Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Karnataka

This was a strange gig. To start off with it was at the playhouse which is a seated venue with quite a steep gradient and we were sat right at the front. This meant that we could hear the drums and the guitar amplifiers directly, rather than through the PA, which was mostly behind us. I’m still not sure how we could hear the vocals so well, maybe it was the monitors, and we could hardly hear the keyboards, which is not a bad thing.

Karnataka are a great band, with a dreadful guitarist. Honestly, I really don’t know why they bother with him. Sometimes he plays badly, other times he’s not quite playing the right stuff. The rest of the band, especially the drummer seem really tight. I felt a little sorry for Hayley as her voice took a little while to warm up and she’s obviously not 100% comfortable on stage yet. When she gets going she’s incredible.

The other strange thing was that for most of the second half of the set the drummer’s high hat was falling apart. He spent as much time playing with one hand with a drumstick in his mouth while he tried to fix it with the other hand as he did playing with two hands. It still sounded fantastic though.

Karnataka only played a couple of songs I knew all night, which is totally my fault for only really knowing Delicate Flame of Desire. Those tracks really showed the flaws in the current guitarist. When I first saw them in the late 90s on the Delicate Flame of Desire tour the guitarist was superb.

Strangeness aside I really enjoyed Karnataka and will certainly be seeing them again given the chance. Mostly Autumn have played Bloodstock, so why not karnataka?

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

No More Big Bangs

In the 80s I used to watch Top of the Pops religiously. By the 90s it was rubbish and I gave up and it wasn’t too much longer before the BBC did (ok, so it was 2006). I remember seeing International Rescue by Fuzzbox on Top of the pops vividly and absolutely loving it. Although for me their absolute classic is the Self. Big Bang was one my most played albums in my early teen years and I still enjoy it today.

I never saw the band live, although they played at the Waterfront in Norwich, I was too young to go. They played at the Whitby Goth Weekend not too long ago and I didn’t find out until afterwards. Now with the death of guitarist Jo Dunne I guess I’ll never get to see them. It’s a real shame because they really were fantastic and Jo Dunne will be missed.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

SyncNorwich 4 Reviews

SyncNorwich 4 was the best attended SyncNorwich event so far with around 80 people. We heard from Daniel Wagner Hall, who was talking about testing at google and Simon "Agile Pirate" Cromarty who did an iteration planning workshop. Our hosts for this event were Epic Studios who provided us with a huge space!

Building and Testing software at Google Scale Review by Matthew Draycott

I really enjoyed Daniel's talk at this week's SyncNorwich event - he took a difficult topic (Software Testing) and presented it in an engaging way; injecting humour throughout to hold the audiences interest for nearly two hours! I've never been a great one for testing anything but Daniels convincing arguments supported by lessons he's learnt at Google are enough to make anyone re-evaluate their opinions on the topic and see why it's a crucial element of the development / release process - if you missed this, you missed a stonker!


Iteration Planning Review by Vickie Allan

I am a Trainee Oracle Database Analyst and I only started my role 3 weeks ago, however after being invited I attended the Iteration and Planning workshop at the Sync Norwich event on the 19th October. Whilst having very limited understanding of how the agile process works, and having never done any sprint planning before this workshop was a real eye-opener to the work that goes into planning a project, and also it was weird how my preconceptions on how to plan which were mainly formed from coursework plans at school, were similar to the others in the group, who were all much more experienced than me. Even though I had little knowledge everyone was happy to explain things to me, and I felt like I learnt a lot about how other companies plan their sprints.  The presenter was friendly and he kept the workshop fun and light-hearted, which was particularly good for me as it kept me from feeling completely lost. Whilst I feel a lot of the information went over my head, I have retained lots of information, and feel like I did learn from the workshop. I would definitely go again in order to keep building on my knowledge.

The video is available here.

Other Reviews

Smart421 Review


SyncNorwich 5: Local Startup Stories: The Money Centre & mBaSo

Date: Thursday 15th Novemver 2012

Time: 6pm

Location: Blurtit (TBC)

Sign-up: http://www.syncnorwich.com/events/87236322/


Mark Alexander

Mark Alexander started a business from a bungalow in Old Catton which grew to rank 38 in The Times Profit Track 100 in 2008. That business was called The Money Centre, a commercial finance brokerage which generated over 90% of its leads via online marketing. Since retiring from that business in 2009 Mark started a blog about his buy to let property portfolio which has attracted 173,000 subscribers and is ranked by Amazon’s Alexa algorithm in the UK’s top 2,000 most popular websites. To put that into perspective, Property118.com ranks ahead of the Norwich City Football Club and Aviva websites!!!

Expect a fun packed 40 minutes as Mark shares his incredibly inspirational stories and a few “party games” he’s designed for business purposes. It’s not often that a Norwich based millionaire who’s made his money off the back of a tech start up and who is also a renowned motivational speaker will give up time so freely so DO NOT miss out on this fantastic one off opportunity to meet him.

mBaSo

mBaSo is a new direct to fan online music platform for Music Artists and their Fans. Based in Norwich but with global ambitions, Juliana Meyer and Mike Diplock will talk about the idea behind the platform and why they decided to take this journey. mBaSo is in alpha testing in November so it's very early days and they will be welcoming feedback from the audience, and would love to hear from anyone who'd be interested in getting involved. They have a few different roles available for collaboration.

The East Anglia MongoDB Users Group

The East Anglia MongoDB Users Group is a place for developers to learn more about the non-relational, open source, document-oriented database MongoDB. MongoDB is the leading NoSQL database and many of the key committers often travel to the UK. So if you are facing challenges with MySQL or Postgres or Oracle and want to explore a more flexible, scalable alternative, please join us at one of the quarterly sessions.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

A Weekend in Munich

Our eldest son Jude (9) expressed an interest in going on a plane around about the time our middle son was born and we agreed to take him. Our third son came along in the meantime and we had to keep putting it off as we moved house and I moved jobs, etc. Once we got settled in the new house we kept our promise and booked a weekend away. I’ve long ago used up my KLM miles so flying three of us out of Norwich was going to be too expensive. So we decided to fly from Stanstead with Easyjet and we decided to go to Munich as I spent some time there in the summer of 2006 and knew it reasonably well. I also know a good hotel there.

I’ve heard lots of bad things about "London" airports and low cost flyers. However, Stanstead was great! No queues and friendly, helpful polite staff. Actually, there was one queue for passport control on the way back, but we were through in about 15 minutes. I couldn’t have asked for more. Easyjet was the same. Very polite staff and very helpful. There wasn’t the mad rush to find seats together on the plane or any of the things I’d heard about. We’ll certainly use them again. After landing we got the S-Bahn to the Holiday Inn just outside the centre of Munich.

On the Saturday we decided to get the S-Bahn over to the main station in Munich and walk back through the old town. I hadn’t really done this when I was there before. The buildings are magnificent, including the churches. We had a look around the Museum of Munich which had a couple of models of the city. One showed the old two level wall that used to  completely surround the city.

On the Sunday we decided to go to the English Garden on the tram. Unfortunately the trams weren’t running all the way to the English Garden for some reason, so we had to walk most of the way. The english garden is a large expanse of grass and trees with bandstand on a hill and lots of restaurants and little shops hidden away. We had a traditional German meal in a small restaurant in the centre of the garden. It was at this point I realised I’d been there before when my German colleagues had taken me out for dinner and more beer than I could drink these days! After lunch we wandered out of the garden and back into Munch on the underground and then on the S-Bahn out to the airport.

I could quite happily live in Munich. We’ve certainly got a taste for weekend breaks in foreign countries now. Prague is next.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

WASP 30th Anniversary Tour Review

In 1989 Alice Cooper released Poison. I loved it. With a father who was into The Moody Blues, I had been brought up on overly dramatic and to a certain extent over produced music. So it was no wonder that I would like much the same stuff and want to push it further. Poison is the song that got me into heavy metal, but as I look back on it from 2012 it really doesn’t seem that heavy! Bands like Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Europe and Guns and Roses all had songs and albums out at around the same time. The band I liked the most at the time was Def Leppard, but that’s another story! Second to Def Leppard were WASP, who a friend at school had introduced me to by accident when a WASP album was the B side of a cassette tape of something else (I don’t remember what now) they lent me. I think the album was The Last Command. I loved that too and set about collecting the rest of the albums as soon as I could. In those days it meant borrowing them from the library if my friends didn’t already have them. Some of the more obscure albums like Inside The Electric Circus and Live...in the Raw would evade me for some years! The same friend lent me The Crimson Album and it’s still up there as one of my two favorite albums (alongside Marillion’s Misplaced Childhood) and I have been lucky enough to see it performed live all the way through.

The first time I saw WASP was on the KFD tour. I saw them twice, once in Nottingham and again in Bradford. They were brilliant, even though KFD was not! This was in 1997 and I wouldn’t see them again until they did the Crimson Idol 15th anniversary tour in 2007. That was just fantastic. Not the lineup that recorded that album, but still fantastic. All the notes in all the right places. I didn’t see them again until the Babylon tour in 2009. I think that may have been where it all went wrong. Although there hasn’t been a good WASP album since 1995’s Still Not Black Enough.

On the 30th of September 2012 I saw WASP at the Waterfront in Norwich on their 30th anniversary tour and they were dreadful. Twenty minutes late to the stage and cut their set short due to an apparent curfew. The first part of the show was predominantly from the eponymous first album and they played very few complete songs. We only got Wild Child from The Last Command, The Real Me from Headless Children and only half of Forever Free mashed in with Sleeping in the Fire. To top it all off, all you could hear was drums, vocals and rhythm guitar. You could barely hear the lead at all and a lot of the time not at all.

The second half was all the best bits from The Crimson Idol, including The Idol, one of my all time favorite songs. However it was all played dreadfully. The original rhythm part of The Idol was played on acoustic guitar. I have no idea why Blackie insists on ruining it by playing it on distorted electric guitar. We could barely hear the solo, which is the best bit of the song and the bits we could hear were wrong. I was very disappointed.

The encore was Heaven’s Hung in Black from Blackie’s attempt to rehash The Crimson Idol, The Neon God. WASP did manage to finish with a mighty Blind in Texas. At other gigs they even got The Widowmaker. WASP could have done so much more with very little effort, but really let us down.

Norwich Networking Hub

From all the interest in SyncNorwich it is clear that there is a vast amount of technology based business going on in Norwich. But it’s not limited to technology. The Norfolk Network is bringing businesses from all sectors together as well. And so is Warings cafe.

For the last few months I have been based out of St. Peter’s House on Cattlemarket Street and one of mine and my teams regular haunts is Warings Cafe two doors down. But it’s not just me and my colleagues who meet there! On a number occasions I have seen Lucy Marks from the Norfolk Network, Seb Butcher from Purple Tuesday and SyncNorwich, as well as many of the other contacts I have made through SyncNorwich all networking there. It is often full of people I don’t know clearly networking and meeting clients.

I wouldn't have thought Warings Cafe, situated at the back of Castle Mall would have been ideally situated to attract Norwich business networkers, but clearly it is. Maybe it’s the quality of the tea, coffee and other the refreshments or the friendliness of the staff or maybe even the free wifi. Whatever it is I think more people should be aware of the great job Warings is doing by providing a place for Norwich’s business networks to meet and grow their businesses.

SyncNorwich at Aviva October 2012 Review

On Thursday 4th October we show cased SyncNorwich at Aviva. The intention was to stimulate interest in SyncNorwich from Aviva employees and get more of them along to meetups. Every month the Solution Design and Service Design teams at Aviva General Insurance have an all afternoon meeting. This is where they discuss matters pertinent to the department and often have external speakers. Today it was SyncNorwich’s turn.

One of SyncNorwich’s most popular meetup formats is lightning talks. Lightning talks are multiple presentations limited to five minutes for each speaker. The lightning talks that SyncNorwich do are in the style of ignite talks where each speaker's slides change automatically every 15 seconds. After each round of talks there is an opportunity to ask questions to all of the speakers.

SyncNorwich’s official photographer, James Neale from James Neale Photography was also on hand taking photographs.

The meeting started off with an introduction to SyncNorwich from Juliana Meyer, who explained how SyncNorwich was formed and described our past and future meetings. This was not done in the format of lightning talks! Juliana was followed by a handful of the speakers from SyncNorwich’s first lightning talk meetup back in August:

Agile recruiting - Jim Marshal @Ifftner
ShopOfMe - Travis Lee Street @TravisLeeStreet
3sixty: Bootstrapping lessons learnt - Paul Russell @paulrussell
Why Norwich needs a FabLab - Rob Holden-Pratt @robhp
Responsive Design - Brad Koehler @KoehlerBear
Scratch’ing software on the Raspberry Pi Jonny Butcher

The event was kindly reviewed for us by senior Aviva Solutions Architect, Julian Fulcher:

The General Insurance application designers at Insurance company Aviva’s headquarters in Norwich were treated to a series of ‘Lightning Talks’ on the 4th October 2012. Presenters of these ‘Lightning Talks’ were allowed a few minutes using a slide show where the slides change at a set (and short) frequency.
These ‘Lightning Talks’ were some of the talks previously given at an exciting new group called SyncNorwich which is (as the name implies!)  based in Norwich. This group is an amalgamation of 3 former groups: one for startups, one for those interested in Agile methodologies and one that focused on coding.
Six entertaining and inspirational talks were given following an introduction by one of the founders of SyncNorwich, Juliana Mayer.
The first talk was by Jim Marshall who outlined in a very witty style  how he uses Agile concepts to run his recruiting agency. Those of us who promote the agile way of working could readily see the cross-over between the concepts outlined in the ‘Agile manifesto’ and the way Jim was organising his approach to recruiting.
The second talk was by Travis Lee Street who told us about his startup company that has created an application that will advise users what clothes they should buy. I am sure that is an application that all of us blokes in IT ought to use!! He strongly encouraged us to try his application out free from the Google Chrome Store.
The third talk was by Paul Russell, a Lead Designer working at Aviva through Smart421. He described his experiences of ‘bootstrappling’ – starting a business without external help or capital, and,  in his case,  whilst holding down a demanding full time job and being a husband and father. He outlined ways to try to maintain a reasonable work / life balance whilst ‘bootstrapping’. Once again, he was eager for everyone to review his application that facilitates ‘360’ feedback reviews
The fourth talk was by Rob Halden Pratt who is attempting to set up a ‘Fab Lab’ in Norwich. This is a concept that has worked in other places where a venue is established where people can go to use various pieces of kit, collaborate and share ideas. He was eager to contact anyone who is interested in helping him realise his dream.
The fifth talk was by Brad Koehler who is part of a small company that writes applications that he calls ‘responsive’ that are device independent. These applications know what type of device they are running on and adjust accordingly.
Last but certainly not least, we had a talk by a young lad of 15 who attends a local high school. He outlined his time doing work experience when he had to build and write a game  on a ‘Raspbeerry Pi’, a cheap credit card sized device that acts as a PC. He went from knowing little about how computers work to thinking about a career in IT. Good luck to him!