The diary and photos of Chris Beach. I'm into windsurfing, coding, badminton, drawing and composing music using computers and synths.

Let's start with a quote:
"I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours" Stephen Roberts


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cointouch - find friends of friends that trade bitcoins


After much frustration with exchanges I built CoinTouch to find friends of friends that want to trade bitcoins.

CoinTouch shows offers to buy and sell from your extended social network. Prices are pegged to market rates (MtGox or CoinDesk), at your chosen spread, and thus automatically update every minute. There are no fees and no delays.

USD, GBP and EUR supported. Currently supports Facebook login. Google and LinkedIn coming soon. More altcoins also coming soon.

Any feedback, please drop me a tweet @cointouch

written by Chris Beach
04/02/14 1:41pm
(8 months, 3 weeks ago)
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streetlend - share things locally

In February I founded a website which, happily, I am now working on full-time:



StreetLend.com makes it easy for neighbours to lend things to each other. DIY equipment, DVDs, baby gear, anything you can lend, you can list on StreetLend. Local sharing is great for the environment, for building community spirit and earning cash from things you don't regularly use.

I'd appreciate if you could give my new site a whirl, and list an item you'd be willing to lend. The more people that use StreetLend, the better it will be:

www.streetlend.com

written by Chris Beach
09/05/13 11:02am
(1 year, 5 months ago)
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finding out how long munin plugins are taking to run

Munin data updates occasionally timeout due to long-running plugins. The munin-update log isn't very helpful. Here's a little bash script to find the offenders:


su - munin --shell=/bin/bash
for file in /etc/munin/plugins/*; do
time_start=`date +%s`;
$file > /dev/null 2>&1;
time_end=`date +%s`;
time_elapsed=$((time_end - time_start));
echo "$file: $time_elapsed secs";
done

written by Chris Beach
25/02/11 2:30pm
(3 years, 8 months ago)
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stephen fry on the ipad

How much easier it is to distrust, to doubt, to fold the arms and say: "Not impressed."

I'm not advocating dumb gullibility, but it is has always amused me that those who instinctively dislike Apple for being apparently cool, trendy, design-fixated and so on, are the ones who are actually so damned cool and so damned sensitive to stylistic nuance that they can't bear to celebrate or recognise obvious class, beauty and desire.

The fact is that Apple users like me are the uncoolest people on earth: we salivate, dribble, coo, sigh, grin and bubble with delight.

Stephen Fry: why the Apple iPad is here to stay [Guardian]

written by Chris Beach
29/01/10 10:05am
(4 years, 8 months ago)
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the iphone as a universal remote control (using the thinkflood redeye wifi-ir bridge)

What follows is a quick video demo of the new RedEye device, which bridges wifi to infrared. Controls any number of household appliances using iPhones and iPod Touches.

The system has just come out of beta and the iPhone app is buggy, but free-of-charge. The RedEye device itself is $188 plus taxes and VAT ($220/135). Ordered on Thursday; arrived today (Monday) in the UK. Setup is fiddly and takes a while, but once done, all iPhones in the house sync automatically with the configured button layout. Swipe gestures and accelerometer are configurable options. Response times on button presses are good, and the app loads reasonably quickly (~2s on an iPhone 3GS). Several updates have already hit the app store and more in the pipeline. More info here: thinkflood.com/products/redeye

written by Chris Beach
11/01/10 11:45pm
(4 years, 9 months ago)
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using your existing domain name with gmail and decluttering the web ui

Email server maintenance sucks. Last week, a botched upgrade of my VPS killed spam-filtering and rendered Plesk (control panel) useless. Days of chasing tickets with Interhost drove me to distraction. High time to consider alternative mail hosting.

Within its Apps framework, Google offers an email service which can be linked to your existing domain name and email address. The process is as follows:

  1. Create a Google apps account
  2. Verify your domain (by placing a Google-provided file in the root)
  3. Create email accounts using "Users and groups" tab
  4. Edit your DNS settings (instructions for various hosts here) to use the Google MX records. If you have direct access to DNS settings, these are the MX records:
PriorityMail Server
1ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM.
5ALT1.ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM.
5ALT2.ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM.
10ASPMX2.GOOGLEMAIL.COM.
10ASPMX3.GOOGLEMAIL.COM.

Once that's done, after 24 hours or so, the DNS update will have propogated through the web and email will start flowing into your Google Apps Gmail inbox. Enable IMAP within Gmail settings in order to access mail from desktop clients. Then set up Google Sync to get email/calendars/contacts pushed to your iPhone.

Gmail's web interface is horribly cluttered so I have created custom CSS to remove the ads, dim some extraneous details and shrink the UI to the bare minimum. This can be downloaded and activated here:

http://userstyles.org/styles/23249

written by Chris Beach
15/12/09 3:00pm
(4 years, 10 months ago)
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the web app "scene" is dying

Last week I reluctantly passed on FOWA (Future of Web Apps conference). A smaller venue than previous years; a less compelling lineup. An event hit by the crunch but priced at a wallet-busting 385. No startup discounts, either.

Afterwards, tweets and blogs gushed praise onto the organiser, Ryan Carson and he replied personally to every one. Sounded like FOWA '09 was a hit, and I was sad to have missed it. However, Adam Charnock's blog post relieved the stinging sensation.

Adam discusses the new "sobriety" in the tech scene at FOWA, and his point about the maturing of the web app industry is spot on. It was only a few years ago that we lacked a Facebook, Wikipedia, Flickr, Twitter, Digg, IMDb, LinkedIn, TripAdvisor, Last.fm and Meetup.com. This was a time when the big problems hadn't yet been solved. The novelty and passion in the grassroots tech community was strong back then. I'm fond of those memories, and disappointed to see a progression to something more glitzy and artificial. Fluffy attention seekers and pretty posers swan around "covering" events in the scene (Not referring to anyone in particular.. ahem!). Social web "gurus." Usability "experts." Sycophants that follow them. The Twitterati. All these things that bewitch, seduce and leech the last of the "juice" from the web tech scene. It now seems more important to acquire 2000 followers on Twitter than to actually create a web application.

The freshness and excitement of the web app world has faded.

It hasn't expired completely, though. It's moving elsewhere. Devices like the iPhone have game-changed the market for developers. It's enticing to build an app that runs in millions of hands and is able to exploit a touchscreen, camera, compass, GPS/GSM/3G/bluetooth radio, accelerometers, 3D hardware acceleration, microphone and speakers. Very cool indeed.

A technologist is foolish, maybe, to write off web apps and covet the new and shiny. There are still interesting challenges on the web. Migrating monolithic apps to the cloud, for example, or monetisation.

For me, though, mobile development is where it's at. Real-world problems can be solved here. There's a learning curve, immature APIs, eclectic new hardware, UX challenges and frameworks to build. Many, many possibilities.

Oh, and venture capital and profit.. if you like that kinda thing.

So.. the future. I await a "Future of Mobile Apps" conference that is organised impeccably, like the FOWAs of old, and creates the same teched-out bliss. Somewhere where we can sit with our Macbook Pros and iPhones and talk about the cutting edge once again. Creating something new. Sounds like fun, eh? smilie face

written by Chris Beach
04/10/09 1:37am
(5 years ago)
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making outlook's task view more useful

Outlook's Task view is handy for keeping track of day-to-day work tasks. I keep it open in a separate window and use various formatting and filters to show the data I want. In particular there's a "DASL" filter to show a combination of all open tasks, and those completed within the last two weeks:

To set the DASL filter:

  1. Click View->Arrange By->Current View->Customize Current View
  2. Click Filter
  3. Click the SQL tab
  4. Click "Edit these criteria directly"
  5. Enter the following:
("http://schemas.microsoft.com/mapi/id/{00062003-0000-0000-C000-000000000046}/811c000b" = 0 OR 
"http://schemas.microsoft.com/mapi/id/{00062003-0000-0000-C000-000000000046}/810f0040" >= today(-1209600))

written by Chris Beach
16/11/07 4:26pm
(6 years, 11 months ago)
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setting up an ethernet modem with a wireless router

I was suckered in by the new Belkin N1 Vision (with its lovely built-in screen), only to find out it's only a wireless router and doesn't include an ADSL modem. What an arse!

The real pain came trying to set the thing up. I tried getting my old Netgear ADSL router to work in modem-only mode. This was fruitless, so I ordered a dedicated ethernet modem (A Linksys AM200). When this came along I spent a LOT of time fiddling with various settings (DHCP, DMZ etc). This is the combination that works for me, on Virgin broadband:

Modem (Linksys AM200)

  • Mode: Bridge Only (note: this turns the modem into a simple non-routing device and the web interface will no longer function
  • VCI: 38
  • VPI: 0
  • IP: 192.168.2.1
  • DHCP: disabled

Router (Belkin N1 Vision)

  • Connection Type: PPPoE
  • Username: my.name@adsl.virgin.net
  • Password: As selected when registering with Virgin
  • Service Name: [blank]
  • MTU: 1452 (default)

..and finally it works!

written by Chris Beach
16/11/07 12:34am
(6 years, 11 months ago)
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caption.me - a zero-maintenance website

The idea behind my new site Caption Competition is simple - pull an interesting photo from Flickr every day and let people add captions which can be voted on. Photos can be browsed with their best captions, and there is a "top captioneers" list, showing the users who've added the best captions.

I already have some scripts for handling photo uploads but I have deliberately avoided using them. Using Flickr gives two important advantages:

  • I don't have to concern myself with accepting uploaded photos, which would require some form of manual moderation. Instead I've set up a group on Flickr which is moderated by Flickr users (and Flickr's own system which blocks porn, politically incorrect images etc). An automated job on my webserver loads the most interesting new photo from the group every day. To do this, it sorts the photos using Flickr's "interestingness" algorithm, which works surprisingly well.
  • The Flickr API allows me to serve the images on caption.me from Flickr's own webservers. All I'm serving is the HTML and CSS, which are negligible in size. If my server was serving images, the bandwidth usage would be orders of magnitude greater, and very costly as the site grows.

I have also written a script that posts a comment back on the photo within Flickr to say the photo has been featured on caption.me, with a link to the relevant caption.me page (a shameless advert for the site!). The script waits until several good captions have been added to the photo before posting. To work this out, it takes an aggregate of the vote score, and posts a comment when this score exceeds a set threshold. Without this check, a Flickr comment could be posted and bring visitors to caption.me to see a page of bad captions.

As of today, there are 128 photos, 548 captions and 50 signed-up "captioneers" (users). The site is growing, and is now the number one result in Google for a search on "caption competition." It's satisfying to reach a conclusion on a website project, such that the site can now run itself.... though I will undoubtedly be tinkering with it for some time smilie face

written by Chris Beach
16/09/07 1:56pm
(7 years, 1 month ago)
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