Winter 2019/20 round-up


A round-up of tweets, links and other gubbins from the past few months (click here to read the previous instalment).

What I've been working on

After a fairly mundane update last time, this season at the office was positively brimming with interesting bits n' bobs.

The standout item being a major new project to migrate a large publisher website away from their existing enterprise CMS model, to a solution that will - at the risk of over-simplifying - combine a static site generator with a headless CMS. Data will be fed into the static site (built with Gatsby) from a variety of sources, mainly custom APIs and Kentico Kontent. Hosted on Netlify. Our team has varying degrees of experience with the different moving parts of this project, but it's fair to say that it isn't our usual tech stack. The main benefits will be improved performance, reduced hosting complexity/cost, and better reuse of content - much more flexible to have this data served by a headless API than locked into a more traditional CMS architecture. These benefits come with a cost, and I'm yet to be convinced that it will be an approach we will adopt on future projects. But it's good to shake things up now and then, and get a taste of what the cool-kids are drinking. Ask me again how it's going in 3 months time...

The other big work news of course is the disruption caused by the global coronavirus pandemic. Luckily we're already well set up for remote working, with well established full-time remote employees, and all the tools and process that entails. And I spent over a decade of my career working from home, so fingers crossed we should weather the storm (as long as the work keeps coming in). But I have nothing but sympathy for workers and businesses that aren't as well placed as we are, this will be a truly devastating time for so many people :-( Hopefully government financial support will help everyone get through.

What I've been reading

A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy

What I've been tweeting

How disheartening: New report finds that 98 per cent of traffic sent by internet-of-things (IoT) devices is unencrypted, and 83 per cent of medical imaging devices (in the US) run on unsupported operating systems...

CPU geek-out: could my USB phone charger fly me to the moon...?

Fancy a break from freaking out about the latest coronavirus? Enjoy a couple of minutes with this video from Alvaro Gracia Montoya of MetaBallStudios, and freak out about the colossal asteroids that might decimate the Earth in the not too distant future!

A dreary lunch hour in Cardiff Bay became a bit more exciting with the arrival of an RAF Puma combat helicopter, landing in the middle of Roald Dahl Plass!

One of my favourite lines from Iain M. Banks, who would have been 66 today:
"An Outside Context Problem was the sort of thing most civilisations encountered just once, and which they tended to encounter rather in the same way a sentence encountered a full stop."
— Excession, 1996

Interesting and very funny - artist Simon Weckert drags a wheelbarrow of smartphones slowly along a street to trick Google Maps into thinking he's in a traffic jam:
Illustrates just how much we rely on amalgamated data, and what happens when it is abused.