Tom's Blog

Thoughts, stories and ideas.

This was a short building project. Partly because I had more big heavy cast iron tools than could fit in my shed and partly because my folks had been talking about having somewhere outside to dry cloths for a long time.

Finished Lean-to

What went well

I scoped the whole project first. Costed it within 5% which is bang on as far as I'm concerned. Builders merchants apply discounts when you buy a lot of materials which helped offset unexpected costs. Finished it in the time that I'd scoped. Which was two days, actually it ended up being two half weekend days and a couple of long week nights. Looks good and is really strong.

What I would do differently

I didn't overlap the sheets enough. The coverage figures expect a two corrugation overlap rather than the single which meant I had an extra sheet but given I broke one it worked out ok.

There has to be a faster way to apply the sheeting, even with two drill it still felt slow.
1. Drill through sheets while holding in correct position
2. Position plastic stand-off. Really fiddly
3. Put screw in
4. Repeat 12 times per sheet

Over-engineered for the context, it's really strong but actually I could have used the metric equivalent of 2x4s instead of 2x6s.

Sloping the guttering more, there was more than enough space to do this and there's no down side to having larger drop over a given distance. The given distances and drops are a minimum rather than an optimum.


This is a blog hosted using an ElasticHosts container which is a dynamic scaling virtual machine that bills on the clock tick.


It uses Ghost, which I prefer over Wordpress because of its architecture. It uses JavaScript to dynamically create pages which are then cashed as static html and doesn't rely on a huge and complex SQL backend. If you've ever tried to restore a corrupted/hacked SQL DB, you'll understand why this is good, for a blog which is essentially static content. It uses Markdown which is much lighter than LaTeX or HTML.


I've had a couple of blogs but they've all been hacked! I made sure to change the default SSH port and to also make sure all ports that weren't needed were closed. Once I'd configured it, I tested it using Nmap which basically batters the ports on a server and checks if anything is responding. When I checked I had to set a flag because Nmap didn't think a server was there, if you find something otherwise let me know please ; ).


I've also written a short script which backs up everything on the Blog. Ideally this would be run as a Cron job on a remote server but currently I just run it whenever I have written a few posts which saves paying to two servers.


The theme I am using is based on Breathe which is quite minimal but isn't Futura or another really common font/theme. The only issue is that I've had a some problems with the CSS being written in a brittle way.

I sometimes wonder about why when the internet (HTML) had been created to allow user to apply their own styles and enable screen readers etc... everything went away from that. Obviously it's branding and presentation but what I'm curious about is why the tools and ability to apply brand and style were butchered e.g. Flash rather than integrate with the designed systems.

I was involved with a group called the Curiosity Collective in Ipswich that I found through trying to setup a Hackspace there. An amazing group of people who were bright, welcoming, really interesting, and a high point of my time there.

The concept behind this was Together Apart. I wanted to create a physical animated version of an exploded diagram.
Video player exploded diagram

Day 1

Time lapse build video.

Day 2

Time lapse build video.

There were quite a few moments through this project that I found problems and felt that I should have picked them up earlier. For example, of-course if you have motion you need feedback to know when something is at the top or bottom of the motion.

The exhibition was really great and I enjoyed the experience. I met Tim Hunkin who is a personal hero of mine, and we took a group photo using Cibachrome which is a postive reproduction film which will never be produced again. Due to the rise of a digital and the physical difficulty and cost in producing it.

Spotify, Netflix and many other places give the illusion of endless choice.

My impression is it mirrors the development of TV and other media.

In the UK we used to have one channel, BBC; people would meet at their friends house to watch David Attenborough bring Lions and Tigers from London Zoo to perform in Alexandra Palace!

We now have hundreds of channels but it seems like there is nothing to watch. At the start there was no choice, and everything was ground breaking. The problem is, people who are breaking new ground aren't on broadcast television. They're streaming on the internet, where you can take risks. On a side note this was also true in the development of film see Pre-Code Hollywood.

Netflix pretends to address this but is still very risk adverse. It's not taking more risks, just using better data on what is popular.

YouTube and Vimeo, give almost complete freedom to create and see if people will come. YouTube provides a small, and easy to tap income for content creators, and censors. From a design and tech perspective Vimeo is a better service, but it lacks an easy route to cash. I see LiveLeak as a very valuable, if astringent entity within video sharing.

Tom Scott has spoken about how YouTube imperfectly implements Copyright, but how Youtube does it better than anyone else. Much more eloquently and concisely than I could. It all stems from tech evolving faster than legislature.

Spotify provides the illusion of all music at your fingertips, but if you want to see cool new music it's Mixcloud for the new radio shows, and SoundClound who are sharing the new demo tapes.

In conclusion. If it's all free, you are the product. But more importantly, the interesting, scary, fun, original stuff is always happening at the fringes. Look for the weird, offensive, unpopular, and poor because, they might just be changing the world.

This is a playlist of music that I listen to when I'm feeling melancholic.

For a long time I would call these playlists "untitled playlist" or more prophetic "It will have a name".

I like the name "Melancholy" because it embodies a wistfulness for dreams and ideas. It's almost a regret for dreams that may not be fulfilled, at the edge of a song you know but can't remember, in place you know but haven't been.

I'm not always in the mood for it, but when I am it's the best playlist I've made.