to the 34th floor.

That’s all…

Business fun stuff spam

How to market online

Or online marketing marketed offline

The good old fashioned postman dropped some good old fashioned snail mail through my letterbox. I’m working from home today so excitedly picked the mail up off the floor and flicked through it.

One was addressed to “The lovely person who lives at…”. I gave it to son 2 to open as he was disappointed that there were no letters for him personally. “It’s a £130k cheque” he exclaimed excitedly (no strikethrough).  Nah. Only joking.

The letter was an invitation to “join the online community for Lincoln”. I sighed and put it in a pile of other junk ready for recycling.

Then it occurred to me that hey, here was a website trying to drum up business using traditional direct marketing methods. The website was called

Now I don’t know which B@$!&rd business has sold them my address. Maybe no one as the letter wasn’t addressed to me personally. Shouldn’t be allowed to spam me anyway.

Then I thought “what an expensive way to recruit new website users” and “how inefficient”.

Just goes to show how much money it really takes to get your stuff seen these days. The holy grail is free viral online marketing but that very rarely happens. When you are actively promoting something you get visitors to your website. When you stop this the visitors stop, or at least there are fewer of them. This is why you see lots of online affiliate marketing websites advertise on TV. It’s big bucks. The more visitors you want the more you have to actively promote the site.

This costs money in the case of it’s money spent on direct mail. It’s also probably money spent with a marketing agency. The letter tells me their site has been featured in the Guardian, Sunday Times, Woman & Home and BBC News. It is probable that this exposure was down to time spent pitching to journalists (one assumes). Money.

Woman & Home tells me who their audience really is, as perhaps does their mode of address. Personally I already have as many social media platforms as I can handle, probably too many as G+ isn’t doing anything. Without looking at it seems to me that Facebook already serves the same purpose as streetlife.

I won’t be signing up with streetlife. Call me a miserable git.

On the upside streetlife have now got themselves some major free exposure on 😉 As I finish a tune enters my head: Streetlife, there ain’t no place I can’t go…

fun stuff Weekend

Takes two to TT

Last day on the Isle of Man – heading back to reality tonight.

Business fun stuff social networking

Effectiveness of Facebook over YouTube for video reach

Facebook versus YouTube – best bet for video marketing?

On 2nd June we released the “bullet proof broadband” video in which we blasted some routers with a shotgun to monitor the effect. A light hearted bit of advertising for our affiliate marketing site. Thus far on Facebook it has had 2,730 views with a reach of 6,880. Compare this with 55 views on YouTube!

You do have to wonder at where YouTube is going. If we ever have a video to show on a website we always stick it on YouTube because they make it easy for you to embed and it saves on a  lot of server disk space. However it doesn’t really look as if YouTube is necessarily the place if you’re wanting to market something.

facebook versus youtubeWhen you think about it when do you ever engage with friends on YouTube? Never? It isn’t the same answer on Facebook. Videos posted to Facebook are therefore far more likely to spread virally than YouTube. Certainly in our experience.

In our case there were three factors driving the viewer count. One is the video producer, Tom Davies, has an active community on Facebook, as do I (Tref Davies). Then I posted the video, which was shot at a farm just outside Lincoln, to a Lincoln community group (Your1 probably from Lincoln if…).

Posting to the group more than doubled the number of views overnight. The group has nearly 18,000 members. You could see the number of views increasing by 20 – 30 a second simply because of the reach of this group.

Content posted to a group has to be valid. In this case the video was footage of Lincoln/Lincolnshire so it was of. You can’t post any video to any group as it will be moderated out.

This does provide food for thought in how to go about getting the most out of social media platforms for your business. Just sticking up something you might want the world to know about isn’t going to work. Put up some genuinely entertaining of interesting stuff and posting it to relevant pages and groups can clearly make a big difference.

I’ve also found this to be the case with individual blog posts. Post to the right group on LinkedIn, for example, and you get a lot more shares. These is a science behind it. If you want to get more exposure it’s really just about putting in the graft and finding the right places to place the content. Of course the content has to be good…

The one other thing you can do is get a celebrity to retweet or share. Their presumably large following has the same effect as posting to a relevant group. People blindly accept that if their heroes say something is worth looking at then they look. Fair play…

PS Happy to hear from folk with different experiences of the two platforms

1 Their grammatical error not mine

fun stuff

More TT vicar

Quarterbridge Road just after the bottom of Bray Hill

fun stuff

Out for TT – back in a few laps