Professional Geek
RSS icon Email icon Bullet (black)
  • 10 Year Blogiversary

    Today marks 10 years of this blog!

    This is post number 151

    My output has lowered in recent times, for a variety of reasons but it’s something I still enjoy doing, however often that may be.

    When I first started the whole main idea was just for myself. A personal knowledgebase if you will, as well as somewhere to get various thoughts out of my head.

    What I didn’t realise is where else that would take me. Starting the blog ultimately introduced me to lots of people, both online and offline who I’ve been able to learn from as well as have some fun along the way!

    It’s been an event filled and interesting 10 years that would have been entirely different if I hadn’t decide to carve out my own corner of the Internet

    So if you’ve ever read anything on here, shared it, commented on it, met me in person, or emailed me I just wanted to a thank you!

    And what better way to celebrate than with some decade old clip art! clipart-birthday-RcAbGMecL

  • Hello World June 2016.0

    How are we almost halfway through the year?!

    Just realised I haven’t written anything since the end of January.

    This wasn’t intentional!

    It’s been a particularly manic start to the year and something I learnt long ago is that sometimes you have to stop doing one thing if you want to doing something else.

    But I do miss writing so this is me just trying to flex that muscle again.

    So in terms of big events in the first half of the year…

    We’ve moved house (and I never want to do it again!)

     Capturemove

    I ran the London Marathon (4 hours 26 minutes – raised over £1000 for Meningitis Now)

    MeningitisNowPic

    and my brother got married! (this is us though…obviously. It was an amazing weekend!)

    Capturewed

    And all the other usual comings and goings

    So this is just me putting something http://www.mentalhealthupdate.com back on the page/screen (how do people of a certain age adjust their vocabulary?)

    Carry on….

  • 2015, So Long And Thanks For All The Fish

    We’re a couple of weeks into the new year and as with previous years (2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011) looking back on the previous 12 months is something I really enjoy doing.

    Especially when you have a memory as terrible as mine!

    As always spending as much time as possible with these three girls is my biggest priority!

    10953743_732248196907380_1623217299_n

    As with last year we tried to make sure we filled it with plently of fun and spending time with people who are really important.

    Some of the highlights included…

    Starting the year at Centre Parcs

    Center Parcs

    Eating chocolate!

    10957331_1573093346270098_1613882688_n

    Trying something new

    10958171_990232511006879_1733490016_n10948765_334745273378716_1162343633_n

    Got a certificate in something or other . (move along…nothing to see here)

    Apple

    Got muddy

    avalanche-15_1099308

    Went to a cup final (it’s the taking part that counts right?)

    11084700_382160591978603_1191336990_n

    Visited Harry Potter World (again..)

    11024154_1374683596193023_317762838_n10706873_715525818565099_1623209613_n

    Evie won a prize for writing a poem!

    Evie Poem

    Alice won a singing competiion!

    Alice

    Doctor Who Symphony Orchesta

    11248125_889394894450168_1515625927_n

    Visited Arbury Hall

    arbury

    Got covered in paint

    Colour Run

    Wolf Run with this lot

    wolf

    School Talent Show

    talent

    Trip to Copenhagen

    11313336_487382841412900_803416164_n

    Introduced the girls to Mud Runs!

    mini

    The Just So Festival

    just

    Summer Holiday in Portugal

    port

    More mud runs…

    Finish1

    twilight-0915_1707092 (1)

    wild

    Finish Photo Halloween

    halowe2halowe1

    Walk Off The Earth in Nottingham

    12135193_513288848830248_230747828_n12107426_988979271154883_1087830661_n

    Catch up with these guys!

    karl

    Retro gaming (swiped from Richard!)

    retro

    A very brief visit to Centre Parcs…again!ALice and Evie

    Seeing the new year in

    new

    You get the idea Smile

    2015 was pretty awesome and I’m really fortunate to have some great people in my life.

    2016 has just started and there is loads to look forward to.

    Bring it on!

  • The Difference Engine–Help Needed!

    imageWay back in 2011 I wrote about the Difference Engine.

    It’s a simple but effective way of adding captions to live performances created by Coventry based Talking Birds.

    In short, a laptop runs the software and over a local wireless network it allows any device with a web browser to view subtitles.

    i.e your mobile phone, tablet or laptop.

    A really simple idea to an age old problem for anyone who wouldn’t be able to hear what was being said.

    It’s intended for live performance but the simplicity of the system means it could be easily and cheaply re-purposed to anything.

    School assembly? Conference? Training Courses? Museum? Art Gallery?

    I could go on and on…

    If it has a script that needs to be followed it wouldn’t take much to plug it into this.

    So many events are run without any thought for the deaf and hard of hearing purely because adding that sort of thing is normally expensive.

    With this system you need a laptop. That’s it.

    Anyone that needs to use the system can use a device they’ll likely have already. You could hook the laptop up to a screen or projector you’d probably be using at the event anyway too. 

    Talking Birds have been working hard to improve the system but as with most small organisations like this they struggle for funding.

    I honestly think they could really make a difference if they can get to the next level.

    So I need your help.

    They have reached the finals of this years Tech4Good Awards.

    To be in with a chance of winning the “People’s Award” they need votes.

    Go here

    http://www.tech4goodawards.com/vote-now/ 

    Enter your email address

    Click on the Talking Birds image

    image

    Put something in the “where you found us” box (maybe mention me!)

    Click the button to submit the vote.

    That’s it!

    It’ll then give you some options for sharing on social media…If you do that too that would be cool.

    If you could take two minutes from your time to do that I’d be ever so grateful!

  • IBIT Solutions–10 Years

    This week marks 10 years since IBIT Solutions was first registered as a business.

    I very rarely use the company name here. It’s usually referred to as “work” or “the business”. That’s mainly because this is my personal blog. While the things I do at IBIT are a big influence on some of the content I create (when I create it!) I always intended to keep them separate.

    10 years ago, along with my business partner Kevin we had the bright idea of giving up our jobs and going it alone.

    When I look back it was a rather bonkers decision at the time.

    Bryony and I hadn’t long moved into our first house (with our first mortgage!) and Bryony was pregnant with Alice so of course I was going to leave my stable job and risk starting a business.

    What was I thinking! 

    10 years on I’m glad to say it was the right decision.

    It hasn’t all been plain sailing. We’ve had scary moments, have made plenty of mistakes and have lots of stress to deal with but there is a lot of satisfaction in being the master of your own destiny.

    The good moment have certainly outweighed the bad though and being on this ride for the last ten years has taken me lots of places I couldn’t have imagined 10 years ago.

    I’ve also met lots amazing people who I would never have come into contact with if I’d played it safe and stayed in my old job and I’m grateful to everyone who has had an influence on IBIT in that time.

    Like a lot of small businesses we’re not perfect. I’ve got a ton of things I need to change, fix, improve or build but we’re going in the right direction.

    I’m very lucky to be in position where I enjoy going into the office. It makes the hard work hardly seem like that.

    If you’ve had anything to do with IBIT over the last 10 years, in any form, thank you.

    Here’s to the next 10! 

     

     

    .

  • Where Did January Go!?

    Every year I usually write a post that looks back on everything that happened in the previous year. The end of 2014 and the start of 2015 has been so packed with so many various things January seems to have just vanished before my eyes.

    This time last year I was writing about how tragically the year had ended.

    With that in mind we, as a family (me, Bryony and the girls), made the decision to make sure we got the absolute most out of 2014.

    This meant spending lots of time with friends and family, doing things we enjoy as well as doing new things.

    We certainly achieved it!

    Some of the highlights, in no particular order were,

    I ran my first half marathon

    Shortly followed by my first obstacle half marathon!

     

    Bryony jumped out of a plane!

    10448682_10154251449000323_680786527769100596_o

    We went to Australia for a wedding

    1233347_10152099608446200_4346909501724538078_n

    Spent a week in the Isle of Wight

    10575365_10154495772340323_6216570282991632981_o

    And a weekend in Rome

    rome_10623704_1493257147578876_67917883_n.

    Took the girls to Comic Con in Birmingham

    20141123_125534

    Engagement Celebrations in Newcastle

    10556460_10154776727860323_2114768013678608720_n

    Climbed the O2 in London

    o210707003_839798636052979_1259902273_n

    Saw Monty Python Live!

    10443384_10152640448080039_1038390715522571752_n

    and won a cup!

    10169314_783638998335655_2185540226410017484_n

    (Photo credit Bobby Bridge Photography)

    and much much more!!

    Going through some of the photos for putting this together what jumped out at me was the number of smiles. So many pictures of happy faces is a good thing to look back on.

    To say I’m pretty happy with my lot at the moment would be an understatement. In Bryony and the girls, I’ve got an amazing family so why would I not want to spend as much time as possible with them! 

    1557138_10154636203520323_3088040046245501538_o

    So it mean I’m glad I was able to squeeze as much enjoyment as possible out of 2014 as I could and I’m very grateful to all the friends and family that were a part of it. 

    Thank you!

    Let’s go make 2015 even better.

  • Taking Stock

    This weekend marked two months since I last wrote anything here. It’s not exactly by accident.

    In my 2013 round up post I mentioned there had been some very bad news in the wider Parkes family. It took a little while for this to fully sink in but it made me think about exactly what’s important to me and how I prioritise certain things.

    There are only 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week and I want to spend as much of that time with the people who are important to me, enjoying life and doing things I enjoy.

    Of course there is still that balancing act between putting in the hours at work because enjoying life costs money!

    What that has meant though is tweaking how I make use of time and shifting priorities around certain things. Writing here is an example. If I’ve got an hour free and the choice might be between writing something or kicking a football in the garden with the kids then these days the blog post loses every time.

    It’s a pretty simple example but it stretches across into work too. We’ve had a particularly busy period recently so I’ve done my best not to increase my own workload by getting involved in certain things and drop other areas altogether. (I have a bad habit of not being able to say no that I’ve been trying to work on for some time)

    I’m also effectively off Twitter at the moment – I check there a couple of times a week at the moment as I’d find myself “having a quick look” and before I knew it an hour was gone.

    It’s working out ok at the moment.

    So this post is really going anywhere else but it’s something I wanted to get out of my head. Doing that here has worked pretty well for me before. Smile

    If you do want to take anything away then please do believe when I say you have no idea what could happen tomorrow. Terrible and tragic things can and do happen to good people. Make the most of the time you have with the people you love.

  • Farmageddon 2014

    Around this time last year I did my first obstacle race. I’ve done a couple of different events since then and two weeks after the Warwick Half Marathon I was back in Melton Mowbray for my second crack at Farmageddon.

    Not wanting to make things easy for myself this year they were offering a 20k course so we duly signed up.

    Pre-Race

    Just to make it a bit a clearer as I’ve glossed over that.

    That’s the same distance as the Warwick Half Marathon but off-road terrain and with a variety of obstacles to overcome.

    I can safely say this was an incredibly difficult thing to do!

    Having said that the difference a year makes is noticeable. This is my fourth obstacle course and my fifth event overall including Warwick and while I’m not saying it was a walk in the park I was barely able to get round last year which was half the distance.

    The extra distance is made up of an extra lap. Once you got within touching distance of the finishing line you carried straight on!

    As with last year there was a good atmosphere and lots of friendly banter before, during and after the race and with a newly added 5km option the turn out was much larger. Over 500 people I believe in comparison to around 280 last time around.

    140405173300_H

    The course was largely the same as last time but with some minor tweaks which really helped with getting a correct pace as well as providing various talking points on the way round such as;

    “Remember when you dropped that log on your head?” 

    “It was around this point I would have eaten my right arm”

    “That cold water that’s coming up soon will do wonders for my cramp again”

    140405174850_H

    So overall I enjoyed this just as much as last year and the extra lap pushed me really hard. The previous year the 10k took us 1 hour and 32 minutes so having set a realistic goal of three hours to actually finish in 2 hours 46 minutes was brilliant – especially when we got delayed quite near to the start (I’ll come back to that). Overall standing was 18th out of the 27 20k runners so pretty happy with that too. It also meant that even with the two laps we were faster than last year.

    20140405_135157

    Since this was my second year it did give me the opportunity to compare both events.

    In terms of improvements…

    Bottle Neck

    One issue with obstacle courses is getting the placement correct so that as the field starts to spread out people hit the obstacles at different times. When this doesn’t work out it can mean waiting in a queue while people in front navigate the obstacle. If you have a few people that struggle to get past it then makes the problem even worse. On an event called X-Runner we did last year this actually meant out second lap was considerably faster than our first lap as we got held up considerably on a single obstacle near the start.

    One of the first obstacles was a cargo net to climb up and over. Because it was so near to the start everyone basically hit it at the same time causing a large queue. Not great.

    Either more of them were needed or it needed placing at a different section of the course.

    Lack of consideration

    At the bottle neck a few people decided they didn’t want to wait in the queue and came charging over regardless. This was while people were still on the obstacle. The marshals were only letting people on two at a time (for perfectly good safety reasons) yet these guys thought it would be ok to throw a few more bodies on. One poor girl who was just going over the top somehow managed to stay calm and avoid getting pushed off. Their excuse as they clambered past was "We’ve already had a 15 minute delay". No-one in the queue wanted to wait so their inability to understand we had waves and chip times made the blood boil. 

    Ghost Town

    The 20k field was considerably smaller than the 10k and 5k (understandably so) but we went out at the same time as the 10k entrants and the two waves after that weren’t too far behind us. This meant when we finally finished there was hardly anyone about. The big crowds to cheer you on to the finishing line and the loud music that was played throughout were nowhere to be seen. It meant that once we’d collected our finishing packs there wasn’t much point in hanging around. We stayed quite a while last year cheering on other competitors and soaking up the atmosphere. Even the burger van was packing up!

    I’d probably have started the 20k wave about half an hour earlier than the 10k wave so we finished around the middle or end of the 10k field.

    20k

    Maybe it’s just me but in my eyes doing the 20k was a big deal and I thought this was reflected in the smaller numbers who wanted to give it a go. But since there was practically no-one about when we finished and we got exactly the same finishing pack as the people that did 5k and 10k it felt like a bit of anti-climax as we crossed the finish line, collected our stuff and left. Maybe it’s just my ego that needed massaging after all that hard work but in comparison to my memories on how it felt at the end last year this year felt very low key.

    I’m not complaining about all of it though! Some things I did like included

    New T-Shirts

    I do like collecting the t-shirts we get after completing events and the blue one provided this year looked even better than the one we got last year – which I was more than happy with too!

    Beer

    This was new.

    At the end of the race as well as the standard post-race swag we were given a can of lager (or cider). While it wasn’t straight from a fridge or a fancy continental brew at the end of the 20k it was one of the greatest tasting beers I’ve ever had.

    Marshalls

    They were great, especially some of the younger kids who were helping out. It was especially nice to still see them patiently waiting for us on our second lap when everyone else had finished and gone home!  

    Bananas

    Sometimes it’s the small things that count. As you reached the end of the first lap it was a left turn to the end for the 10k runners and straight on for the 20k runners. Just before turning into the first bend was a small, unmanned table with some bottles of water, some plastic cups and bunches of bananas. Taking a minute to refuel and rehydrate as well as contemplate going round a second time was just what was needed.

    The Course

    Having now completed a few events I can easily say this is one of the most physically demanding I’ve personally done (over 10k and then 20k). There were several comments on the Farmageddon Facebook page that said there should be more obstacles and less running. I couldn’t disagree more with them. Each event I’ve done so far has it’s own unique challenge. Part of this particular event are some of the long runs. While at the time having completed the hill climbs and then having to face a 3km run felt horrible it’s part of the signature of that particular course. Please don’t tweak that too much.

     

    The good largely outweighed the bad I’m pretty confident of shaving some minutes off that time so I’m already looking forward to 2015!

    Thanks to the organisers for putting on such as great event again.

  • Achievement Unlocked: Warwick Half Marathon 2014

    Oh my poor legs….

    Last year I wrote about how I’d taken part in a 10km obstacle race called Farmageddon.

    I did a couple more of similar runs during 2013 and had some great fun along the way.

    One of my friends who also ran with me decided he was going to do the London Marathon this year. He was planning on doing the Warwick Half Marathon as a warm up event as it’s a couple of weeks before and asked if I fancied doing it too.

    Since I was in the pub at the time with a drink in my hand I said “Of course!” without actually considering what was involved. The furthest I’d ever run before was around seven and a half miles on one of the mud runs. The obstacles on these courses break the run up so you don’t actually run continuously for that whole distance. This was going to be new territory!

    So before I knew it race day was upon me and I was lining up alongside a couple of thousand other people on a chilly March morning with 13 miles ahead of me.

    I’m in this photo…honest

     Lining Up

    Image credit: Michelle Fallows

    Running into the Warwickshire countryside was fantastic. Having such great scenery on show was a great distraction from the hillier than expected route!

    The one thing that was certainly different from the mud runs I’d previously been involved in was the atmosphere. Those events are all fun and games and people are laughing and joking and shouting along the way. This was a much more focussed affair and on the harder parts of the course it was weird seeing so many people running in total silence as everyone was concentrating on pushing through to the next downhill section.

    Also what contributed to this were the crowds dropping away. There were plenty of people on the sidelines cheering and shouting encouragement as we came out of Warwick but the numbers died down the further we got into the countryside. As we came back into the town the numbers swelled again and it helped us get over those last few miles and the big push to the finish line.

    Finishing

    My final time was 1 hour 56 minutes. I’d set a goal of finishing under two hours and I’m really pleased I managed to do that.

    The other reason for being so pleased was I was so un-prepared it was ridiculous.

    I’d picked up a muscle injury in the run up to Christmas which combined with a general lack of motivation during the cold, dark nights meant that other than playing football I’d done no specific training until about two weeks before the event.

    In those two weeks I managed a few three mile runs followed by a five mile run a couple of days before the race.

    This meant on race day the furthest I’d ever run in one go was five miles. It’s quite a jump to thirteen miles!

    I felt pretty good during the race though and it’s an experience I’m glad I’ve had. I learnt an awful lot!

    My thighs however disagree. Especially when trying to do simple things like standing!

    Having a group of people to run with definitely helped and we were all smiles afterwardsPost RaceImage credit: Michelle Fallows 

    As well as the general smug feeling of achievement a big reason for doing this is to raise some money for charity.

    If you’re feeling generous there are a couple of charities to choose from.

    The event was run by the British Heart Foundation and I was raising money for them.

    My sponsorship page is here

    Second from the left in the photo above is Jonathan Rhodes.

    He’s running the London Marathon for Bliss – a premature babies charity.

    His sponsorship page is here

    On the right hand side in green is Steven Fallows

    He’s doing 12 challenges in 12 months for Macmillan Cancer Support

    His sponsorship page is here

    Steven is also blogging about his challenges! 

    So after all the pain and suffering am I done?

    Nope..

    In two weeks time I’ll be doing the same distance again – with mud and obstacles at Farmageddon 2014 for “fun”.

    Why keep life simple?

    Smile

  • Geekmas 2013

    My family are always pretty good at getting me great gifts (an Amazon wish list is great “inspiration”) and this year I was pretty pleased!

    Star Wars – Book of Sith: Secrets from the Dark Side

    A very fancy case reveals a book that I can only describe as a kind of Sith Bible.

    Here’s the description from Amazon

    The Sith have existed in the galaxy for centuries, lurking, waiting for their chance to seize control. As various Sith Lords emerged and rose to power, they recorded their thoughts, exploits, and plots for Sith control of the galaxy. When they fell, their knowledge vanished with them forever. Or so it seemed. . . .
    Over the years, these writings were passed among numerous Sith and Jedi, who added their comments to the pages. In his quest for domination, Darth Sidious tracked down what remained of five pivotal Sith texts written by his most powerful predecessors. Then, drawing on the knowledge within the compiled pages, he wrote a sixth text—his own manifesto. Together, these documents, along with several collected objects associated with them, shed light on the philosophy, achievements, and failures of the Sith Order. For years, this collection remained hidden, existing as legend only. But now all who are tempted may unlock the Book of Sith and delve into the dark side. . . .

    Raspberry Pi

    image

    This credit card sized computer is a really interesting bit of kit. I wanted one when they were first released but when the initial rush caused the stock to vanish I’ll confess I didn’t get around to going back for one. I spent a couple of hours with my niece and nephew when I first got it out of the box putting a little cartoon together in Scratch. I’ve got a couple of ideas for projects I’d like to tackle with it!

    Star Trek: Enterprise – The Full Journey

     

    Like any self respecting geek I love a bit of Trek! Enterprise is the one series though that I’ve not seen anywhere near enough of. Thankfully this box set means I can put that right!

    F1 Race Stars (XBox 360)

    I saw this at EuroGamer Expo a couple of years ago and liked the look of it. It plays a little like Mario Kart and is good fun as long as you’re not expecting it to be the next Forza!

    Did you get anything shiny?