Developer, Writer, Runner

Linux wasn’t “the thing”. Linux was “the thing that got me to the thing”.

Image for post
Image for post

I read a book several years ago called “Just for Fun”, by Linus Torvalds — the creator of the Linux kernel. It charts the history of the project, from it’s earliest beginnings in a back bedroom, through to it’s accidental entry onto the world stage. I thought it might be interesting to relate my own interactions with Linux, and to perhaps reflect a little on the other operating systems I have used too.

My relationship with Linux begins with the first laptop I owned — a Toshiba, in about 2000. After playing around with the pre-installed copy of Windows 98 it came with for a few weeks, I read a magazine article about the latest release of “Redhat Linux”, and ordered a shrink-wrapped copy that was delivered by the postman a few days later. …


Image for post
Image for post

After much indecision, I have a homepage on the internet once more — comprised of a domain name of my own, an SSL certificate, a web hosting account, and an installation of perhaps the most forward-looking web publishing platform available.

Over the last few years I have experimented with many of the popular hosted publishing platforms — from Wordpress, to Medium, Weebly, Wix, and even Postach.io — a rather clever Evernote integration. While tinkering, I could never get past the fact that my words were no longer my own — as soon as you publish to a public platform, you become their product in a strange sort of way. …


The story of how a programming side project turned into a twenty year crusade to record and share my life.

Image for post
Image for post

I have been writing a personal blog on the internet on-and-off since 2001, and I have pretty good records of my posts from 2003 onward. Over time I have gone through periods of posting every day, and at other times have vanished for days or weeks on end. I thought it might be interesting to tell the story of my journey.

I think the story begins in about 2001 — I’m not entirely sure any more. I had been tinkering with Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP (the now famous “LAMP” development environment) for a few weeks — building out the new version of a website I once ran called “Thought Café”. I had learned how to store text in a database, how to submit forms and capture the text, and how to present that text back onto web pages. …


When the accountants at Amazon complained about unused infrastructure costs, who could have predicted what would happen next?

Image for post
Image for post

Back in the early 2000s, the financial analysts at Amazon expressed frustration that much of their spare server capacity went unused for the majority of the time. A group of engineers were tasked with exploring how they might sell the use of their servers to others — and thus history lurched forwards — “the cloud” was invented.

While Amazon wrestled with their accidental creation, aided and abetted by an army of Web 2.0 application developers, a series of chess moves were happening deep within Microsoft that are still shaping and changing the way we work today.

Microsoft had built their business on the sale of licenses for operating systems and office software. Having done battle with IBM, Apple, Lotus, Wordperfect, and Wordstar, they reached a curious plateau — where those that needed their software already had it, and the effort (and cost) involved in re-inventing their various wheels increasingly became a game of negative returns. …


A look back at my personal computer history — from leaning on the corner of arcade machines in the late 1970s, to the arrival of the PC in the early 1990s.

Image for post
Image for post

Coin-Ops

The first video game I ever remember seeing was in an chip shop while we were on holiday. While waiting for my parents at the counter, my brother and I watched a collection of wire-frame shapes silently drift around the screen of a hulking cabinet in the corner of the room.

Now of course I know the game was called “Asteroids”, and was a direct ancestor of perhaps the first ever space game, “Space War”, written by the students at MIT in the 1970s.

My next brush with video games came while on holiday in Spain — our first overseas holiday as a family. Dotted around the hotel and in cafes near it there were coin operated arcade machines playing a variety of video games — among them “Galaxians”, and “Phoenix”. They cost 25 pesetas per game to play. At some point my brother discovered that a british two pence coin also worked in the machines, and he became an expert at both games — well — until we ran out of two pence pieces. …


I explored all manner of productivity hacks — telling myself that they would not only make life more manageable — they would make room for more.

Image for post
Image for post

I read an interesting article in the New Yorker a few days ago about Merlin Mann, and the struggles he experienced with his accidental “Getting Things Done”, and “In-box Zero” crusades on the 43 Folders website back in the mid 2000s.

In the mid 2000s I was somehow surviving four hours on trains each day commuting into and out of London, doing freelance web development projects in the evenings, and wading through the adoption process. …


I’ve read them all, and would without hesitation recommend them on to anybody else with even a passing interest in the history of computers, the internet, or software development in general.

Image for post
Image for post

Where Wizards Stay Up Late by Katie Hafner

In the 1960s, when computers were regarded as giant calculators, J.C.R. Licklider at MIT saw them as the ultimate communication device. With Defence Department funds, he and a band of computer whizzes began work on a nationwide network of computers. This is an account of their daring adventure.

What Just Happened by James Gleick

For the past decade change seemed to happen over night, every night. …


It seems only natural that a software developer would begin with “Hello, World”.

Image for post
Image for post

Before we begin, I’ll start by letting you in on a secret. I have somewhere in the region of five thousand blog posts quietly stored away in a digital shoe-box, in a dark corner of the internet. The blog posts have been written over the last 18 years — charting the inconsequential and mundane experiences of a fairly normal life that I can’t imagine anybody in their right mind would want to read.

I started writing before “blogging” became a thing. I created my own blogging platform, released it as open source, and quite accidentally experienced my fifteen minutes of fame. Thankfully a nice chap called Matt Mullenweg appeared, and WordPress happened — meaning I could dump my solution and use his. …

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store