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Damon Hart-Davis

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Suitcase bulging with cash

This is how I set about making a fortune with my own startup

I'm not a brilliant businessman nor a star academic nor a rocking developer, but I'm reasonable at a couple of those things and currently have a well-paid contract in the City (i.e. banking) where I have spent most of the last 20 years in a variety of BigCos. So why would I give it all up to save the planet and have fun, and …
Screen of Damon's DDOS attach

I thought I was being DDOSed. Turns out I'm not that important...

Stuck at home with man-flu (well, a grotty man-cold) I noticed a couple of days ago that I could not send outgoing mail because my mail server was refusing connections. Even from me. On my small (SheevaPlug) system I set it up so that the machine never need swap or page and stays responsive, and it just rejects extra work if it …
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How NSA spooks spaffed my DAD'S DATA ALL OVER THE WEB

Shock, horror, scandal! America's NSA secretly took data from my website for its fiendish PRISM web-snooping project - and it ended up blasted all over the internet! Top-secret slides detailing the massive electronic surveillance programme were leaked last week by ex-CIA techie Edward Snowden. A close inspection of the …
Night scene of bank station in central london

What did the Lehman Brothers implosion look like to a techie?

I was at Lehman Brothers (AKA "Lehman's", or "The Brothers", spoken in a slightly menacing US-Italian accent) from January 1996 to June 2008, bar a three year gap in the middle for dotcom japes. I was an IT contractor/consultant with several groups in the Fixed Income division, including Credit, which dealt with the infamous …
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Debian, Ubuntu patching up rocky romance

The recent FOSDEM was great this year, and Belgium still had beer left before, during and after. Still lots of people, though with an extra building open – it was a little less crowded. There were over 400 sessions on themes from Mozilla, Java, cross-distro and embedded to Ada and law. There was lots of Debian at FOSDEM, and I …
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Tame the gas monster with sensors, suckers and a spiffy new fan

I'm pleased to say that what with the relatively warm 2011 and our conservation efforts we had the lowest consumption of electricity and gas at home of any year yet, a bit over 1,500kWh ('units') of electricity and under 4,000kWh of gas. (A typical UK household is nearer 3,300kWh 'leccy and 18,000kWh gas.) With our solar PV …
thermal2

When geeks turn Green: Performance tune your energy bills

A few years ago I suddenly saw my energy bills as another performance metric that I could tweak just like optimising Lehman Brothers' derivatives calculations that I was nominally paid squillions to do. In fact, this whole area is full of numbers and graphs and science and gadgets and interesting techie puzzles, never mind the …
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My home is bugged ... with temp sensors to save me cash

In the past, I've eulogised on the joy of metering and tuning my house, being money and carbon-neutral for gas and electricity at home, and my homegrown solar power. This time I scout out new tech, describe upgrading the insulation in my boy's bedroom with aerogel and how I'm monitoring its performance with spiffy iButtons, and …
cable

It's not the size of your pipe, it's the way you use it

In part 5, I tuned my site's home/entry page to load faster than Google's, in part because page-load time and general responsiveness are important to retaining users and those "sticky eyeballs". Now I want to make better use of my already-paid-for resources to handle assets that I didn't feel comfortable putting on a third-party …
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Adventures in Tech: Dive on in, the IPv6 is lovely

In the previous part I explored why you should limber up to IPv6 sooner rather than later, and now here's my experience actually walking the talk. Importantly, mine is not a big-bang approach. I'm not trying to have everything perfect for IPv6 immediately, but rather I want to do just enough to be visible in the brave new world …
graph up

Adventures in Tech: Taking the plunge into IPv6

The threat from the fast-dwindling supply of mainstream "IPv4" Internet addresses for new users is a bit like Y2K creeping up on us all over again. Almost no one can see beyond the cost of code review, systems change, hardware upgrades and general upheaval into the brave fairly-old world of IPv6 - but putting it off forever isn' …
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Beyond WAR: How I bitchslapped Google

In part 4 I had a quick peek at the performance of Rackspace's CDN and liked what I saw. Now I'm starting to use the CDN with my main site, but I discovered that I had plenty of other things to fix to make the CDN worthwhile and get my home page faster to load than Google's! Speed matters A fast-loading web page, especially the …
DVD it in many colours

AlertMe network power-meter kit: Suitable for techies?

Simply measuring and monitoring energy usage helps people conserve, and helps avoid unexpected high bills while 'leccy prices are rising as quickly as they are now. Consumption monitors save cash and the planet, which is why UK.gov is keen on getting smart meters in every home, although these are probably rather less polished …
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Speed is the essence of WAR

In part 3 I tested some different semi-cloudy solutions for mirrors of my site and I am in the process of replacing one dedicated WebVisions Linux machine with two virtual private system (VPS)es in separate AsiaPac countries, for less money in total. Ker-ching! Cloud files: public or private? But this still isn't really getting …
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Rackspace cloud prepared for WAR, but Google AE chokes

I'm moving mirrors of my busy-ish website from my hand-crafted dedicated colo solution into the cloud to try to get geographically closer to my global user-base, reduce latency and improve perceived performance, save money, and hopefully make administration easier. In part 2 of this series, I managed to get a minimal fairly " …
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Rackspace backtracks over toff-proof sign-up process

Rackspace has been forced into a hasty about-turn after it emerged that it was discriminating against aristocrats, power couples and other bigwigs with a sign-up and billing process that refused to recognise double-barrelled surnames. The policy put it totally at odds with a modern Britain that adores Royalty, and prefers its …
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Floating website, hidden 'get' bills

In my last piece, I took the first steps in moving part of my own homegrown website's "cloud" into Amazon's commodity AWS cloud, using the pretty front-end in Eclipse. That left me with some hope (it all worked quite well technically) and a few worries (I couldn't see how to avoid unlimited "ambush bills"). This time I tie up …
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I floated a site into the cloud, and it didn't rain down in chunks...

The "cloud" is still somewhat in its novelty phase as with virtualisation and (say) XML of yesteryear, when simply waving them at an application would magically make all your troubles drop away, like sessions on a crashing web server. All of these technologies do have their value, just not as panacea. For example, in the cloud …
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Oracle looks for love at Java DevJam

The Java* track at FOSDEM 2011 started off on the right foot by dealing with the state of the OpenJDK head on – both politically and technically – with a talk from Oracle's Mark Reinhold. There were quite a few speakers at Java DevJam and lots of Java tech over the two days, but this talk was needed to start to clear the air, …
channel

Devs gather for beer and burgers in Belgium

This was my first FOSDEM, in Brussels, and it was a goodie. The Free and Open source Software Developers' European Meeting (FOSDEM) was also free as in beer (OK, it was €3 for a beer token), easy to get to and neither outrageously expensive nor twee. Somewhere north of 6,000 attendees, 200+ hours of talks, and other "knowledge …
hands waving dollar bills in the air

The Meeks shall inherit the Office ...

Oracle. Hmm. Maybe not the favourite word in F/OSS right now ... Unlike Java/OpenJDK/etc – where Oracle has not (yet) dropped the ball – in the LibreOffice camp the cats have left the bags, coops have been vacated, and the code has forked right off ... Key Libre Office developer Michael Meeks' talk at Fosdem 2011 about prying …
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How I used Space Shuttle tech to insulate the living room

Now that the Space Shuttle is being decommissioned, what are we to do with all that lovely high-performance insulation that protects it from the heat of re-entry? Silica aerogel is an amazing material: a solid foam consisting of over 95 per cent air, about the least material and the most 'hole' per unit volume and thus the …
channel

How I built a zero energy cost, zero carbon home server

How do you make the electricity bill for your home computing disappear? I decided to try to find out. Historically computer kit had been responsible for about 90 per cent of our electricity bill at my home office for my ISP and consultancy business. I ran one of the UK’s first ISPs, and even in my new, smaller home, I was …
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Up for the count

I recorded the interiors, exteriors, and ballot boxes (etc) for about seven polling stations on Thursday; one further refused me permission to photograph out of caution, specifically in case the public would be upset by the photography. Fair enough: I'd certainly rather election officials err on the side of safety. As the polls …
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Voting the old way in the UK...on paper

There's an old saying that a true patriot, in receipt of a valid parking ticket, rejoices that the system works. And that's how I feel so far. I expected to have to fight uphill to be allowed to record part of the traditional paper ballot UK election/voting process in photos and video, but instead everyone has been helpful and …