The Server

This is the blog that I kept during tt382


The course site is up and running and I’ve finally achieved my ambition of being the first to post in the cafe!

No study guides as yet but I await their arrival with interest; not only is David D on a pint if they’re sub-prime but by all accounts this course is a strange one. Strange might suit me. But as I’ve said before—I ain’t that type of geek; the technical aspects of computing don’t really interest me. We’ll see. For the moment tt381 is still not finished.


The first three study guides are out, as is the first CMA. David D. found a broken link but we agreed that this didn’t count as an error, so no pint for the bold Lochinvar yet.

I read through the guides, very interesting. Actually more than interesting—fascinating. I’d a vague idea about how servers, networks, transmission protocols etc. worked but it was only what I’d gleaned in passing when I’d been studying something else. For the first time since tt281 I’m immediately interested in the course; usually it takes me a couple of weeks to get going.

So I’m working?

Em, no.

After the stress of tt381 I decided to de-kink with a little Javascript. To test the Sparkl stuff I’m building various bits and pieces that I’d never build in real life. Not only am I having fun but I’m finding it useful. I’ve already added quite a lot of new stuff to the Sparkl core, stuff that I’ve never needed before but which others may want. Watch this space…

The end is nigh

If I don’t fail either this course or tt381, this is my last course in the tts. I can’t believe that I’ve been doing the tts since October 2006. It seems a long time in some respects and just yesterday in others. Ain’t time funny?

Soon decisions have to be made about this both site and my future OU studies. I’m putting off these decisions for the moment but two things are settled—I will be continuing both my OU studies and this site.

So other OU students will have to suffer me and the two people who read this drivel should not worry.

But it may be time…

To build a personal site, and by personal I mean professional. But the sad fact is that almost two years of study haven’t equipped me with the ability to chose a web host or register a domain name.

I comfort myself with the fact that I know I’m a n00b.


Very quiet

The course has been very quiet so far. This may be because of the course content itself—it’s quite a sea change from the other tts; but I think that it’s more likely that we’re all suffering from post tt381 hangovers. There’s only a very short interval between the second and third courses of the yearly tt cycle and it’s hard getting back up-to-speed after ECA deadline hell.

Personally I’ve been getting carried away with some Sparkl stuff instead of working. But soon I’m going to have to get down to it, I don’t know much about the server at all.

So that’s what I’m going to do now instead of wasting your time here.


Still quiet

Well things have picked up a wee bit but there’s still not much posting being done.

Personally I’ve been doing some work but I’ve not been getting right down to it. Some work would mean that I’ve printed off the study guides and installed Apache. However the first CMA is due in about a week or so and I usually find that this gets me going. Which is of course what they’re for.

One thing I do know—this course is seriously different from the others—I’m having trouble grokking it. At heart I’m a script-kiddie; some people do crosswords, I write scripts. Which got me thinking…

What kind of people do the certificate?

I’m not going to whip out the ol tag just yet, the group is too diverse. I guess they fall into four main groups: [So I am going to use the tag.]

  1. Those who, from no fault of their own, found themselves in charge of a web site and did tt280 to learn how to do it properly. Having done tt280 they developed a taste for the courses and carried on.
  2. Those who had done a bit of scripting, programming, web stuff etc. but had done it in a dilettante fashion until finally deciding that they needed to learn how to do things properly. I belong in this group.
  3. Proper programmers who want to flesh out their CV.
  4. Tech heads whose natural home is the Linux command line and love all things computer—yes David D. I mean you.

My guess is that groups 3 and 4 are going to be OK with this course and that, with the odd exception, groups 1 and 2 are going to struggle. If only because of the unfamiliarity of the subject matter.

Some totally unreliable demographics

My guess is that 90% of those taking the courses are between 40 and 60 and live in the United Kingdom. But that is a guess and almost certainly an unreliable one. My main evidence is the general chocolate fixation and the high-level knowledge of confectionery history on display.

Which leads me to…

The why?

Some people obviously want to get a career out of it but I think they are a minority. I think that for most of us it’s fun. Strange but true.

And speaking of fun I’m off to play around with Apache. Delving into the httpd.conf file and using the command prompt. Fun indeed.



Has arrived.

The most important thing is that we are no longer working for the dreaded A & B. We are now required to report to Original Outdoors Ltd. who manufacture tents, boots et al for loonies who enjoy the wide world rather than the WWW. Strangely I’m rather disappointed by the change, I hated A & B with the best of them but I’d hoped to go the whole way with them.

But putting trivia aside, what is it like? I’ve never actually liked the look of any ECA on first sight and I distinctly didn’t like the tt380 and tt381 ECAs, but this one looks like being a beast.

It’s all report, I knew that, but the level and breadth of detail that is required looks to be way too much for the word count. And a wee bit complicated to boot.

I’m hoping that a combination of the ECA being issued so early [it’s still week three] and the fact that there are areas that we haven’t covered yet are making it look scarier than it really is.

On a personal note

I’ve been struggling to cope with a dreadful cold all week, one that’s left me feeling like I’ve just clambered out of a two-cycle spin tub. This left me feeling so low last Monday that I decided put aside work and just zonk for a while. Interestingly this allowed me to have a proper think about what I was doing with my time—usually my head’s busy plotting work, web and course stuff or I’m drunk. I put my [mental] finger on the problem:

I’m constantly busy but I never seem to get much done.

Something about these courses must be sinking in, well either that or I’m becoming a bit [more] strange, but having defined the problem it was easy to analyse it in computing terms:

  • Like an overworked processor I’m doing too much context switching.
  • I’m not writing proper specifications—I charge into things without thinking what’s required and how long its likely to take.
  • I’m allowing scope creep—both myself and others are allowed to add to a task while I’m working on it.
  • Because I give myself unreasonable deadlines I produce sub-standard, rushed work that I later have to fix.

All of the above are fixable. I won’t bore you with any details but I spent the entire day Tuesday clearing up a number of outstanding issues at work; without going on the computer or allowing the “people” that I work with to interfere by adding little jobs. I also wrote down what I wanted to achieve and the order that I was going to do it in—normally this kind of thing lives between my ears.

Assuming that some rather strange global booleans exist we can put it thusly:

var result = (function(){ if(whole_load_of_work_done && all_jobs_done && colleagues_disabused_of_the_notion_that_they_can_leave_ things_to_the_last_minute_and_have_me_jump-to-it && minions_hate_me_because_they_had_to_do_a _proper_days_work_for_a_change){ alert('RESULT!'); } else{ alert('bummer'); } })(); //alerts RESULT!

Today’s tasks were this blog and the first CMA. So now that I’ve finished this I’m off to finish the CMA—which by rights should have been completed first so there are still teething problems!



Those of you who followed my tt381 blog will know that I struggled with this [and thanks for all the offers of help by the way]. Well circumstances: a pale-skinned minion, who should only be up at night, sat in the sun and burned himself to bruisedness and my command prompt not allowing me access to the C:\ drive, lead me to mess around with this again. [I won’t go into details about the C:\ drive problem—it’s moronic.]

Surprisingly I managed to create [and destroy] several repositories, get stuff in and out of them, diddle with the folder structure and get rid of the crud. I was so happy—I’m a proper geek.

Until I realized that two computers, two memory sticks and a slap-dash attitude have left my files in the same state as my sock drawer—full of pants. I want my stuff to be versioned, but it’s going to take a real effort to do so.

But the effort has to be made — the pain of losing, mucking and ------- up stuff has become too severe. I need version control. In the end there are a number of programmers in my head—they need discipline.


Well by the end of this week there will be a major Sparkl update [em, how does that square with your last post neil?] it isn’t all that I would want but it is ready. And then that’s it—I’m off to version my stuff and, hopefully, pass this course.


First CMA

Leaving aside the absolute hash I made of this there were a couple of interesting points:

  • There are 94 of us this time.
  • Nearly half of us landed in the 70—84% range.

Taking the second point first: Now, I may be wrong, but my feeling is that normally marks are split ½ and ½ between the 70-84 and the 85-100 ranges. Give or take a few strays.

So is this course actually harder? Or are we getting sloppy?

In my case it was sloppy. I answered several questions without much consideration, result — nil pwan.

Ah, so few…

There has been some discussion in the cafe as to how many people are currently doing this course, and how many of us have done the entire series one at a time and in the correct order starting in October 2006.

My guess was fifteen originals and Tony N’s guess was that forty were doing the course; both of us seem to have erred on the conservative side. But when you compare the 94 doing this course to the 800+ who did the October 2006 presentation of tt280 you can see that there’s a savage winnowing process going on.

Actually a better comparison would be the 400+ that did the February 2007 presentation of tt281; I suspect that a lot of people take tt280 as an intentional one-off. tt281 is perhaps the watershed course: if you carry on after that you’re probably going to do all the courses at some point in the future.

Are the few enjoying the course?

A few of the few, including me, are. But my feeling is that most of the people doing the course are at bottom more interested in building web sites rather than plumbing the intricacies of the server. For them this course can’t be that enthralling, all they want is to get this one out of the way and get their certificate.

But if there’s one thing that I’ve learnt about these courses is that often stuff that you’d thought boring and un-important at the time later turns out to be both useful and interesting.

What am I doing?

Well having got [most of] my Sparkl stuff done and got this and the school sites into a subversion repository I’m now ready to get down to some proper course work. Which is why I’m messing around with this blog—task avoidance.

But it’s now time to open the command-prompt and start messing with apache, after a trip to the cafe of course.


Not getting it

Things are picking up slightly in the course forums but things are still pretty quiet. I suspect that a lot of people are in the same position as me—slightly at sea. I can’t put my finger on why this is; the study guides are good, the CMAs have been fair, the mods [especially Mike P.] have been helpful, the subject matter is interesting and none of the concepts are that hard. So why am I having difficulty?

Partly, of course, this is my own fault. I don’t think I’ve ever really done a study-guide activity fully on any of these courses, and I certainly haven’t posted my findings to the forums. I like to learn by actually doing stuff. Which was fine for previous courses where there was a large scripting component—I could build stuff. Typically the ECA topics took up two to four study guides, which were generally introduced in the first weeks. So reading and re-reading the study guides, doing the CMAs and doing a bit of thinking/reading about the subject meant that by week ten, when I sat down to write the ECA report, I had a fair idea of what was going on. Which isn’t going to be the case this time.

As a for instance I spent the morning trying to do the second CMA, which involved spending a lot of time on apache documentation site. After a while I began to get a better idea of what was going on with the .conf file. Which I should have got from messing about with it directly by doing the activities.

So, this course?

In a strange way this course reminds me of tt280, where we were introduced to a whole load of topics [accessibility, usability, site structure, scalability et al] that interested, and continue to interest, me. But in that case I had an immediate opportunity to use my new found knowledge. On this course, while I find, say, networking interesting, I’m not (unless something really odd happens) going to ever get the chance to do it for real. So the incentive to delve deeply isn’t there.

Reading material

But it could be down to pure laziness—I’ve not being doing anything like the reading that I’ve done for other courses. In my defense I will say that it’s hard to find anything to read.

I acquired a feed-reader at almost exactly the time I started the tts—way back in October 2006. And for every course it has grown, a quick check shows that I subscribe to over a hundred feeds covering all areas of web design from accessibility to XML. But so far not one course-relevant feed has been added this time. I haven’t found one blog, not a one, that isn’t either platform/application specific or way too technical.

Anyway enough whinging back to the CMA.


A dilemma

Should I start the ECA? There are arguments on both sides:


  • This course isn’t coming together for me. I understand most of the concepts individually but I can’t make sense of them as a piece. Starting the ECA might help me to bring it all together.
  • If I start now there’s going to be less chance of a rushed last-minute botch job.


  • Not all the study guides are out yet; so I don’t have an overall picture of what I’m trying to achieve.

Leaving aside the last-minute botch job what I’m really asking is should I start the ECA in an attempt to understand this course? Or should I try to understand before I start the ECA?

This is the same problem we face every time that we start developing anything from a single web page all the way up to a bespoke feed reader: should we start small and add as we go along, or should we plan carefully, write a detailed specification and do the job right?

The obvious answer is that we should plan carefully etc. etc., but is it always the right one? I think that the answer may well depend on a number of factors:

  1. The size of the project.
  2. The price of failure.
  3. Are we getting paid?
  4. Who are we doing this for?
  5. Why are we doing it?

Now previously on this blog I talked about my problems with time/work management and I resolved to solve them by proper planning and better organization. But in that case we could answer the questions above thusly:

  1. Large.
  2. My livelihood.
  3. Yes.
  4. The people I work for.
  5. I get paid.

OK, I wasn’t solely taking about managing my work life; it was about course work and other stuff too. But in essence the problems were work related. So it made sense to take the proper approach. But with the ECA there are a different set of answers:

  1. We’ll say medium.
  2. I’d have to resit the course. Well I’m not too worried about actually failing—that’s unlikely.
  3. No.
  4. Me.
  5. Well according to my student profile—“mainly for personal development”.

Which puts the ECA in another category altogether. If there’s one thing I took from tt381 is that a lot of major open source projects started with a single programmer building something quite small to do something that they wanted. It just grew huge.


I think I’ll read the ECA booklet again.

But what’s really stopping me from starting isn’t some moral dilemma—it’s that I don’t fancy it much.


Analog proves its worth

I’d noticed that this site was producing a lot of 404 errors but I never knew what was causing them and tracking them down looked like hard work. Then along came this course and Analog. So I put the beast through its paces on the logs of my development server [that’s a pretentious way of saying localhost]—very useful. I quickly found that the 404s were being caused by requests for favicon.ico and a stylesheet: javascript.css.

Well favicon.ico was easy to fix, neil.ico got saved as. javascript.css was a little trickier, I couldn’t see where I was linking to it. I finally tracked it down to a file called js.js which was doing a document.write to link in javascript.css. So I learnt two things:

  • Analog is a very useful tool.
  • I’m an idiot. [Well I knew this but it never hurts to be reminded]


David may go thirsty…

Well the last study guide is out and still no errors found; it looks as if David owes Andres a pint. As, self-appointed, arbitrator of the contest (sounds a wee bit less squalid than bet) I’m going to insist that this is an actual pint—no photographs. Which may cause a logistical problem, is there an interpint scheme that operates like interflora?

I wrote that last sentence and then thought…perhaps? Well it turns out that others have had the idea but I can’t find any working examples. At this point I should have left it, but I got interested. The domain is registered and so is, but there doesn’t seem to be any actual sites, and the .com domains are free.

If a were a dashing young web entrepreneur I’d snap up the domains and pop down the road to the Caledonian Brewery and get them on board.

But all I can see are problems:

  • As you can see their site is rubbish, I’m not sure that they are suitable partners for a web standardista like me. Besides they didn’t even bother to reply to my suggestion that they make a premium beer called ‘Moat and Shandon’, which is an obvious winner. [Moat and Shandon are areas of Edinburgh adjacent to the brewery].
  • There is something disturbingly A & B Pots and Pans about the whole scenario—The Caledonian Brewery Company with their somewhat successful website now want to sell their beers online…. This has never turned out well in the past.

No, if I’m going to do it I’d have to go it alone.

That would mean raising money, which no sane bank would lend me; can I picture myself being mocked by Duncan Bannatyne on The Dragons’ Den? No.

And let’s consider how it might turn out:

  • Best case: the site is a dud I lose my dosh but keep my web-dignity.
  • Worst case: I achieve twitter-like success and my poorly considered application architecture, botched TCA and shoddy testing cause the site to crumble under the strain. Result: loss of money and I’m pilloried in the press. I’d have to slink back to normal life a national metaphor for failure — to do an Anderson.

I think that I’ll just leave it—David can send Andres a postal order.



My regular reader—that would be me, will have noticed some typography changes have been made to this site recently, rest assured that these may not be permanent. Let’s say that I’m playing around with some ideas and that I’m planning an article. [Don’t worry I’ll be linking to proper sites, this won’t [all] be my half-baked ideas.


Testing, testing

I’ve spent the morning, and early afternoon, playing around with JMeter. It’s an interesting piece of kit and even after such a brief foray into using it, I think a useful one; if only I could figure out how to interpret the results.

But, potentially, I can do something I’ve always wanted to be able to do—optimize a PHP [or ASP or whatever] script. There are so many different ways that you can write a PHP script to do exactly the same thing, it would be nice to know which way was the most efficient. The ability to actually test various different methods is great.

The whole subject of testing is of interest. Up until now I’ve always been a bit slapdash about this, well I [try to] test carefully, but never to a plan. This may have to change. At present I’m in the happy position with this and the school site of being on hand to clear up my botch jobs, this wouldn’t be the case if I was building web sites for other people. If my customers have to constantly request bug-fixes I’ll get a reputation jerry-built shoddiness, not good for sales.

At the very least I need a checklist of tests to make.

Is this course worth doing?

There was a thread in the cafe in which several people stated that they were only doing this course to get their certificate. My immediate response was that it’s always going to be useful to have a working knowledge of the platform you’re working on. But having given the matter some thought I think that it’s more than that.

There’s a lot on this course that’s got me thinking, it may not be until long after the course that it all sinks in [this has happened with the other tts], but at least the course has got me thinking about things like a test plan that I would not otherwise have considered.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—the tts need to be considered as a whole; there’s something in every course that will make you a better web developer.

Nearly there

We’re past the half way mark of the last tt now, so I’m beginning to think about three things:

  1. What I’m going to do, OU wise, when it’s all over.
  2. The thoughtful review that I’m going write here about the certificate as a whole.
  3. What I’m going to do with this site.

But mostly I’m thinking about the first web application that I’m going to build having completed the certificate. This time I’m going to do it properly, from the initial planning to the final sign-off calling at all stops from wireframes to test suite. I’ve decided that the school site’s calendar would be a good place to start. Another piece of fragile rubbish coming up methinks.

But that’s for the future, for now it’s back to trying to make sense of what JMeter is telling me.


TT381 results are out!

And somewhat early too. I managed to scrape a grade 2 with 65%; which would normally have got me a grade 3, but results were on the low side [thankfully] so I got an upgrade. I’m fairly happy with this, my only real concern is that I scored badly for the coding.

I usually get at least a good [I won’t explain the marking—you either know or you don’t need to] for the coding sections of the ECA. This time I managed two clear passes and two bare passes—there is a very real possibility that my pages didn’t work.

Of course there could be other reasons for the low marks: bad documentation or poor coding spring to mind. But I’m going to assume that there was a least some failure of function.

Which is bad news because I thought that I’d tested them.

Testing again then?

Yes, that’s why I’m bashing on about it here—I’m sure that you don’t care about my marks.

Now it isn’t [terribly] important that I submitted flawed pages for an ECA, but, as discussed below, this isn’t going to be good enough if I’m working for others, or even if I’m giving away free stuff à la Sparkl.

I read an interesting article about testing on Sitepoint today. I didn’t really understand it, but I was interested in the fact that the author was suggesting that the test suite should precede, and drive, the development process. Or at least I think that’s what he was saying.

Now, I’m not sure that I agree with the author 100%—how could I when I don’t understand him completely? But I do see his point—testing should be a built-in part of the development process.

Which brings me to Sparkl…

Does it play nicely?

The other day I saw an example of JavaScript libraries interfering with each other. The developer [sorry Helen!] had changed the way that she was doing an effect but had forgotten to remove the old one. Result: errors, and sinister errors indeed; it was only Internet Explorer’s draconian way of dealing with these that highlighted the problem.

This got me thinking about how Sparkl would cope in similar circumstances.

The first thing I realised was that although I’m not too worried about any actual JavaScript namespace collisions, the CSS could cause problems [I even expect them in places]. The class names could also do with some consideration; there can be namespace-like collisions there too. For instance using a class of show is just asking for trouble.

I’ve only just started thinking about this, so I have no answers yet. But I have sharpened a lot of pencils, pulled another notebook from the pile that lives in the ‘black hole’ cupboard and scrawled “sparkl test suite ideas” on the front. Therefore a good start has been made and my wife has, again, been given the opportunity to complain about my untidiness. I’ll get back to you after I’ve tidied up.


The last CMA

I spent yesterday, well a couple of hours of it anyway, working on this. Which means that it will soon be time to start the ECA.

I know that others started their ECA ages ago, some will probably even have finished by now [Steve B?], but it’s been my practice to start the ECA after I’ve submitted the last CMA. And despite a mid-course wobble I’ve decided to follow my usual practice.

So why do I leave myself so little time? We’ll it isn’t a little time—it’s four weeks and I work best under some time pressure. Not the need-to-do-it-in-one-day variety, but the two week variety keeps me on-task.

There is another reason that I leave it late: there’s a danger of over-thinking your report. By which I mean that you, or a least I, keep tinkering with the thing, making it worse instead of better. This has happened to me in the past: 10+ submissions == something wrong. For the past couple of courses I’ve tried to finish the report a week or so before the cut-off date, let it rest for a few days and then do one, final, edit. Whether it works or not I don’t know, but it feels like the right way to go.

At this point I was going to write about what makes a good report, but that’s just silly—what would I know? So I’ll just give you my thoughts about what I’m going to do for this one.

This ECA

While ploughing my way through the CMA I noticed that nearly half of it relates to TCA calculations. So I’ve decided that since I’m going to doing these anyway I might as well try to do that section of the report first.

I’ve read through the TCA stuff a couple of times now and although it looks scary my suspicion is that it only looks that way. We’ll see. Anyway that’s where I’m going to start.

Report structure

I’ve never known just how academic these reports should be; do I include references? Footnotes? A Table of Contents? Allegedly we are presenting these reports to a company of jumped-up tinkers, would they expect these? So I’ve always reported as I would in real life, just my words on their own; my opinions without supporting evidence. This time it might be different.

For a start there’s a whopping 10% for structure, clarity and appropriate use of references. That’s a lot.

Then there’s the fact that this report is technical; the campers might, reasonably, expect references etc. even if they never actually read them.

I’ll probably have to include them, which means extra work.

Do I want to do this for a living?

By this I mean web development, or some other computer-related job.

If you’d asked me this question as recently as a week ago I’d have said a quick ‘not on your nelly’—I don’t want to do something that I find fun for a living. I did these courses to learn how to do something that I enjoyed properly, not with the idea of making a career of it. But there’s a little corner of my mind that’s asking—why not?

So what’s changed?

I’m not sure that anything has actually changed, it’s more that a lot of little things have come together that are making me think. I suppose that the main one is that I now know that I probably could do the job. Completing [nearly] these courses have left me feeling that I’m no longer a dilettante—I [almost] know what I’m doing.

In the end I probably won’t do this for real, but I’ve book marked some job pages, so who knows? If the perfect job came up? They’d read this site and turn me down. Bugger.


Back to work…

Since my last entry I’ve had a complete holiday from this course [not even reading the forums], partly by design, but only partly.

The intentional part of the holiday was that this particular time of year—the last week of the school term and the first week of the summer holidays—is not a good one for me. For me to be doing anything other than coping with carting a year’s worth of rubbish to the skip anyway.

Teachers [bless them] all work to a schedule, one that takes no account of me or the capacity of the skip. For fifty one weeks of the year they produce about one bag of rubbish each. The last week of term? Then the fifty one [plus one for this week] bags of rubbish that should have been tossed weekly but which contained—“ stuff that might be useful” and which, lo!, subsequently turned out to be rubbish, are piled outside their rooms. We’ll leave it there.

The unintentional component was that I just lost interest in the course. This happens to me sometimes and when it does: course wise; work wise; life wise; I tend to let myself drift. My theory is that if I don’t force it then eventually something will re-pique my curiosity and I’ll come back refreshed. Mostly this works for me but it has to be said that there are problems with my methodology:

  1. Some things can’t be put off.
  2. My interest may never come back.
  3. It was exactly this type of thinking that got me kicked out of university.

However the deadline for the last CMA was midnight tonight so I had to get working.

The last CMA

I’d answered about five of the twenty last Sunday [2008-06-30] but I, conveniently, forgot this when I ‘claimed’ that I hadn’t looked at it in the cafe at about 2pm today. Mostly it was un-done. [This blog has the interesting side-effect of catching me out in my unintentional/self-serving lies.] So it was with, a certain, shall we say, oh no, that I tackled it. I managed to submit something, but let us wait on events before analysing them.

But now that I’ve done eighteen, and will never have to do a tt CMA again [even if I fail this course] perhaps it’s time for my overview of the CMAs? Em, no.

What is this site for?

This may seem like a segue to you, but it works in my head. I started this site without any idea, at all, about what I wanted it to say—but funnily enough, as I approach the end of the tts I begin to see why I’ve done it. It’s a record. A record of how one person felt while they were doing it.

Is this useful? I’d say that it doesn’t matter if it is or it isn’t. What I have done is to put my thoughts, as honestly as I can [about these courses], into the cloud, for you to judge. I’ve enjoyed it, I hope you have too.

And I think that the absinthe is interacting with the wine so, here’s something that I wrote earlier…


I’ve noticed that my punctuation [and sentence construction and, well everything] is all over the shop. Now, you can use non-standard punctuation if you are consistent, but my mish-mash? No. I’m going to have to go away and write myself the equivalent of a blue/red book.


Transaction cost

I’ve been struggling to get this part of the ECA done since Sunday. I finally achieved the magical 800 words this afternoon but it has not been fun. Not that any part of doing an ECA could ever, actually, honestly, be described as fun. But I’ve been pulling out my hair over this one, and as I got a number 2 last week that takes some doing.

It wasn’t the calculations themselves that were the problem. Nor was choosing a configuration difficult [I think that I’ve picked the same one as I used when confronted with a similar problem in tt380]. It’s the words that have to go with the calculations/configuration that came hard. Harder than usual.

I always have problems in reaching the required number of words [others have exactly the opposite problem]. I’d like to think that this was because of my pithy, concise, writing style but it has more to do with a lack of technique and a less-than-full understanding of the subject matter.

For this one I’ve been getting up to around 700 words and then realising that I’ve wandered off-topic and been back to 500 several times. Which, now that I think of it, is a recurring pattern for me on these courses. I have a feeling that with better planning I could avoid this problem.

Anyway, it’s done[ish], time to move on to…

The main report

Consists, at the moment, of four section headings and a half-done network diagram. I’m going to try to write a, fairly, complete plan of all the subjects that I have/want to cover to try to avoid the problem I outlined above. If I have the broad brushstrokes of the thing marked out I’ll be less likely to wander off-topic. Surely?

But that’s for tomorrow—I’m think I’m finished for today. It’s getting pretty close to the wire and I really should do some more work but that ice-cold beer that’s sitting in the fridge is whispering to me. And I am on holiday!


Not the best of days

I’ve been toiling away at the main report section of the ECA all day today. Result?

  • A, frankly, deplorable looking network diagram in which I have very little confidence.
  • Just over three hundred disjointed words. And these words are not the subject headings that I’d planned yesterday, but scatterdash pieces of rubbish that aren’t even a prototype ready to be thrown away.

I decided that the network diagram had to be done first. There were just too many decisions made there that would have major ramifications on what I’m going to write elsewhere. As I say something has been produced and it will have to stay that way; time is far too short now.

I’ve left this one too late…

Well that’s what I’m beginning to think anyway.

But maybe not. There’s always a period at the start of the report where it feels like it’s never going to get done, so far I always had something to submit ready in the end. And reading back my previous blogs I seem to have thought exactly the same things at the same stage of those courses. However it has to be said that I’ve left it very late this time and I’m not as comfortable with the subject matter as on previous courses.

So it’s off to bed with the study guides and without a single beer. That’ll teach me.

Blog rot

I’m going to try as post as often as possible over the next week; my descent into madness may serve as a warning to others.

Anyway, off to read about networks.


The wasteland

Well a wasted weekend anyway. I got virtually nothing done, despite giving myself blisters on my behind from squirming ineffectually in front of the computer yesterday. My mind just wouldn’t focus—I even found myself playing solitaire at one point, something that I never do.

So what’s wrong with me? Well I’m not entirely sure, I suppose a combination of factors: tiredness, burn-out, the last course… But I think that, at bottom, I just don’t care as much about getting a good mark for this course as I’ve done for the others. That’s nothing to do with the course, it’s been one of the best: well run, interesting and fun. But, in essence, I’m doing it to finish the certificate rather than because I’m inherently interested in web servers and networks. I know that several others feel that way.

It may be that this will change after the course and I’ll become a network-nerd. This has happened to me after other courses; I’ve finished the course and then suddenly got fascinated. Well maybe interested would be more accurate.

That’s part of the joy and anguish of the tts: they form a basis for continued study and they get you interested in subject that you may have avoided instinctively.

Be warned, there’s an addictive process going on here.

Three days to go

Yes, and about half the report done, this one is going down to the wire. I can picture myself quaking and gibbering on Thursday night as a result a caffiene overdose.

Anyway I’d best get back to some task avoidance in the cafe with the rest of the stalwarts.


Final sprint

I’m writing this with FirstClass open in the background, so every minute or so I hear the ’bing’ of a new message arriving in the ECA forum. Yes, it’s that time again. And it’s that time again for the last time—I’m too busy to work out how I feel about that yet.

Although busy doesn’t seem to be the right word to describe it—I’m not exactly working flat out. Yes I’ve been sitting in front of the computer nearly all day, but the report has rarely been the front window. True I’ve been Googling and reading and thinking for some of the time but there’s been a lot of displacement activity going on.

Now I’m no stranger to task avoidance but usually when I get started I find that I get into a groove, the zone if you like, where I can keep at it for a while. But in this case half an hour seems to be about my lot. I, think, I know what to say but I’m having difficulty saying it. Almost an exact reversal of my usual situation where my ignorance doesn’t prevent me chipping in with my thoughts.

So how is it going?

Slowly might be the best word for it. I’ve been working away sporadically for the last couple of days; there has been a steady increase in the word count if not in quality. I’ve got about two thousand or so words of the main report, eight hundred for the TCA stuff and one and a half network diagrams. But these words are not the concise polished nuggets of knowledge of my dreams. I fear that tomorrow is going to be a busy, caffiene heavy, day.

But for now it’s more off-task pottering I’m afraid.


Well it’s in

I’m managed an initial commit [that’s what it is isn’t it?] around 2pm yesterday afternoon. I had intended that that would be that but after a bit of fretting on the sofa and some re-re-reading of the study guides I decided on a total re-write of the configuration section. So a lot of caffiene and two-fingered typing later I committed the final version around 7:30pm. I don’t intend to even touch it today.

In fact I don’t intend to do anything at all, computer-wise, today. I’ve been doing the tts since October 2006, I deserve some time off don’t I? Well if I’m being honest probably not, I probably should have worked a lot harder. But that’s the problem with life isn’t it? When you complete something there’s a sense of dis-satisfaction and a load of ’what ifs?’. And, although it doesn’t really feel like it at the moment, finishing the tts is a big thing.

I’ll try to get a course report together over the next few days, but for now I’m off to do some housework. Then I’m going to have a wee drinkee….


It’s the end

Onwards and upwards—true geekdom awaits!

Thanks to the kindness of my coursemates I was last to post in the cafe as well. I’m not sure that I was due the tribute, but it was a special feeling. The tts were a huge thing in my life and it was lovely to feel that I had been part of others’ journeys in the same way that they were part of mine.

And as usual, pouring my thoughts out into the ether has made my decision for me; tomorrow I must jump through the hoops to ensure that I’m enrolled for the next course.

svn commit mysite -m "last tt blog post"