Connections 2013 / Lotusphere Show And Tell 103 - Reporting on Domino

As you are probably aware, Wouter Aukema and I were to present a 'Show And Tell' session at IBM Connections 2013, in Orlando. Unfortunately, we had to cancel this session.

My job on the team was to create a reporting tool in Excel (based on some excellent code from Wouter) and then lead the end-users through the process of using this tool, and then show how the tooling was put together in detail. However, when I came to finish the presentation I realised that I had painted myself into a corner - offering to show administrators a no-code way of reporting on their Domino environment, but then having them write code in Excel. 

I humbly apologise to Paul Mooney, Gab Davis and Christian Holsing - the Show and Tell Track managers, as well as Kirsten Keen and the rest of the content team at Connections 2013. I also humbly apologise to Wouter who was very patient with me through this entire process.  And I have to apologise to everyone who wanted to come and see this session.

The fault lies with me, and my failure to really think through what we were actually presenting when we wrote the abstract.

I have to also thank all of the above who gave us tremendous support and assisted in any way possible to get this out the door. 

The good news is that all this content still exists - as does the Excel sheet. Once the conference is over we shall publish it all. 


The Longest Night

Recently, I switched from my 'cheap and cheerful-ish' commute via @Easyjet and @London_Gatwick airport. After 3+ years of constant misery, I thought, there has to be something better.

So this week I flew down on British Airways from @Aberdeen_Airport to @London_City. Despite the snowcopalypse, I got to ABZ in under an hour, got a good breakfast, on the plane and down to London vaguely on time. A total of four hours 'door to door' instead of six - bliss. 

So on Friday, I sat in the office - alone - all my colleagues had seen the forecast and decided to 'work from home'. I tried to get through to British Airways customer services by telephone in order to get into the earlier flight - but after 45 minutes on hold, was told 'tough'.

Okay. Flight still okay on the website, I headed to City. Got through security in 10 minutes, went and had a nice Pasta, and watched the snowploughs hit the runway. Our original departure time of 7:30 got pushed back to 8:00.

By 8pm, we were one of four remaining flights. By 8:30, our departure had been put back to 9:45, and we were the last flight. Most others had been cancelled. I tweeted

Joy - at 9:30, we got called to the gate, shuffled through and waited in a heated area watching the incoming passengers get off. By 9:40, we were onboard, and by 9:45, the doors were shut.

The de-icing machine was alongside the plane, waiting for the fuel tanker to finish brimming the tanks. All good. I even went to sleep.

At 10:15, the pilot came over the tannoy and although I cannot remember his exact words, basically said that the airport were now refusing to de-ice our plane, the flight was cancelled, and we should all get off now. I tweeted.

Um. Thanks.

So we all trooped inside, stood in a queue. Five or six 'security' folks stood around as we were clearly angry. One family stood at the customer services desk, and a wee slip of a lass stood at the front whispering stuff to the first 10 or 15 passengers, passing around a bit of paper.

After about 10 minutes, I finally got in front of her, and she explained that if we wanted, we could put our names down for flights from London Heathrow on Saturday morning at 8am. No, they could not arrange travel to Heathrow. No, they could not arrange hotels. And yes, they had cancelled five out of six Heathrow to Aberdeen flights on the Friday.

I asked her to confirm this and pointed out that I felt this was completely unreasonable. It was now 22:50, a snowstorm had hit london, six previous flights had been cancelled from City (so all local hotels were now full) and we were now expected to make our way completely across London to Heathrow, and somehow - ourselves - find accommodation nearby. Despite over 200 cancelled flights over there today, and every bed within 15 miles being occupied.

Basically yes. And Tough.

I stomped out, got on the DLR and tried to make it to Euston for the overnight sleeper. On the DLR I booked a ticket via the website, and had to get a taxi from Monument to Euston as the Northern Line had broken again.
I got to the train with about 30 seconds to spare.

And this is where the good news started happening. I had a first-class ticket (which I was repeatedly assured I had paid over the odds for), no bunk reservation and first-class was full. But they found me an empty second class bunk (the only difference between 1st and 2nd is that you might have to share in 2nd).

I then had a couple of beers and a sandwich in the first-class bar, watching a stag party manhandle their stag - dressed as Bungle from Rainbow. At one stage, 'Bungle' face-planted through the bar door, almost took out the barman. Hilarious.

I got off around 7:20 this morning, and got on the 7:30am train to Montrose, where I'm typing this. Using their free wifi, and waiting for the free coffee to appear.

Unlike the majority of my fellow passengers on the ABZ flight, I had some - not a lot - of sleep and I'm likely to be home by 10am.

British Airways? For a full-price flag carrier, your customer service stinks. You:

  • Failed miserably to answer your customer service line for 45 minutes. 
  • Your web site didnt allow me to change to an earlier flight, despite an earlier travel advisory that you were allowing all passengers to change flights for free. Your customer service line failed to honour this too
  • You did really well getting us onto that plane. But as soon as we got off that plane, you failed really badly.
  • At 11pm, in the middle of a snowstorm, you basically told an entire flight to get lost, figure out their own accommodation and travel to another flight blackspot.
  • You have a duty of care over your passengers, and you failed completely.
  • And those flights you'd promised us this morning? Yeah. They're probably stuffed too. Thanks. 

Despite paying 2-3 times more this week for travel, and despite the snow making an impact, I've had the same customer service resolution from you as I would have from the likes of Ryanair: Tough, Get Stuffed.

My Lotusphere/Connections 2013 Schedule

We're all off to the conference formerly known as Lotusphere, so if you're heading there, where can you find me? Well.

The ConnectoSphere 2013 Hog Ride.

Saturday and Sunday I'm on a Harley Davidson V-ROD with another dozen folks, exploring the highways, byways and Hooters restaurants of Central Florida. Want to come along? Check out Pauls Blog Entry.

UK NIGHT (SPONSORED EVENT)

MONDAY 20:00-22:00 SHULAS BAR

The format is simple. The nation best known for running bars (ie, us, the British), take over Shulas bar for one evening. The bar tab is covered but entry is by INVITATION ONLY so look out for myself or one of the other hadsl chaps, such as Tony "Champion" Holder, Roy Holder or Richard Sampson for a ticket.

Reporting on your IBM Domino Environment - SHOW103 - SWAN - Osprey 1 - Wednesday 2pm

Wouter Aukema and I show Admin folks how to use simple Excel techniques to give you real world, useful, boss-pleasing reporting on your Domino environment. Techniques that might actually save your career!

(Apologies - bad eyesight and small fonts led me to believe this was in Dolphin)

Worst Practices - BP108 - Dolphin - North A-C - Main Stage - Wednesday 5:30pm

Paul Mooney and I will be back with all new content, some new gags and a whole bunch of reasons why you don't want your story up here on stage next year. The usual 'learning by sarcasm' session.

And despite rumours, both Paul and I will be visible on the main stage as we present, despite being 'little fellahs'.

GURUPALOOZA

THURSDAY 10:00-11:00 SWAN BALLROOMS

All of the BP speakers will be up on stage to answer your questions. Most of us at that point will be trying to hide and avoid speaking :-)

My Wife, the Sadist

As you all know, I've been married to the wonderful, forgiving She Who Must Be Obeyed for over 25 years now. And each Christmas, we challenge each other to give really interesting presents.

This year, she's outdone herself.

The Watch

So this is a watch. With perhaps the most incomprehensible typeface on the planet. Very cool. Its driving me nuts.

But thats not all. She also gave me this:

A barrel of whisky

Wait, I hear you say. She's given you a barrel of whisky? Whats the problem with that?!

Well, the point of this small barrel is to age clear spirit into whisky. So after I've poured a 62.5% bottle of clear spirit in here, I have to wait 3-6 months for it to age.. 

I have to say, she's outdone herself this year. I love her.

Yay!

After around four weeks of negotiation with the Executive office at Three, they delivered me a femtocell (or as they call it 'home signal') device, after I got myself a new iShiny on a Three contract. Normally it can take eight weeks to get one after you get your phone, but contacting the CEO's office pulled this forward.

Finally, I have full Three 3g signal all around the house. Thank god.

Telcos and Dinosaurs

All mobile phone companies (Telcos) are dinosaurs, awaiting the asteroid strike. Why?

They are all based on a business model where they sell you a SIM card, and charge you per month. And charge for voice calls. Data has blindsided them as their voice only 2g networks didn't do it, and their 3g data networks are expensive, and especially in O2's case - badly run, unreliable. Basically pants.

However, whilst talking to Three - perhaps the least dinosaur-like Telco in the UK - they don't understand that their value add is:

  • A reliable ubiquitous mobile data network
  • The ability to route an incoming phone over their VOIP network to a secure handset

Nothing else matters to them. They get extra when they can sell you a handset on a contract and basically charge you full retail for it.

What they don't understand is that they're in the business of shifting bits. Lots of bits. Over mobile data networks (which O2 can't do) to business and personal users. Some business users want to 'tether' their laptop, thus consuming gigabytes of data. And they immediately get scared, because they want to preserve the voice capability of their network, and not support mobile data users with reasonable demands.

So we get rubbish like Vodafone - the blue chip, rolls royce provider here in the UK - restricting all accounts to 1gb or 2gb. Per month. Ridiculous. Just try leaving your on-line backup software running for a day on mobile (as I once did) and get a £400 mobile data bill, and see what I'm talking about.

So how can they fix this? They can realise that they sell a number of services, some that revolve around mobile phones getting incoming calls. For instance, I'm sitting here at ABZ network, gently burping after a fry-up. ABZ have their own Wifi, which they charge for (thus reinforcing the stereotype that all Aberdonians - me included - are grippy sods). And Vodafone, Three, T-Mobile and my old chums still have to put their expensive, slow base stations on the property. Mostly so we can swear at them when they don't work.

This was fine in the nineties, when we all had huge amounts of money and time and patience. And Telcos could install base stations, instead of being told by their accounts department that a new call center - to deal with the lack of network investment - might help. *cough* *o2*.

So why not think of a new way of doing this? Why not have all smartphones automatically roam to local Wifis, register over that Wifi with the telecoms provider, and have their incoming calls routed automatically? Okay, the Telco would lose their roaming surcharge - but lets face it. Roaming charges are basically a tax on the stupid, and Darwin states that they'll disappear.

So lets grow up a bit here. All of this is possible. But the bone-headed Telcos refuse to accept this next step. So what will happen?

Someone like Microsoft - with their Skype Voip solution - will basically allow incoming calls to their devices. As they already do with mobile phones. Should they educate the public that this is available, we might even see mobile phones that dont actually do incoming mobile voice calls - they rely on Wifi networks.

Of course, the Telcos could preempt this by setting this in place. The first would call it a disruptive technology. Three is best placed to do this - they seem to have an innovative approach. They're not the market leader, and therefore a supertanker that has to be pushed in a new direction. They're not useless like O2. And they're not enduring a forced marriage like EE is, with all the relevant distractions.

The only issue, in fact, is that no-one at Three appears ready to grasp this nettle - despite having one of the best mobile data networks here in the UK. My dealings with the 'executive support' team have been somewhat marred by the chaps inability to distinguish between a simple signal amplifier and a Femtocell. So there's work to do.

falling in love

When I ordered the Beamer, I thought I'd hate it.. Big, slow, unresponsive boat. But no..

A few hundred miles in and I think I'm really starting to like it. Oh god it's slow compared to the sports cars I had before. Don't get me wrong, you can get faster versions of this too. But in terms of driving, it's very very good, I can see why people rave about them now. I'm having to adapt my driving style - which is not a bad thing. I can see many happy miles ahead of me in this car.

All the toys work really well. And work easily thanks to the hockey puck joystick, I had the phone paired and working in less than a minute, and joy of joys found that this car had satnav and an 8 cd changer. As well as the ability to play podcasts from the iPhone. (I always get a car based on a deal, and have no control over the equipment. I'm glad the person who put this deal together went hog wild with the options list)

I've driven a recent GM car on the stormy night drive from London, and I hated it. The controls were bizarre, frustrating and shone onto the inside of the screen. Quite the worst car I've ever driven. This, on the other hand is the best. Easy, simple layout, not distracting. Everything just works and works well.

That's when you realise that these chaps really really care about their cars. I can imagine some chap in Germany whose only job is to care about the stereo.. I'd hate to be trapped in a lift with him - but I love being in his car.

Multi-ADSL Home setup

Living in ruralshire is hard. If you're not in an Urban area here in the UK, BT basically ignore you. It would appear that the governments attempt at incentivising them by giving them money to provide better rural broadband has backfired - now they expect this money before they even consider upgrading rural exchanges.

So my exchange - Northwaterbridge - was one of the last to get ADSL in the UK. And I have no doubt that it'll be one of the last in the UK to get ADSL2 - 24mb instead of 8. Fibre to the cabinet ? Forget it. Virgin Broadband ? Nope. Just like every other rural exchange in the UK - we can forget it.

Sick of the blistering 2mb download speed I get - and thats good by local standards (I know a chap with a whole 0.8mb download speed - just twice that of dialup)  - I decided to put in a second ADSL line (at ruinous cost - believe me) and try and bond the lines together. Well, after a whole year of trying to get PFSense to do this, I finally caved and got a proper router. Thankfully, in that year, a slew of dual WAN routers have appeared at reasonable (sub £500) cost.

I chose a T-Link ER6120 - which gives two WAN ports, load balancing, DHCP, VPN and all the other toys you'd expect from a grown up router. I also went out and purchased two very simple ADSL modem devices - D-Link DSL-320B devices. I switched the latter into 'Bridge' mode (thus switching off their NAT, DHCP, etc) and plugged the ISP's details into the ER5120 - and by jove, it's working!

(Previously, I had a 'double-NAT' issue where the incoming BiPac 7800N's were NAT'ing, and the pfSense firewall was also NATing. Thus making incoming VOIP a bit of a bugger)

In terms of speed, the D-Link ADSL modems aren't as good at long line ASDL as the BiPac 7800N's I used before - so there's some tweaking to be done on those. And when I have some more time, there's a UPS that I need to drag in from the cybershed to back up all this stuff (and the VoiP Phone system). But the difficult part is done.

Configurationwise, the T-Link device is easy to use, and gives just enough diagnostics to work well. Lets see if it lasts the first week.

An open letter to David Dyson - CEO of Three.

Mr Dyson, 
I'm writing to you about my utter frustration with Three customer service.
Let me give you a bottled version of the issue. 
This year, I switched my three work phones to the Three network, as I had been very impressed with the three network mobile data capability. However, when all 3 numbers had been switched over, we found that we had no signal in our house (in AB30 1UT). It appears to be in a dip. 
At that point, Three were in the process of bringing out Booster Boxes/Femtocells, so I called customer services and asked for one, explaining that this would be the only way we could get our mobile phones working at home.
After 8 weeks of to-ing and fro-ing and escalating with customer services, we were finaly told 'No - these are for handset-contract customers only. SIM contracts are not enough. Thank you for your business, but goodbye'.  This is incredibly frustrating. Your competitor - Vodafone - will happily sell anyone a femtocell, and indeed, I offered to pay the £50 or so it would cost for the box.
All to no avail. This seems to be a regular Three customer service issue. Whilst the indian call center employees are clear, courteous, intelligent and infomed, they are not allowed to use any form of initiative and stray from the policy set by head office.
Fine. So I tranferred the phones and thought no more of it.
This weekend, I finally cracked, and entered a Three store.
'I'll sign up for an iPhone handset contract if you can guarantee me a Femtocell'. The shop staff kindly called head office and found out that even with my previous, recorded history and femtocell analysis (all of which proved I needed one), the answer was NO.
I was supposed to buy a handset, go home, find it didnt work, then spend eight weeks haggling with Three customer support, and perhaps I might get one.
Well. You are CEO of Three. This is your company. This is your policy.
Can you tell me if this seems utterly pointless and/or stupid? Because from my point of view - that of a high-value, IT savvy customer - it does seem deranged.
Anything to add to this?


This was sent on Monday 3rd of December, and no response has been received yet.

Update: On the 21st of December, I was told that yes, I could get a femtocell.

Three Customer Service - a lesson to us all.

So this weekend, after five hours Christmas shopping, I cracked. I walked into a Three mobile phone shop and said:

"I want an iPhone 5 on contract with you. But I'll only do it if you can guarantee me that you'll give me a base station/femtocell/booster box"

I then patiently explained that I used to have FOUR separate SIM cards on three, that worked really well everywhere, but NOT in my house. I then spent MONTHS trying to PAY them for a femtocell, just for them to say 'no'. So we already know that my house doesn't have coverage, and that I have broadband.

To their credit, they called up Head Office, and explained. And Head Office basically said 'No, they have to buy a phone contract first, then call us (how?) when it doesn't work. At which point we shall consider giving him a femtocell'

AUUUUUGGGGGGGGGHHHHH! WHY?

Congratulations, Three. I was ready to give you a second chance, but your customer service is so badly set up and inflexible, you failed. Again.

I'll try again in a couple of years to see if you've changed.

A dummies guide to Laser Eye Surgery.

A few years ago, sick and tired of having to wear glasses to correct a weak right eye, I opted for Laser Eye surgery. Being frankly terrified, I went for a leading brand - Ultralase - and had the surgery done in Edinburgh.

A friend recently asked how the whole thing went, so I thought it best I document it all here.

Okay. So. Firstly. It costs a fortune. I was around £3,500 for a single corrective operation on a single eye. I managed to snag a zero-percent deal over three years, so it wasn't as financially painful as a I first thought.

Now. Perception is that you wander in, lie down, and 10 minutes later, you're fixed. Oh. No.

Firstly, they'll want to measure your eye's physical characteristics and operation. So we're talking two or three separate sessions of tests similar to that of a high-end optician. Lots of darkened room murmuring whilst things are shone or blown into your eyes. And since this place was 120 miles south of my house, involved 4-6 hours of travel each time. 

On the day of the operation itself, I was laid on a table, a suction cup applied around the outside of the eye, local applied and the surface of the cornea cut (from the bottom) so that it could be peeled up. You are of course fully awake at the time, and able to see bits and pieces of this. Then a large machine is wheeled over your eye, and 30-50 seconds of lights/lasers shone into it.

Now, this is the craziest thing i've ever done. The entire human survival mechanism is geared around protecting important parts of you - and your eyes rate highly on this. I had to lie on my arms to prevent me punching the poor surgeon. 

Then came 2-3 days of sore, dry eyes, eye patches, drops at 4 hourly intervals, and of course the inevitable 3-6 check-ups.

Whilst I was being done, I saw a poor lady who had both eyes done at the same time, and therefore couldnt see for a few days. I applaud her resolve, but have to ask - can anyone organise their life sufficiently well to have a week off everything?

After a couple of days, sight returned to the eye, and we found that part of my eye had developed little dots of scar tissue around the laser cuts. This is not uncommon - the chap mentioned around 5% of folks get this condition. However, it does push the lens out of shape.. And so I couldnt actually use my newly fixed right eye.

After many more consultations, they agreed to re-operate - but only after a significant amount of time had passed so that the eye could heal. And so six months of only seeing out of one eye.

Finally the day of the re-operation came, and I my eye was re-treaded yet again. And after 3-4 consultations, considered a success. 

The surgery is guaranteed for life - so I could theoretically have it done again if I chose.

Of course, time passes, and a couple of years later, I've now hit my mid-forties, when all humans traditionally lose their eyesight. The eye changes shape, and we all become long  sighted - that is, we have to hold things farther away in order to see them. When you 'run out of arm' reading the paper - well, its time to wear glasses again.

So here am I, four years on, wearing glasses again and wondering why I put myself through all that bother.

Dont get me wrong - Ultralase were very good at every step of the way, and I'd recommend them. But I'd ask the question - have I passed the mid-forties mark where my eyes have changed, and became stable enough to warrant laser treatment again?

A dummies guide to replacing a radiator.

A while ago when we upgraded the upstairs of our house, we tried various plumbers in the area. Some didn't appear, some appeared and caused devastation, etc. And so when Squids' office radiator stopped working, we though we had to do something quickly, and so we'd have to do it ourself.

We correctly guessed that the fundamental problem was that the thermostatic valve on the right of the radiator had frozen, and no amount of swearing or beating with a hammer would release it. Okay, I thought, lets get a replacement, and fit it ourselves. After all, how hard could it be?

So off I pop to the local DIY store. Its about 35 miles away, and huge, and I thought mistakenly, would have everything. So we returned with a new value, and various odds and sods to the tune of around £100.

We of course drained the system (3 hours), which involved buckets, towels, lots of manky water on the floor and SWMBO's constant advice and commands. A good time was had by all. Not.

(Most radiator systems have a handy wee 'drain me' tap which dumps the horrible water straight into the waste pipes and out of the house. Guess what my summer project will be next year?)

And when we compared the new value to the old, we suddenly found out that whilst all new radiators have 15mm fittings (that is are geared towards 15mm pipes), the old radiator was seriously old. Perhaps 15 years old, and had old Imperial fittings. Bums.

So back to the DIY store (and another 70 mile drive), to see if we can get alternative values. I found some to the back of an old dusty DIY store, and drove home, another £20 lighter in the pocket.

No. Wrong size.

So lets go and get a new radiator. BACK up to the DIY Store, and guess what - it was a non-standard size. NOTHING was even close, without digging up the floor. Not going to happen.

Rats. So lets just replace the radiator with a nice shiny modern one. 'Next Day Delivery' shouted the website, and £130 worse off, ordered it.

So 10 days later, I finally shout at them, and 14 days later, get the new radiator. Fine. Now. The problem them was finding 8mm microbore to 15mm fittings. Back to the DIY store. And found a very helpful man (a plumber himself) who worked there, and went to his van and gave me two new internal reduction fittings, as the store was out of them.

Great! Back home, drained the system AGAIN, lots of shouting AGAIN, and FINALLY - got the old faulty valve off, and mounted the new radiator. By this time, water was coming out of the old pipe (but not quickly) so I hacksawed off the old valve, fitted the new one and....

Yes. Since I'd shortened the pipe, the radiator had to be moved down the wall. And since more of the lack-of wallpaper was showing, the wall had to be fixed, and a radiator reflector attached, which meant ANOTHER trip to the DIY Store.

But hey, after all that, We got the damn thing up and fitted on Saturday night, and filled the system, and.... it leaked. Again.

AAAAIIIIEEEEEEEE.

So Sunday, BACK TO THE STORE to buy YET MORE dammed FITTINGS, and we find that hacksawing copper pipe isnt good, so you have to get a PIPE CUTTER, and I treated myself to a new big spanner to HIT THE DAMMED THING WITH, and we drained the SYSTEM yet AGAIN

And I got soaked when SWMBO decided to lift her end of a 3m long tray of stinking Eau de Radiator and a wave filled my trousers. Once she'd stopped laughing some 12 hours later, we then CHOPPED the end of the damned pipe, and re-cut it using the pipe cutter, fitted a NEW BLOODY VALVE, and put it all back together again, around 11pm last night.

And went to bed. So at 6am, I crept down the stairs, and inspected the dammed value, and it wasn't leaking.

THANK GOD.

So. At least 10 trips to the DIY store (700 miles), drained the system over 6 times (at 3 hours a time), new parts and radiator (£400) and TWO WHOLE WEEKENDS wasted.

GET ME THE NUMBER OF A BLOODY GOOD PLUMBER!

Postscript. The flash new designer radiator upstairs still doesn't work. I think we'll tackle that in the spring..

After the flood

On friday October 12th, 2012, the North Esk broke its banks.

Transient

This is the Gamekeepers/Fishermans hut on the North Esk. Its about 15 feet above the normal level of the river. And what you see there is that the road beside it has been removed by the water - about 3 feet of it.

I usually walk past the hut and admire the chains keeping it down, as well as the wee rock wall beside it, and think 'Naaa. It'll never get this high'.

But it did. Amazing. To give you an idea, this is what it looked like on Friday afternoon. The river was still 2-3 feet above its normal level.

Transient

Its a 12 foot drop to the river from where I was standing. And the water made it over the we hillock on the right - another 3 feet up.

Road Trip!

Last Thursday, October 11th October, I was heading from the office, on the train, to Gatwick airport. About 10 miles from the airport - the train stopped, and the driver announced that there had been an incident. All trains in the area were stopped.

This is code for 'there has been a fatality on the line. We need to switch the power off to prevent the poor sods collecting body parts from being electrocuted'. Some poor sod had died, and some more poor sods - our emergency services - had to risk life and limb to seal off the scene, and clear the mess. No-one was moving tonight.

So I sat on the train for a couple of hours in the dark, and hit the internet to see how I could get home. Over time, all flights out of Gatwick, and then all remaining flights out of London filled up. For lots of money, I could get home. So I quietly reserved a hire car and when we got to the airport, confirmed that Easyjet couldn't help. Over 2,000 people descended on the airport at once and caused chaos.

Whilst at the counter, I noted a poor lady next to me, desperately trying to get home to her daughter. So despite my disheveled state (I'd not shaved this week), I offered a lift to Edinburgh. Perhaps unwisely, she accepted.

So we headed out through the worst storm this year, 400 miles up the road. And it was horrible. Really horrible. Gridlock during the M25, followed by lots of water, all the way up. My nerves were shredded by the time we made it to Westmorland services on the M6 (around 2/3 of the way to Edinburgh), so we stopped for coffee and hot sarnies. Since she was preparing a presentation the next day, this involved lots of laptop and keynote action, mifi's burning merrily. Thats when we found out that Westmoreland kept their very nice and clean restaurant tables open overnight, and some had handy power sockets. Lifesavers. (No, really, they are the best services in the UK by far)

We got to Edinburgh around 3, and after some faffing around, I finally got home in my car around 6am. At around 9am, the river here burst it's banks - some parts were over 15 feet over its normal level, and two of the roads flooded.

Thank god I got home before the worst of the storm.

Sometimes, this 1,000 mile a week commute can be a real inconvenience. But it wasn't fatal, unlike some poor sod. So sometimes it's good to keep a little perspective.

The Pico Genie A100 Projector

My darling wife - She Who Must Be Obeyed - saved up and bought me a Pico Genie A100 projector for our wedding anniversary. She knows I'm a geek gadget fan, and when I unwrapped this on Friday - the 'Squeeee!' could be heard for miles.

Its an iphone 3/4 'sleeve'/case with a 15 lumens projector and battery pack. So its about 1cm thick, and lighter than the phone itself. It also has a battery pack and will charge the iPhone too, and claims to have 3 hours projection time. Pretty damn good. It only has one switch - one way for charge, and flick the other way for a few seconds to switch the projector on and off. Since the instructions only came in Chinese, we did spend a few minutes figuring it out. 

Tonight, in the pub, I demonstrated it to some mates by projecting some pictures on the roof (white). Randoms were walking up, demanding to know about it. And tonight, when I went to see Judge Dredd, I sat in a near empty cinema (30 minutes early) and projected onto the main screen (they hadnt started using it yet!) from about 20 meters away, and got a very watchable image that must have been 25 feet wide. (Its only a 15 lumen projector, but the Cinema was pretty dark, and they do have good screens).

At this point, you have to actually put it on something as even the steadiest hand will make the projected image bounce around like a jelly on a rollercoaster. Unsurprisingly. 

I then had to fight off the geeks wanting to play with it. Well, it was Judge Dredd after all. Geek central. My Geek ego swelled enormously. 

Impressive. Go get one here.

A quick Lotus Domino Webservices tip

If you have a reasonably complicated web service and you test it in the rather excellent SoapUI, and it never returns, despite completing the LotusScript code within your web service - check that the server can resolve its own network address.

Guess who just spent three hours beating his head against this, to find it was a simple misconfiguration in the server document - wrong IP address. D'oh!

No errors from LotusScript itself - it would just never return XML and you'd get some bizarre timeout effect from the consumer.