Husband, father, geek.

by Chris Pearson

© 2015–2016 Christopher Pearson, All rights reserved.

The decline of Stack Overflow

Source: The decline of Stack Overflow

I’ve been a member on Stack Overflow for over 6 years. In the early days it was a great site and full of helpful people trying to help.

More recently I find myself agreeing more and more with John. The feel of the site has lost what made it great in the early days, the oppressive feeling is very apparent and I now hesitate to participate.

I don’t claim to have an answer for these problems but maybe it’s time for The Next Big Thing™.


Developing for the fruit company

As I mentioned in a previous post I’ve been working on a voice changer app to use with the Storm Trooper armour kit I’ve ordered. Well last night the prospect of this becoming a reality came one step closer.

I registered as an Apple developer.

Now this may not sound like a big deal but it was a £79 expense, so not throw away money. Especially as I have no expectation of earning this back.

This is something I’ve wanted to be able to do for a while so it’s pretty exciting. Whilst this is never going to be good enough to justify a trip to WWDC maybe I might be able to look into future development opportunities like the Apple TV dev kits after this years’ conference.



I still have an "ancient" MacBook Pro

Source: Why the 2012 non-Retina MacBook Pro still sells

Despite the low-resolution screen, slow hard drives, very little RAM, and CPUs that were middling even in 2012, it’s an open secret among Apple employees that the “101” still sells surprisingly well — to a nearly tragic degree, given its age and mediocrity.

— Marco Arment (2016)

In the Apple tech press people have recently been rather mean about my laptop. Actually I have 2 as I got one for my wife too. The laptop in question is the old style 13” MacBook Pro pre retina.

I got both these laptops at the base spec in late 2012 early 2013 ish. I can’t remember what that means CPU wise but it shipped with 8GB of RAM, I think anyway, and a 500GB 5200rpm platter hard disk.

This has been my main machine ever since I got it, though mine has a 1TB 7200rpm hard disk and 16GB of Crucial RAM. The reality is once stuff has loaded, which yes does seem to take an age at times, it’s perfectly fine.

I use Abobe Lightroom a lot, the occasional bit of Photoshop and I am also teaching my self Swift which means using XCode. None of these choke up, die or are otherwise unusable. It just works, and pretty well generally. None are famous for being overly light work either.

Having monitored the system a bit recently for the most part I never hit the CPU that hard, it’s mostly disk I/O that’s my problem. Whilst I would love an SSD until I can find the money for a 1TB drive (which are still close to £300 for one worth having) I cannot upgrade. An external drive, which would allow for a smaller SSD, isn’t really a good option for how I use my laptop.

One day I am sure I will replace this with a more modern retina model but to make this worth the jump I’ll have to spend serious money that I just cannot justify when £300 will get my 80% of the way there. If it was to die tomorrow? There’s a strong chance I’d buy another the same and save a lot of money.


Joining the Plus club

I hate to say it but #mykewasright.

Ever since Apple announced the iPhone 6 Plus back in 2014 I’ve been saying it’s too big and I’d never buy one. But here I am with a 6S Plus and I love it.

Okay, this is old news now. The plus sized phone is 18 months old and now in to it’s S generation. But like many normal people I’m on a 24 month upgrade cycle and have only just managed to upgrade.

I’ll spare the world yet another review but offer this: try it, you might just like it. The battery life is great[^1] and the extra screen space works well in so many apps.

One more thing, I have always been a big fan of Apple’s leather cases and have them, in black, for both my 5S, iPad Air 2 and now my 6S Plus. On the older two the leather was soft and grippy out of the box. However on this new 6S Plus case the leather is harder and less grippy. My wife went with the silicone case and having tried hers I think I went with the wrong case. A £40 mistake that I will just have to live with for a while, Apple cases aren’t cheap.


A Long Time Ago...

Many years ago I used to work for a large theme park outside of London each summer. At the end of each season they would have a big black tie ball to say thank you to the staff and everyone would have a few drinks and a good time.

Each year there would be a theme and one always stands out to me. As we approached the park gates 4 figures that would be familiar to anyone were waiting to greet us. Darth Vader with 3 Storm Troopers stood guarding the gate.

At the time I knew little about this but in the years since, I’ve come to learn they would almost certainly been members of the 501st Legion, a costuming group dedicated to the dark side Star Wars characters. Ever since I discovered it’s existence I knew this was something I wanted to do.

The main things people are often surprised to learn is that the costumes worn by the legion are not bought or old props but fan made. So acquiring your own costume was an expensive and time consuming affair.

Until recently.

Enter Anovos. A replica prop company started by fans, who now have a few large franchises under their belt1 and have managed to get a Star Wars license.

In around May 2015 I became aware of a preorder at a huge discount on RRP if you were prepared to wait until winter for delivery. In June I had the funds and so preordered what had become a bucket list item. I ordered my first Storm Trooper armour.

I won’t see this armour until December so why am I writing about this now? Parts of this costume aren’t included. Over the last few months I’ve been sourcing the missing parts, boots, a blaster and started working on a voice changing app for my iPhone so I even sound the part.

All of this is stuff I want to write about so I am writing this as an introduction to my journey to become a member of the 501st legion.

  1. The biggest two being Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica. Both of which seem to have been well received by the costuming community, though famously delivered late. It also looks like they will soon be offering a Ghost Busters line, proton pack anyone?


The one about watches

I’ve had my watch for a long time. I can’t remember exactly when I got it but it was bought using money I was given by my grandmother, I’d estimate I’ve had it about 12 years. It’s made by the respected Swiss brand Tissot and I’ve worn it more or less every day since I bought it.

But in April 2014 Apple changed everything. Watching the announcement of Apple Watch my interest was piqued. Something I’ve not been able to shake since.

We are now 6 months after its release and I find my self rationalising a purchase at least once a week. Occasionally I handle one in my local Apple Store and twirl the Digital Crown or try a force touch.

I listen to a lot of Apple centric podcasts (ATP, Connected, Analog(ue), The Talk Show) where they talk about the watch on a reasonably regular basis. Whilst they all love their Apple Watch in varying amounts, none of them seem to make the case that this is a must have device like the smartphone has become.

The problem seems to boil down to the 3rd party apps aren’t really very good which reduces the watch to a glorified fitness band with notifications. Whilst the consensus seems to be that the notifications and fitness is great I’m not 100% sold that they are going to change my life.

##The dilemma of choice Ultimately this comes down to a choice. Do I get an Apple Watch or do I stay with my Tissot, or another analogue watch for that matter. The choice is further complicated by the fact there is no one Apple Watch to pick from. In an ideal world I’d be picking up a stainless steel Apple Watch with the link bracelet tomorrow. However costing more than an 13” MacBook Air1 I cannot in any good conscience buy one.

This leaves the sport, and I don’t think that is the watch I want.

  1. As of writing the 11” MacBook Air starts at £749, the 13” starts at £849. The Apple Watch of choice is a 42mm stainless steel with the link bracket at £859.


Sorry Casey, I bottled it...

It started with a brief twitter conversation about writing a blog and developing in the newest hip language that the cooler kids where using. Node.js if you’re interested, I can tell you are. After a brief exchange I resolved to write my own blog engine.

It was called Hex and it even rendered out posts. Then I had to index the posts from disk and decided to try object oriented JavaScript which is when it all went wrong, this I hate you. Combine this with my then 12 month old twins discovering how their legs worked and the project was canned.

Fast forward 5 months and I am ready to give things a second go. However as the title suggests I bottled it. Rather than home rolling my own engine I’ve used Yekyll. I went with this option as it’s simple but I remain in control. It also allows me to use Github Pages as my host for free and so saves me £3 a month. Maybe I’ll finally get backblaze with the money.

So here we are, I’ve done it. Maybe people will read this, maybe they won’t. I’ll never know as I’ve not added analytics to this page. This is about the journey.