Winter 2020/21 round-up (or, "These boots were made for walking...")


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

These past few months brought quite a variety of projects. Client-focused work included updates to ongoing projects for Nokia, Macmillan Distribution Limited, and Wild Radish. Time was also spent working on a large phase of work we're due to launch later in the year for Another Read. Winter also brought the unexpected shoots of some greenfield development - our latest home-brew endeavour is a system that will allow small retailers to quickly and easily set up ongoing subscriptions for their customers. We're hoping to launch in the next couple of months, which is all very exciting! You can register interest here:

Apart from the projects above, this period marked an interesting work milestone - it's now been a year since returning to working from home full time. I've spoken before about the pros and cons, but one interesting angle is the effect it's had on my physical health. It's not like I was a huge slouch before, but there's no doubt that working from home has increased my capacity for exercise - as well as running a couple of times a week, I've been walking a lot more than before. This is best illustrated by this map of my walking routes since 17th September 2020, all of which were covid-lockdown-compliant, starting and finishing at my front door. Most of these walks were conducted during work lunch hours, with some of the longer treks taking place on days off. Yes, I track all of my running/walking/cycling with GPS - what did you expect!?!

What I've been reading

The Obelisk Gate, by N. K. Jemisin
Friday Black, by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

What I've been tweeting

Reading so many "Bitcoin is bad for the environment" stories lately, interesting to see just how mainstream this subject has become (closely related to the deluge of NFT stories doing the rounds this week):

I could watch this all day long - restored and enhanced video of China between 1910-1912, 4K 60Fps, colorized, stabilized, with sound:

I've worked with dual monitors for as long as I can remember, and still occasionally add a 3rd display depending on what I'm working on. But a 7 screen laptop might be a bit much, even for me:

I always wondered how online retailers like Amazon handle the tsunami of returns they must have to process. I had my suspicions after they told me not to bother returning a book I'd accidentally bought, but I had no idea so much of it ended up in landfill:

I was quite surprised to find out that the term "robot" is only 100 years old, I assumed it was much older (the general concept of human automata has certainly been around for millennia):

When GDPR first swept the web, bringing the swathe of cookie-warnings we now deal with on a daily basis, I was sceptical about how strongly the regulation would be enforced. Apparently there have been fines dished out totalling £245+ million since 2018:

Cloudy horror story: "We Burnt $72K testing Firebase + Cloud Run and almost went Bankrupt"
(Part 2 here:

This week found me installing a UPS in my home office. WFH just got real...

Oh my God - I can now edit source code using properly monospaced Comic Sans!?!
I know it's only the start of January, but 2021 is going to have to work very hard to top that :-)

One way to deal with the GDPR cookie warning problem:
"At GitHub ... we find cookie banners quite irritating, so we decided to look for a solution. After a brief search, we found one: just don’t use any non-essential cookies. Pretty simple, really."

Back when I worked in finance, I was ceaselessly gobsmacked by how much the City of London was held together by monolithic hacky Excel macros - glad to see that the language is still going strong!
"LAMBDA: Turn Excel formulas into custom functions":