The fourth year in a row where I've put together a mini annual retrospective. It's primarily based around software dev and technology but includes a few other anecdotes along the way.
- A year of 302s and 301s
- Hardware Changes
- Software Changes
- Books and Articles
- The 2023 Projects
- 2024 Plans?
A year of 302s and 301s
2023 was a year of house moves. It seems the older you get the more involved moving becomes. I remember moving as a student and it was just a morning of effort, loading up a car with a few possessions, a tiny bit of admin and then enjoying the new location. I ended up moving twice last year, which was always the plan, but that doesn’t change the fact it was high effort and rather disruptive.
Keen blog viewers may have noticed that the approximate monthly blog posts stopped after September. This coincides with my last move which turned out to be rather more involved than expected. Even my year-in-review post is four weeks later than usual.
Anyway, there are no plans to move this year (thank goodness!). That should mean our regularly scheduled programme can continue.
At the start of 2023 I switch to a standing desk, swapping out my previous desk of 5 years, an Ikea ARKELSTORP (which is a great Ikea desk choice due to the solid wood top). For the standing desk I modified an oak desk I’d made from a kitchen worktop off-cut in 2020. I basically took off the static legs and attached it to a Flexispot E5 sit/stand desk motor.
Initial impressions have been good. I’ve been aiming to stand for more of my meetings and this has been noticeably nicer. Or rather, the variety between spending the working day sitting and standing is the improvement. I also find the standing desk height good for drifting in and out of the office if I’m aiming not to get drawn into deep work.
I say ‘initial’ impressions as although I made the change at the start of 2023 I didn’t use it for 6 months of the year due to the house moves, so it still feels relatively new.
Powerline and Decos
The final house move has been a success although briefly introduced an unexpected problem regarding WiFi coverage.
The house layout is an L-shape. The fibre for the internet comes in at the front right. The room I’m using as a part-time office is at the back with a decent wall separating it from the main house.
The WiFi did “work” but was patchy (unpredictable latency), particularly noticeable on work video calls. My solution has been:
- Powerline adaptors to get the internet feed from the far end of the house into a middle cupboard. I’d like to call it a media cupboard but that would be very generous. It’s a utility cupboard really.
- A switch (with PoE), plus my old Synology NAS setup in the cupboard
- A pair of TP Link Decos with PoE support, one of which is placed much closer to the WiFi problem area.
This new setup deprecates the trusty ASUS AC68U I had been using for 6+ years. You can actually make a WiFi mesh with the ASUS units, but I particularly wanted to be able to power the access points via PoE for flexible ceiling mount options.
Blogtrottr to Feedly
After years of using Blogtrottr I have finally moved on. Two reasons.
- The number of RSS feeds I am following is getting a little unwieldy for immediate emails.
- The blogtrottr ads seem to be getting excessive. Particularly apparent on blog notifications with only a small summary. The email layout ends up being 35% ad, 30% content, another 35% ad.
What I will say in defense of Blogtrottr is that the sign up is very easy. You don’t need to register for an account. It also supports subscription export via OPML and has a clear way to delete an account, so whilst it feels mega ad heavy the website acts like a good internet citizen.
The experience on Feedly is slick. I really like the minimal interface/unfussy design. Feedly has ads but they are way less obtrusive than Blogtrottr. The biggest drawback is also a sort of selling point, the lack of notifications. I find I am after some notifications, just less than I was receiving before with Blogtrottr.
Google Earth Pro - Desktop App
Did you know on the Google Earth desktop app, called Google Earth Pro, you get access to a wider set of historical satellite images? I was trying to find out some history on an area as part of a house move and this saved the day.
Switch from Netlify to Cloudflare for falkus.co
I wanted to get some basic visitor stats, which is a chargeable feature on Netfliy.
For the Cloudflare migration I had to move the repo from BitBucket to GitHub,
which is pretty much just a
git push to a new remote. I originally moved
away from GitHub due to the private repo limit, but that has long been a thing
of the past, so possibly I’ll go all in on a mass repo migration in 2024.
Prior to the Cloudflare move the only stats I looked at were via the Google Search Console emails. This pretty much told me every month that the post I just published was the top growing page and beyond that Using Lighten and Darken in SASS is the most popular article in the long tail performance.
Merlin - Bird Identification
Recommended by some friends, Merlin Bird Id is Shazam but for bird calls. As long as there isn’t a large amount of background noise I’ve found it works really well.
Visual Studio Code
Almost not worth a mention, as most devs will have heard of or used VS Code, but I did plan in my last annual retrospective to investigate spending more dev time in an IDE vs vim and I have actually managed to do that for various projects throughout the year.
Books and Articles
Here’s one non-fiction book I really enjoyed: Founders at Work. Although not a new book, originally published in 2001, it covers a lot of companies and projects that are still around today. Written by Jessica Livingston of Y Combinator (when YC was just starting out).
As for fictional books, I continued working through the vintage set of Dicken’s books although only read one new-to-me book, Oliver Twist.
I enjoyed Moby Dick. I followed it up by watching the Patrick Stewart film interpretation. This doesn’t follow the story exactly, but if you enjoyed the book you’ll enjoy the film.
A wild card read this year was The Best of Wodehouse. I didn’t read it cover to cover, but picked a selection of the short Jeeves stories.
A few blog posts I particularly enjoyed this year:
Low Latency Switching (2013) from Signal. The root idea is to make the client do the load balancing (client connects out to multiple places from the results of (geo)dns, lowest latency connection wins, sort of like a load balancer would do but in reverse).
The evolution of Unix facilities and architecture - ‘Worse is better’
All the Bits About Money articles. They are like a deep dive version of Money Stuff newsletters.
The 2023 Projects
There was some good progress on VoIP Toolbox at the start of the year. I did make a server element to VoIP Toolbox as predicted in my last annual retrospective. I’ve actually built more features than I’ve pushed live, such as the voicemail numbers, but I keep changing my mind about the direction the site should take.
Advent of Code
I did try out Advent of Code in 2023 for the first time ever. I didn’t get super far, stopping at day 9. By that point I was no longer working on the problem the same day it was released. It was hard to stay motivated once I’d slipped behind. I may try again this year, but it will depend on what else is going on, the harder problems are interesting but do take a decent amount of time.
I’ve been trying out some miscellaneous Azure services and also fiddling with their terraform tool. This brings existing Azure resources to your terraform files (more than just importing state, but building the terraform files for you). If I get together enough interesting tips and gotchas I’ll write a separate post on it.
Progressing beyond just changing watch batteries and straps, in 2023 I swapped out a broken watch mechanism which was an interesting experience. This was on a quartz watch, so very straight forward compared to a mechanical movement repair. Still, it took a few tries to take the hands off the mechanism and get them back on again successfully!
I enjoyed drumming a little more in 2022 and managed to keep this going in 2023, joining a funk/soul 11-piece band. It’s a lot of fun and the frequency of rehearsal is just enough for me to keep my hand in.
Car Seats and Spraying Panels
After a little browse for a car newer than my existing 2008 model I bailed and decided instead of some ‘upgrades’:
- Take out the heated leather seats and put in fabric seats. A downgrade to some people but leather seats in the summer are no fun. This was pretty easy to do, they pretty much bolt in/out.
- Take off the b-pillar panel and respray it. This was a little scary as you have to drill out rivets, and taking a drill to your car just feels wrong, but I was pleased with the result.
I read a bunch of newsletters/blogs and expect this would be a more pleasant experience on an e-ink device. Especially late at night.
I’m interested to see what android options there are for this device type. My experience of e-ink is basically early edition Kindles. I don’t expect to make much use of the app store, but would like to be able to consume from say Instapaper and Feedly without having to pipe in to some specific manufacturer’s tool chain.
VoIP Toolbox continues to be useful in my day job. I had a plan in 2023 to try out some more advanced/commercial features. On reflection I think the site might work better solely as free SIP tools.
That means the 2024 plans for the site are likely to involve moving the server element to something free, like the baseline tier of Cloudflare workers, then open sourcing the site to see if I can get some further input from other developers and SIP experts.
I’ve been threatening to buy some V-Drums for literally years. For those that don’t know, V-Drums are a range of electronic drums that Roland build. Now that I am finished with house moves for the foreseeable I may actually make it happen. I’m using the idea of purchasing some as motivation to get my office space in order (as they’re going to need somewhere to go and I expect the office is the answer).
I enjoy writing these blog posts. Writing is primarily a benefit for the author to get their own thoughts and understandings clear. With that in mind, I’m hoping 2024 sees a return to regular blog posts.