Filed in "clerical"

Five years of contracting

April 1st saw me celebrate five years of working as an in independent contractor. This also means I’ve now spent two years in London and it’s been four years since I last worked in Northern Ireland. It’s scary how fast time flies. Changes and not My second contract here required the use of a limited company so it meant finally waving goodbye to the simplicities of being a sole trader. I’d originally set up NullTheory Ltd for my very first contract but was advised to go down the sole-trader route so it had been lying dormant for some time.

Contracting in London

Since I last wrote about my experience working outside of Northern Ireland I’ve returned to the UK, turned down prospects of contract work in Belfast and have set up shop in London. Serendipity A good while back Rob and myself had discussed the possibility of London. He’d been working remotely with a company based here and due to changes in his circumstances leaving N. Ireland was a valid option. Lines of communication between the two of us dropped off for a while as a result of travel, work and such like and when I finally got caught up with him I discovered he’d already bitten the bullet and was moving over.

Two years of working away from home

I’m currently sitting in Melbourne enjoying the Australian summer and a well deserved break from work. I can barely remember the northern hemisphere winter I left behind a few weeks ago. I’ve only briefly mentioned working away from home before but January past marked two years since I last worked in Belfast. The pace has been hectic at times and I’ve spent more nights in hotels than I care to recall but from my first contract in Dublin to my last in the south of England I’ve found a consistant theme: being treated with more respect, working on more interesting problems and for higher pay.

6 months of Rehab

I find it hard to believe, but I crossed the 6 month milestone at Rehab this week. The time has went in quickly, with a fast-pace and quick turnaround times being the norm. The vibe in the office has been great, with a decent soundsystem pumping out dance music all day and my producer Gary, aka DJ Gary Quinn, dropping in a few choice chunes. The guys here have a real passion for the web and enjoy a good laugh, for instance, this week we had a challenge to wear a different hat each day.

Developer Rehab

My unemployment is over! Last week I started as a developer with Rehab Studio. Code on!

A developer again I am

Monday was my first day as a developer with Creative Online Media and I must say it’s great to be wearing my coding hat again. The culture-shock has been enormous: I’m not flooded with emails and phone calls all day, nor battling with bureaucracy and the people are really chilled-out. I don’t know myself! The adjustment period will end and no doubt I’ll be required to produce product but I think this gig has potential :)

Ticket to ride - a break from the rat-race in Fermanagh

I’m spending a few days down the country before I start my new my job catching up with my family, tinkering on some personal projects and just generally “getting my head showered.” I’m enjoying the break from the daily grind with my only real task being to steel myself for the upcoming change to my 9-5 existence. I find myself so resistant to change: my levels of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt seem to automatically soar at the prospect of anything out of the ordinary, but I’m presented with a great opportunity to sharpen my development skills within a lower-pressure environment.

Bye bye $BIG_COMPANY - Steve leaves the enterprise

I’m preparing myself for my last cycle home from $BIG_COMPANY. On the whole the experience has been, well, experience: neither good nor bad but worthwhile all the same. I do have gray hairs now though. Soon, process monitoring, environment management, receiving 700 emails a day and being on-call will be a distant memory. Along with my nemesis of the past 9.5 months, the Tibco TIC. And yes, before you ask, I have my name barrel in my pannier bag ;)

$BIG_CORP rides the snake - my first Python script

In between support tasks at $BIG_CORP I’ve been slowly reading through O’Reilly’s Learning Python and trying a few things out with the command-line interpreter. The first script I’ve written that actually does something useful is #!/usr/bin/env python countdown to 5pm 2008 SJW import datetime now = home = datetime.datetime(now.year, now.month,, 17, 0, 0, 0) total_secs = (home - now).seconds hours = total_secs / (60 * 60) minutes = (total_secs - (hours * 60 * 60)) / 60 print hours, " hours and “, minutes, " minutes until 5pm”

6 months at $BIG_CORP

I can hardly believe it, today I’m 6 calendar months into my position as Analyst Programmer at $BIG_CORP. How time has flown. More surprisingly, I almost seem to have grown accustomed to the stress of working with mission-critical systems and getting called-out in the wee hours of the night.

That's me that is

I couldn’t resist…


During my day job at $BIG_MONEY I’m behind a restrictive corporate firewall and as such can’t ssh to anywhere in the outside world. Which makes me sad. Step in AjaxTerm: What you are seeing is a screenshot of my screen session for a project I’m working on. Editing a Perl script with vi in my web browser, I love it!

Windows rage

A Windows 2000 workstation, the bloated Office 2003 suite, web-apps that only work with Internet Explorer…

Carving a niche

The past 4 weeks have been hectic: I’ve been overwhelmed with new information and I’ve developed a dependence on searching old emails, miscellaneous text files and word-of-mouth information. There is a plus side though: our team has a wiki. Free software to the rescue once again! The only problem is that a lot of relevant information is either missing, incomplete or of otherwise poor quality, so I found myself compulsively editing and I’ve set myself the challenge of improving the documentation of the various processes our team is associated with.


I started my new job as an Analyst Programmer with Citi today and so far I don’t have a login, my own machine or a permanent pass card and I’m not completely sure what exactly it is I’ll actually be doing but I have mastered the use of the coffee machine. It’s all good :)

New adventures in clerical progression

On my way out to work this morning I deposited a freshly signed and dated contract into the post. More details will be forthcoming :)

MacServ deployed

The initial version of my latest project, MacServ, has just been deployed. MacServ is intended to model the work-flow at Mac-Sys and to replace the existing paperwork. Deployment was scheduled for close-of-play yesterday and I thought I was home clear: I’d uploaded the scripts, configured the database and at a quick glance things appeared to be working. I was getting ready to leave the office and hit the gym only for one of the staff to discover that one of the apps controllers wasn’t operational…

New Workspace

Here a quick snap of my new workspace: You can see my MacBook and the second display with the site I’m current working on along with my lunch and ubiquitous coffee mug…

Now With Filter Coffee!

Coffee time came around this morning at 11am just like it always does, but when I got to the kitchen there was no sign of the usual paraphernalia. I was placed in a moral dilemma: do I selfishly get busy with the 1 mug french press or dive into the catering-sized drum of Nescafe Original Blend? Thankfully, before I had to make my mind up, the green light was given for the purchase of some new equipment, so Phil and myself picked up some funds from petty cash and hit the Argos around the corner.

UML For A Laugh

I’m just getting started in the development of my next application: a management system for the Agency’s various resources. The intention of this program is to allow members of staff to book laptops, projectors and so on and to see at a glance what is already booked, when for and by whom. Not since my days of 210CSC218 and the calamity that was my undergraduate dissertation have I done any serious planning or documentation for anything I’ve implemented to date, but for some reason the mood took me this morning and I found myself brushing up on UML and printing off a reference to remind me of the different symbols involved.

ClickOnce, yeah right

I’ve just committed vdaExtensions 1.1 to SVN: I had had enough of stressing out about minor aspects of the user interface and just went for it and published the application. Only to discover that ClickOnce wasn’t working on the target desktops, doh! The problem was with the assemblies for the ReportViewer class. I have SQL Server 2005 Express installed on my machine and so had no problems with the app getting access to the appropriate libraries at runtime, but it didn’t look like the .

WinForm Woes

I’ve been finishing off the next release of vdaExtensions seemingly forever and have had all the functionality sorted out for ages and without much in the way of trouble but I’ve been struggling with the user interface. The only contents of my main form are a MenuStrip and the meat of the app, a DataGridView. Throughout the use of the program the DataGridView can change dimensions: information can be added/changed/removed and I’ve also added the ability to show/hide the various columns of the control, with the constraint that at least one column must be visible at all times.

Secret Santa

It’s that time of the year again and is customary at the VDA we had our Secret Santa jollifications this morning. Once again, Paul proved himself man enough to fill the big guy’s boots and surprised us all by making his entrance with a guitar and serenading us with a rendition of Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody. Good show old chap! Next up was the main event: the distribution of gifts, yee ha!

In Pursuit Of vdaExtensions 1.1

The past fortnight has proved fruitful: each weekday I have risen early, went to the gym and spent the rest of the day at the office plugging away in Visual Studio. It’s been good to get back into developing vdaExtensions: it’s first incarnation was completed in August and I asked a few members of staff to try it out and Phil was the only one to give me feedback, I don’t know if anyone else even used it!

Ghan House

Early yesterday morning we were all bundled onto a bus and were delivered to Ghan House, down in Carlingford for a spot of staff team building. Turning up on time meant me getting out of bed earlier than usual, so from the get go I was less than enthusiastic about the whole affair, but I weighed in and did my bit regardless. We were split into 2 teams, with the objective being for each team to cook 3 courses of culinary delight.

My Brain Hurts

I’ve just finished hacking new features into a web-app my colleague Kev developed. Yep, I was deep into M$ country but as always nothing beats the sense of satisfaction that problem solving brings (for me anyways.) Any time I’ve went back over my own code I usually ask myself “what was I thinking of here?” so over the past few days I’ve felt pretty much like that what with stepping into some one else’s work and trying to understand what is being done, how it is being done and getting acclimatised with a foreign coding style.

Pink Is The Colour

I was reading a discussion on Lifehacker this morning about listening to music while studying, whcih mentioned an earlier post about pink noise. Between the guy on the radio and one of my coworkers I knew I had to take action or suffer the consequences. I felt a MacGyver moment coming on. One of the comments on the pink noise post led me to download a little app which generates a wave file containing 12 seconds of the stuff.

It's Alive!

I’ve just published the first release of a little application I wrote to manage the list of internal extension & direct dial numbers of staff here at the VDA. A few members of staff have been asked to give it a whirl and report back. Up until now it’s been the responsibility of one of the admin team to maintain a spreadsheet containing the info and distribute printed copies of it to everyone else.

I For One Welcome Our New Version 2 Overlords

Yesterday, my copy of Firefox updated itself (to version no less) and when it restarted I was reminded about the upcoming World Firefox Day. I’d read about this on Slashdot a while back and just forgot about it. I checked out the site and immediately thought of my colleage, Kevin. The $ORGANISATION’s a Microsoft shop through and through and Kev, like the bulk of the staff here, sticks to the web-browser that came bundled with the OS.

And There Are No Diamonds In The Mine

Oh the joy! The office has gotten in the coffee supplies again. Imagine my surprise when I opened the cupboard to discover row upon row of bags of the stuff. I’ve been reading through the archives of a blog I stumbled upon a while back and came across an entry about coffee which mentioned it’s procurement via the internet. I love my coffee and have been a heavy consumer of it for many years (especially since I got into recovery) and when choosing a bean I always go for the strongest available, avoiding the different “blends” or “styles” that most supermarkets offer.

Revolution Now

Up until a few hours ago we had a Symantec firewall appliance protecting the office network from script kiddies and the like, but unfortunately it was prone to crashing and required regular rebooting. As I was returning from my coffee break I passed Kev who was leaving the room to go reboot said device. I was in an impulsive mood and when Kev returned I offered to build a new firewall.

Where Old Code goes to Die

Well, I’ve started a million different projects and finished none, so in an effort to quell the sense of dis-ease I’ve went back to whatever seemed nearest to completion before I abandoned it… …which has meant getting stuck back into Classic ASP and MS-SQL, not nice for a Linux-fanboy-wannabie like myself ;) Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica has been providing much needed mental stimulation while I at least try to make some progress on this thing.

Let Them Eat Cake

I was chatting to Phil yesterday and we got to talking about the antics in the staff room at break time: 2:52 PM Philip: what you up to atm then? me: trying to transfer a site over from one hosting account to another… 2:53 PM pain in the ass Philip: i imagine so any more biscuit site updates? me: not yet… I was thinking of maybe a blog entry concerning middle-aged women and cake…