The magic of middleware

The magic of middleware

My interest in IT was originally fired by the idea that technology would free us from the mundane tasks of life.
All the science fiction movies I watched as a child had robots at the forefront of manual labour, freeing man up to enjoy a life of leisure, sadly this has yet to manifest itself, but we are making progress. 

July 27, 2017 at 05:25PM
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Be a creator not a consumer

Be a creator not a consumer

It’s too easy to consume, too easy to spend minutes, hours, days hoovering up content looking for that spark, that perfect call to arms, that will never come.
The only true way to live is to create, I know this but I struggle to overcome the inertia, struggle to break out of the comfortable holding pattern that sees the days fly by and still I haven’t made my mark on the world.
Perhaps I never will, but if I don’t even try, there’s no chance. So here it is, attempt 254 at blogging, my little tilt at the windmill of contentment.
Just a small one this time but I am going to try and be more consistent, this time!

February 15, 2017 at 11:41AM

Karen, a very short story

“Karen…..Karen” He bangs the phone on the handrail on the seat in front of him, not so hard that it would further damage it but hopefully hard enough to rectify the audio problem. “Hello…can you hear me”, again the line line drops. He shakes his head and dials again, if only he could speak to her perhaps he could initiate a reconciliation, gain some forgiveness. “Karen….Karen, are you there”, again the line drops, perhaps she already knows everything and it’s too late and there will no opportunity to give his side of the story. He shakes his head again and once again bangs the phone, a little harder this time. The scratches and cracks on the screen suggests there could be damage, but it was fine earlier. He looks to the roof and ponders, is the phone broken or the relationship, he dials again…..

Boxer Mail App Review

Screen Shot 2013 12 11 at 15 08 37

I love apps and the opportunity to try a new one is always welcome and the next new app for me is Boxer.

I moved away from Mail on my iPhone as soon as I could as it always felt limited in operation.
The first app I tried was Mailbox which was a definite improvement but not the finished article in my opinion.
I downloaded Boxer a few days ago and I liked it instantly it integrates with Box, Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook, Linkedin and Sanebox (as opposed to Mailbox only having Dropbox support), as an avid user of Dropbox and Evernote this was a real plus point. Operation is intuitive and allows you to triage email by swiping left and right to either archive, delete or apply actions, add to a to do list. The range of options in the actions list is impressive with Like, send to Evernote, Delete and a set of quick replies amongst the choices allowing you to be very productive in dealing with email, all the swipe options are customisable. I especially like the quick responses which are also customisable so if there’s a particular reply you frequently use you can add it.

I hadn’t encountered Sanebox but it looks an interesting prospect claiming to be able to filter out spam and unwanted email which is all at your control, it’s certainly something I will be trying soon. I’m already a big fan of Boxer and can see it being my main mail app on my iPhone for some time, they only issue I’ve encountered so far is the when I use a bluetooth keyboard with Boxer the on screen keyboard drops away but the tool bar remains in the centre of the screen but I’m sure this will be resolved shortly.
If you are disenchanted with your current mail experience on the iPhone and are looking for a better alternative I would definitely recommend Boxer.

To hack or not to hack!

Hack = to distill a skill down to it’s essence to allow a much quicker adoption of said skill.

I’ve just started reading Tim Ferris book the four hour cook/chef and he is as ever advocating hacking a skill. I have divivded opinions on this, on the one hand I would hate the idea that hacking would make craftsmen obselete, in beautiful, lovingly hand made products you can feel the skill and love that has been poured into their creation and I’d hate to see products of this type dissapear. Part of the problem here is that hand crafted products can be seen as elitist aimed at a few wealthy individuals. Another issue is that marketers are more than happy to apply the labels of skill and craft to mass produced tat in order to encourage sales. Marketeers are also more than happy to hijack culture and pin it to their products, Dol Mio being a perfect example of selling the simple Italian lifestyle and attaching it to a product made in a Dutch factory.
The flip side of this is that hacking is becoming a necessity in the current job market where employers requirements are constantly changing and in order to remain employable the quick adoption of new skills is a must.
So clearly there is room for both, we all want artisan products in certain circumstances but also there is a requirement for some items to be cheap and mass produced, finding the right balance is going to be the challenge.


Last Wednesday I was among many eagerly awaiting the release of iOS 7 for my iPhone and iPad. Some of the details are just coming through now on what a massive impact this release had on the internet as the throngs of early adopters attempted to download the update, on top of the this the twittosphere was alive with the problems and delays being experienced along with with many facebook posts with a similar theme. I guess I was quite lucky I had my iphone updated within two hours of the launch but had to wait overnight to manage the same with my iPad which also required a reset???? to enable the upgrade which again was pretty painless.
I’ve read quite a lot of negativity toward the new OS but for me it was a massive improvement and I now see how much better it is to use without skeuomorphisms. The whole OS feels so much more intuitive, I know the app manager has been ‘borrowed’ from elsewhere but it works really well.
The polar opinion on this makes me think that sometimes changes like this make software fit in with the synergy of one persons workflows and and completely against others. I’ve heard a lot of people complain about battery drain but I haven’t experienced this at all, is this because the way I use my iPhone just fits better with the way the new OS is set up and perhaps the next iteration won’t and I will encounter more niggles which make the experience less enjoyable. I think a good analogy here would be Formula 1, where changes to tyre compounds have impacted hugely on the performance of different teams, Ferrari being the prime example, up until the change of compound they were very competetive but since the change they have struggled for pace whereas Sauber have benefited greatly from the new compound and have seen an improvement in their results.
So this time around its my turn to enjoy a smooth transition, but next time who knows.

Has the internet ruined our teenagers?

When I was a teenager one of my main media consumption activities took place on a Friday evening at nine o’clock when BBC radio Scotland would broadcast the top 40 music chart ( a whole forty eight hours before the Radio 1 equivalent ) and I would be ready with my cassette deck, finger hovering over the pause button ready to harvest my coming weeks listening. The tape would provide my opportunity to listen to the music I liked best. I had a ninety minute tape so had to curate carefully so that I got the important tracks I needed but also had to chance capturing some of the less well known tracks at the start of show whilst avoiding running out of tape before the big hits at the end of the show.

These days if my children want to listen to their favourite songs, they simply type it’s name into a browser and listen, it’s effortless. It’s the same with TV and film, it’s at our fingertips whenever we want. Don’t get me wrong, I love the easy access to music, movies, and news but I can’t help thinking that now that no effort is required in the quest for entertainment that it is at best dulling and at worst killing the sense of curiosity in our teenagers. I’m certain that if eating, drinking and and it’s associated waste products could de digitised to the same standard as entertainment my eldest son would never leave his bed!

So how best then to encourage our children to push their digital feeds away and develop a sense of wonder and curiosity for the world outside? We could have controlled digital blackouts but this just results in our offspring fleeing to the digital oasis offered by friends. At this moment in time I’m having the best results with just standing in front of the screen, blocking the view and offering a carefully balanced mix of threats and encouragement. This gradually seems to be bearing fruit. I’m sure I’ll return to this subject soon and provide an update.