Guest post: May Roundup at SYWP

Wordpress LogoAs any of you who follow me on twitter will know, I have become a proud member of the South Yorkshire WordPress community.

One Tuesday night a month, my twitter feed becomes an irritating and alienating place for my followers, with endless repetitions of #sywp, alongside jabbering about SSL, Custom Post Types and the many amorous moods of @mkjones.

Since we are trying to publicise the community, we are hoping to make the official SYWP blog a little more lived in. As a result, I just wrote a roundup of this month’s meeting. There’s a snippet below:

This month was attended by the usual bunch of marauding geeks, with free coffee prepared and waitered by the servant hearted Kimb Jones. This nearly made up for the disappointment of Jag Gill failing to provide cake…

Anyway, there were three main talks this month (aside from the usual debates on the command line vs GUI, and on whether iPads are pointless). As ever, you can read back through the twitter stream for #sywp, and imagine you were there too.

First up was Paul Marshall, talking about his company’s experiences using Buddypress…

Read the rest at

Join us at the next SYWP at the GIST Hub on the 2nd Tuesday of every month. More information on the community group site

Safety first

Think about all the documents, photos and other computer vitals you would lose if your hard drive died now. Wouldn’t that be a massive, massive pain in the bum?

Backup using Syncrify

In honour of World Backup Day, I am running a backup on my desktop – it’s been far too long – using my purpose built home file server and a sexy little program called “Syncrify“.

At some point, I hope to actually finish the tutorial I’ve written on setting up a home backup server. For now though, read Part One which details building the machine itself.

Until then, I thoroughly recommend you backup your own machine. Its easy to do, there’s many low tech options:

  • Copy your documents and images onto a portable hard drive.
  • Burn them onto a few DVDs.
  • Or, if they are less than 2Gig total, sign up to Dropbox, and put them there, accessible on all your computers.

Remember guys, it takes a few minutes each week/month/year (if you are as useless as me), but can save a world of heartache!

Introducing: What’s The Storey

Just finished building a new site, for the most talented guitarist I know – Dan Storey. Click the screenshot below to actually check out the site…

Had fun designing this, a pretty minimalist portfolio site, lots of lovely big photos of Dan looking awesome/moronic. Heads up to:

  • JPlayer: the HTML5 mp3 player (with Flash fallback).
  • Cicle: the (free) font for the navigation and titles.
  • Andy Colthart: the great photography (shot in my mate Dave‘s flat)

Anyway, check it out at, and if you need a guitarist/producer/dad joke teller, give Dan a shout.

The Journey to Joen

Katherine and Joen
Katherine and Joen (click for bigger pics)

Waiting for Joen to arrive was a pain. Actually having him arrive was also a pain (Katherine can attest to that). Luckily we had a huge amount of support, with about a hundred people following the blow-by-blow action on my twitter account.

Thank you to everyone at home following the feed, it really felt great to know so many people cared. Thanks as well to the supportive tweets from people we don’t even know – @pmphillips, @em_cooper and @HeidiSiena especially!

In the run up to Joen arriving, we’d been ready for about a month, every day thinking “this could be the one!” I usually get lifts with people to work, for environmental/financial reasons. After Christmas, however, we felt it was safest I drive, since the due date was the 17th, so I needed to be ready to scoot home when I got the call. In the end, I drove in every day for 4 weeks, each day getting at least one call from Katherine, that I answered with “IS THIS IT? ARE YOU…”, and she would interrupt and ask me if I wanted carrots for dinner.

Sunday night, when she was a week overdue, she had a bad lower abdominal pain, worse than any before. Excitedly, I grabbed my phone and set off the stopwatch, timing between the contractions. When I woke up the next morning, the stopwatch read “7 hours 37 minutes”. I went to work, slightly deflated.

Then, on Thursday, her waters broke. A bit. Maybe. Still, the midwife wanted her in, so I set off home. Or tried to. The friendly driver of a black BMW had parked behind me in the car park. And then disappeared off the face of the earth. After ringing every single room in our unit, to no avail, I got the car next to me to move out, and, borderline levitating my car, managed to escape out of the side. Of course, this was the only time this happened, during a month of parking in the same car park.

Anyway, we got back, went to the hospital, waited around for ages, and they told us… her waters hadn’t broken. We went home, and then, around midnight, Katherine had a contraction. By now I didn’t even believe her. This proved to be a wise decision, as although they kept her awake all night, they became less common and less painful throughout Friday.

Timing contractions on my phone
Timing contractions on my phone.

Just as we were settling down to watch Naked Gun on Friday evening, the contractions came back with a vengeance. Powerful, painful – it was clear that these were the real deal. I started timing them on my phone, and we called the midwife when they reached a rate of every 5 minutes. She came and examined Katherine, to tell her that she was not even 1 centimetre dilated.

The rest of the night was spent with Katherine moaning in pain, and me trying to find different places in the house to sit that wouldn’t hurt her. Two baths later (not to mention several trips to the bedroom and the nursery laden with fifteen pillows), her contractions were every 2 minutes, and we rang the Jessop Wing, who told us to come on in.

Kat, with a machine going PING!
Kat, with a machine going PING!

In we came, where they set up all kinds of machines that go “PING!”, and told us that both baby and momma were well, but that mummy’s cervix was only about 3cm dilated. At 10cm, birth can begin, and generally the rule of thumb is that it dilates a centimetre an hour. We were soon to take that thumb, and stamp on it again and again and again.

From 5am that morning, to 4pm that afternoon, Katherine went through a huge amount of pain, hundreds of drawn out contractions, and a moderate amount of despair at the task ahead of her.

Around 20 hours, Gas & Air much in use.
Around 20 hours, Gas & Air much in use.

At 4pm, she was assessed by the midwife again, which showed that all her work, all her sacrifices of blood and sweat over 11 hours had resulted in the cervix widening from 3 centimetres… to 4!

At this point, we became a little depressed. Neither of us had slept at all on Friday night, and Kat hadn’t slept since Wednesday night. Coupled with this, we still had a long way to go, down a road that was already proving exhausting to Katherine, and showing signs that it would be beyond her capacity to withstand pain. So then, reluctantly, we made a decision to go for an epidural. We were reluctant because epidurals have a few rare but serious side effects, and can make labour last longer.

A well earned rest.
A well earned rest.

The epidural went in at 8pm, after an anaethetist made 5 attempts to get a cannula in, and then gave up! Eventually a colleague got it in, bring Katherine’s total number on cannula attempts during labour to 9! The next 4 hours were pretty good. Katherine was suddenly pain free, and she got some desperately needed sleep, whilst her body carried on getting itself ready. As best it could.

At around midnight, Joen’s heartbeat started dropping, probably because his head was getting crushed by Katherine’s superhuman pelvic floor muscles. It recovered quickly, but it continued to happen, so it was decided that we needed to have this baby soon.

Joen's first skin on skin with Mummy.
Joen's first skin on skin with Mummy.

Another examination at 3am showed that the cervix had stubbornly stopped… at 9cm. By now, both myself and Katherine just wanted the baby out, and safe; so the decision for a caesarian section was a relief.

And that’s about it. 56 minutes later, after a mere 31 hours of labour, Joen James Lowry entered the world. Ain’t that just fabulous?

Wireframe me up

Just found an fun new webapp called Wirify. Basically, you save it to your bookmarks, load a page you would like to see in wireframe, and click the link. It then gives you a wireframed version of your site.

Sadly, it doesn’t get it quite right for most of my sites. It’s based on jquery, so there are a few issues in how it sees components placed. For example,

Still, its an excellent tool for getting a quick idea, and you can always copy it into Fireworks and add the missing bits. Here’s

Wireframe of Salt and Light Solutions

So there you go. Wireframes made easy. Check out wirify at

A program is worth a thousand…?

For the last week or so I’ve been following the #JS1K competition. Short for “Javascript 1 kilobyte”, the competition is to see who can create a fully functioning javascript app in 1024 bytes or less.

Its hard to explain to the non geeks why this competition is impressive. Imagine trying to make a working bicycle, spending only 50p. Or building a house, but you are only allowed 27 bricks and a door. Just 1000 bytes As a comparison, this little image on the right is 1000 bytes – but both the apps below have been made with the same amount of space!

Anyway, the results of the competition came out a couple of days ago, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that my favourite entry, “The Legend of the Bouncing Beholder” came first. I have placed it below, especially as I was intrigued to see if wordpress lets me embed javascript code:

[iframe 800 170]

Just click on it and use the cursor keys to move the bouncing character. It’s not the world’s best game, but absolutely incredible work for such a tight coding challenge. You can read all about how Marijn Haverbeke made it on his blog.

There are lots of other entries on the site – you can browse a huge list of them, but I will leave you with my second favourite: a fully automated living ecosystem:

[iframe 600 430]

Watch it for a bit, and you will see the plants multiplying and growing, then being eaten by the worms and growing again. Check out the explanation and source code on the site.

PS. I eventually managed to include the code within iframes, using the excellent Iframe Embedder plugin. Using this you simply use the code [ifra me 200 800] which will put in an iframe with a width of 200px and a height of 800px. Thanks to the guys in the forums for that one!