Marauding Broads

Royal Windsor Roller Girls take on Copenhagen at Roller Derby. Raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support. 19th March 2011.

Marauding Broads

N.B. This is a backdated post as I take some of the things I have been doing elsewhere on the interwebs and add them to this site 🙂

Waving goodbye to IE6 from your website

Website designers have been swearing at Internet Explorer v6 for many years.  Now, Microsoft themselves have said enough is enough and are trying to encourage IE6 users to upgrade.  There are some alternative ways to advise your website visitors to upgrade though.

This week Microsoft launched The Internet Explorer 6 Countdown to try and encourage users of their old Internet Explorer 6 product to upgrade to a newer version.  This idea is nothing new.  With many sites such as YouTube, Google & Facebook already officially not supporting IE6 a number of sites already include a notification to IE6 users.

I tend to think that any people still using IE6 do not have the ability to upgrade their own machine.  It may be locked down by the IT department or even a machine setup for a technophobe by another family member.  Whatever the reason I do agree that they should be alerted to the issue but if you are changing your browser.  Why not change it to something other than IE.  Give the user the choice to use any browser.  That is the whole point of the web and web standards.

So, here is my rundown of IE6 browser alerts for your website…

The Internet Explorer 6 Countdown

The banner is only shown in English as a picture (not good for accessability) and only redirects to Microsoft’s site for users to download IE9. The code is pulled from Microsoft’s website each time which means they control the banner.

IE6 Update

A very cheeky little banner site that makes it look like the upgrade from IE6 to IE9 is a security upgrade! The big advantage of this is that you can download and install the code on your site. Quicker for site visitors and more secure.

Browser Upgrade

A very nicely put together banner which is only let down by being old and still recommending the user upgrade to IE7! While IE is recommended first the banner also suggests other browsers such as Opera, Firefox, Safari or Chrome. The site does allow you to download the code yourself too and I’m sure you can change the references of IE7 to IE9

Update Your Browser

Multi language, multi browser recommendation and a nice landing page that explains to visitors why they should be upgrading. Only negative point is the banner is called from an obfuscated JavaScript file on a their website which some may see as a security issue.

IE6 No More

My recommendation and the one I’ll be implementing on my sites. Used by a number of large sites already , the code is longer but only pulls images from it’s own server which you can easily copy to your site.

Whatever you choose lets all hope that IE6 dies soon!

Carry your PIN number in your wallet

I have a confession to make.  I have been carrying the PIN number to my credit cards in my wallet for the last five years!

In my wallet I have a slip of paper right next each of my cards that looks like this…

6 9 2 1 6 2 4 0 1
8 7 9 1 7 2 3 2 4
7 7 2 8 1 7 2 0

… I can remember a four letter word easier than four random numbers and have challenged many people to guess my pin number from it.  e.g. if the four letter word was MOVE then the PIN would be 1286 and if the four letter word was CHIP then the PIN would be 2013.

I cryptographic terminology this is classed as a one way hash, a terrible idea for encrypting data on the internet but for data as small as 4 numbers it works quite well.  4 numbers only gives (10^4 =) 10000 combinations at the best of times although there are things that can be done to try and break it.

If we take a standard dictionary file (/usr/dict/words) there are 1778 four letter words that could be used. Based on the example matrix above that equates to 907 different PIN numbers. While this is still too many to guess at random we are down a long way from the 10000 original possibilities. I’ll let you decide if that is an acceptable risk.

It’s worth noting that while most people would probably use a four letter dictionary word there’s nothing from stopping you using things like “A DOG” or “I RUN” or even a pass phase “Am I Nicely Secure?” = AINS.

What are your views? Foolish or clever? Are there any other wallet tricks that people know?

Everything is a Remix

If you haven’t already seen it I would encourage you all to check out Kirby Ferguson‘s excellent video series Everything is a Remix.

I have been helping Kirby source some of the video footage and edit some of the reference material that he has used which has been a great honour.

Parts 1 & 2 are embedded below but do keep an eye on his site for parts 3 & 4 as they come out later this year.

Guildford Pecha Kucha #3

On 15th Feb 2011 I attended a Pecha Kucha night organised by Simon Strong of Human Zoo in Guildford.

Pecha Kucha is an excellent format where presenters have to talk over 20 slides that auto advance every 20 seconds. The beauty of Pecha Kucha is that you can fit a large number of presentations/talks into one evening without it feeling crammed or letting your brain explode. This time there were talks about many things including satellites, film making and Japanese culture. It wasn’t until the day that I realised two friends, Benjamin Ellis and James Firth were presenting there that day too.

Simon will be organising more of these events in the future and I recommend checking them out.

Here are a few pictures from that evening…

Pecha Kucha

N.B. This is a backdated post as I take some of the things I have been doing elsewhere on the interwebs and add them to this site 🙂

2 years of Flickr pictures

Almost exactly 2 years ago I made a concerted effort to start taking more pictures. Not of anything in particular but instead of leaving my camera in the car I would actually carry it with me and use it!

Now Pummelvision has come along where you can make videos out of your Flickr album and I must admit it makes a nice video.  At least it does for me, every picture is a memory.

I particularly like the music they used too. It’s the same music for all videos and seems to match them all perfectly.

“I Love My Rollerblading…”

I know, I know, it’s “Inline Skating” and not “Rollerblading” but I wasn’t going to argue (Rollerblades are to Skating what Hoovers are to Vacuums, it’s a brand name).  Anyway!…

A few months ago the local newspaper did a shout out via their twitter feed looking for people for their “I Love My” section.  Always looking for free publicity I replied back saying that I’d be happy to do something about my skates and skating in the local area.  We swapped details and I never heard any more, I figured they had dropped me for someone more exciting.

Last week, I received a phone call from the Surrey Hants Star Courier asking if I still wanted to do it, Of course I jumped at the chance.  Unfortunately I had now committed to being attacked for Children In Need and so the photo shoot was going to be me with full on face fuzz!

Click for full size

Not a bad interview at all.  I’ll never be able to get them to add everything in, I had talked about Goodwood Roller Marathon and the Winter Sessions at Sandhurst but they mentioned Cskate and the Arena so I’m happy 🙂

Shave me for Pudsey


Some of you know that I have been getting a bit beardy over the last few months so it’s time to tidy myself up.  But before I do that it’s time to make a mess of my head for charity first.

I thought about doing Movember again but the rules state that you have to shave on the first of the month which seemed a shame to shave it all off just to grow it again.  So, I figure I’ll charge people money to attack my hair in whatever way they want.  I have been attacked with a razor before and I usually end up looking very strange although my hair has never been this long to begin with.

As I don’t work in an office any more I thought I would take over Thames Valley Social Media Cafe at the Alto Lounge on the 18th Nov 2010 and as this is a day before Children In Need it’s only right to support Pudsey, a great cause.  If you can’t make it then I’m sure there will be lots of pictures after the event.

The rules (not set in stone)

  • A donation allows you to attack my beard.
  • The size of the donation is proportional to how long you get with the clippers.
  • If you can’t be there then someone else will do it on your behalf.
  • If over £100 is raised then the hair on my head is on offer!
  • No shaving of eyebrows (sorry).
  • I will keep the final look for the rest of the day.
  • I do have a business meeting on Monday though!
  • Feel free to bring hair colours or clips etc
  • If anyone else has any hair trimmers as I’m not sure mine will cope!

Have I missed anything?  So please sponsor me and lets raise some money for a great cause.

Update: 18 Nov 2010

It’s now done and thanks to all of you I have raised a stonking amount for Children In Need. Currently £222.61 with a couple more donations promised.  Thank you all.  I’ll leave you will a little video and some pictures from today 🙂

dogsbodyorg-childreninneed 1

FreeAgent (inc. Referral Code)

If you are after the Referral Code that gives 10% off then see the bottom of this post.

I wasn’t sure about doing this blog post as many will just see it as an advert. Yes that’s what made me think of doing the post but I must admit I am completely sold on FreeAgent and should really do more articles about the tools I find in setting up my own company.

First, some history. Since incorporating Dogsbody Technology Ltd. I have been looking for an accounts package that can keep track of all my accounts, pretty simple I thought as there are plenty out there. I wasn’t after anything specific, extra points for being open, cheap and working on more than one operating system but wasn’t going to let that stop me using a package.

Spreadsheets: I started off this way and half way through this process went back to it.  I don’t exactly have a complex set of accounts but the bit that actually caused me the most trouble was duplication and the invoices.  I know it sounds silly but doing invoicing with a spreadsheet was a pain, you had the pretty version that you sent out which was linked to the invoices summary sheet showing which had been pain which was linked to the banking records.  With expenses, credit cards, PayPal etc. it quickly became spreadsheet hell.

GNUcash: This ticked a lot of boxes as it was free, open source and ran on almost any operating system.  Unfortunately it was also too… monolithic! Very powerful but every part of the program looks the same, it’s impossible to tell if you are cutting an invoice or filling out expenses.  I would actually use GNUcash for my home accounts but for me, with a new business and not knowing what I was doing, I needed some hand holding.

Sage: I’ll be honest, I didn’t try this but I did a lot of research into it as it comes very recommended.  Unfortunately nearly all the people recommending it were accountants or knew what they were doing, reading reviews from other small businesses was very different and did not read well.  I tend to tinker with my accounts, create a blank invoice one day, add some data to it the next and finalise it another day.  This isn’t really possible in Sage, well, it is but you end up duplicating and cancelling the old one each time.  With any edit you do being a cancel and resubmit I could see things getting very messy very quickly.  Sage is probably great for big business but not for me!

QuickBooks: Now, I actually paid out for this!  And I admit that cutting invoices was very nice an easy but everything else wasn’t.  I wanted to do a mileage claim for 48 miles at 40p per mile. In QuickBooks this requires me to use a calculator to work out that this is £19.20 and enter it against petrol. No, I can’t just type in “=48*0.4”, this is a step back from spreadsheets! There is also no sorting, if you want to enter a new line on an expenses sheet or invoice it could only be at the bottom which makes the accounts of sporadic updater’s like my myself very messy.  The final straw was the lack of support for Credit Card accounts.  Needless to say, I got a refund!

FreeAgent: And now the hero of our story.  I’m not sure I can do this justice without sounding sycophantic! I had actually looked at FreeAgent a couple of months earlier and dismissed it as I’m not a fan of subscription based software.  It does however do exactly what I want out of the box.  It’s a web (cloud) service so no software to install which means I can literally do my accounts anywhere (there is also an API with with some fantastic integration tools too).  The interface is very clean and when you start out every page has a little video showing you how to use that function correctly.  The two things that sold it for me are the support and the ability to automatically email invoices to customers as a PDFs as well as automatically send them chase up mails.

The bank account tracking is lovely too.  Instead of you having to type in every bank statement you receive they have developed an uploader so you can upload electronic statements that most banks provide.  The system then automatically tries to match up money in and out with invoices and expenses making the entire process a few clicks.  Credit Card accounts are supported as well as PayPal and any receipts can be photographed or scanned and uploaded against that bill, instantly keeping everything paperless and together.

Mileage is done properly, not only that but it’s automatically linked to the AMAP rate so you don’t even have to enter the 40p.  The only issue I have have had was entering expenses for things before my company was officially formed and that was a simple fix to change the dates.  While FreeAgent is a subscription piece of software it also has a lovely referral model.  For each person you refer you both get 10% off your bill.  That is, use a code to sign up,refer 9 people and it’s free!

So, if you want to register for a FreeAgent account which will give us both 10% off then use code 3flvybs4.

Freecross with Dave Cornthwaite

On Friday I spent a day with the Adventurer Dave Cornthwaite as he tried out a Freecross.  Dave is attempting Expedition 1000 (25 journeys by different non-motorised means, each 1000+ miles) and was trailing the Freecross as a possible future mode of transport.

The Freecross is pretty much a cross trainer on wheels.  Not that hard to master although it takes a while to coordinate the pushing of the arms and stop it from steering side to side down the road.  Once you have mastered going forwards you learn to steer by leaning and control is quite sharp as you have both front & back breaks as well as 8 gears so it has a good top speed!

Needless to say we had a lot of fun on a rainy day in London.  They aren’t going to replace the bike but definately worth giving them a try.  If you are interested in having a go then Soho Gyms have exclusivity in the UK, you can hire from them or even buy one!

Freecross Riding

Update: Tobias has now edited all of the footage shot that day into a vid for Dave…