Category Archives: Online courses

2014 in review: my IT-related achievements this year

As we’re rapidly approaching the end of the year, I thought it would be good to take the opportunity to review some of my IT-related achievements during 2014.  Overall it’s been a great year and I feel like I’ve learnt a lot, both inside and outside of work.  There were a lot of “firsts” for me this year, too.

1) At the end of February, I attended a tech conference for the first time – NorDevCon (the annual Norfolk Developers Conference).  I enjoyed it and I’ve already booked my ticket for next year’s conference!
2) Also in late February, I began taking my first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course – via FutureLearn, in this case). The course involved learning to develop an Android mobile game using Java.  I found this interesting as I’d always wanted to learn to develop a mobile app. I’ve since completed several other MOOCs throughout the course of the year, many of them through FutureLearn, such as Creative Coding, Getting a Grip on Mathematical Symbolism and Web Science.
3) In March I had my first article published in the Norfolk Tech Journal: A review of the NorDevCon pre-conference special. I’ve contributed several more articles since then – please see the Articles section of this site.
4) Also in March, I created my own GitHub account to share the code from my programming projects.  I have added the code for all my open source personal projects dating back to 2004.
5) In April I published my first app on the Google Play Store and Amazon App Store – this was the game I developed as part of the FutureLearn course mentioned above.  Springy Dot, which is a simple ball and paddle game, can be installed via Google Play Store or Amazon App Store and the source code is available at
6) In June I relaunched my personal portfolio website with a fresh new design and more up-to-date content.  It is also the first time I’ve used a responsive layout for my personal site.
7) At the same time, I also thought it would be a great opportunity to start a tech blog on my portfolio website (you’re reading it now!)
8) Also in June, I successfully rooted my Samsung Galaxy S4, so I have superuser privileges on Android.  I also learnt about custom launchers.
9) Again in June, I successfully relaunched the Norwich IVC social club website using the Agoria content management system.
10) In August I began studying the Linux Foundation course on edX.  Although I’ve been using Linux for several years (I first started off with Ubuntu about 5 years ago, although I’ve since switched to Linux Mint), I wanted to learn more terminal commands and fill in gaps in my knowledge. I completed the course in November and received my certificate shortly afterwards.
11) In September, I began regularly attending the Norfolk Tech Lunches organised by NorDev and SyncNorwich, and I’m now more confident when meeting new people within the industry.
12) Later in September I contributed to the IT department’s Think Tank sessions at work, focussing mainly on personal development and training opportunities.  I ensured I was well prepared for the sessions and spoke up on the issues I felt strongly about.
13) In October I was selected to deliver a talk at the IT department’s quarterly briefing session in front of all my colleagues (40 – 50 people), to present the Think Tank findings (focussing on personal development & training as this is a subject I’m passionate about).  I received positive feedback from my colleagues about my presentation.  Following my talk, the senior management team has set up a corporate subscription to the Pluralsight training website for the Web Development team.  I’ve already begun using Pluralsight to take a course on Apache Solr.
14) In November I successfully installed and configured Arch Linux on Virtual Box.  This was mostly as a learning exercise, as I still prefer to use Linux Mint as my main operating system on my home PC.
15) In late November I contributed my first pull request on GitHub, and I successfully took part in the 24PullRequests contest in December (see my previous blog post for a review of this).
16) Throughout the year I continued to attend NorDev, SyncNorwich and SyncDevelopHER regularly.  I also attended my first Hot Source event in October, about NFC, BLE and contactless marketing.
17) During the course of the year I beta-tested various Android apps, most notably Findery and Voice Polls. It was useful to learn more about the app development process, and also meant I had an opportunity to try out the apps before they were released to the general public!
18) I’ve been supporting various open source organisations including the Linux Foundation, Free Software Foundation, Linux Mint, Mozilla Foundation and Wikipedia (Wikimedia Foundation).  As I appreciate the work of all these organisations I thought it would be good to give back.

So, it’s been an action-packed year for me! I hope 2015 will be just as good.  I’ve written a list of my goals for the coming year:

1) Become an expert in Apache Solr (as used at work).  I’ve already taken steps towards this by studying the Apache Solr course on Pluralsight.
2) Create some new open source responsive web templates (my current ones are several years old and all non-responsive).  It’s mostly a matter of finding some time to work on them.
3) Complete some courses at (I have a 3-month subscription to this).
4) Learn Python/Ruby scripting
5) Possibly learn about writing kernel modules
6) I’m still hoping to be promoted to a non-junior Java Developer role at work.  Becoming an expert in Apache Solr should help towards this.

So, that just leaves me to wish all my readers a Happy New Year for 2015! 🙂

If I ruled the web… (proposing an online constitution)

For the final exercise of the Web Science online course at, we were asked to write a short essay on the subject of “If I ruled the web…”   Below is my contribution:

In recent years, the web come under increasing attack from governments and corporate influence, so I think introducing an online constitution would be a positive way of guaranteeing internet freedom.

My idea is that the constitution would:

  • -Guarantee online privacy. No more indiscriminate mass surveillance. A person should only be monitored if there is a very good reason and if there is a court order.
  • Enshrine net neutrality in law (meaning that Internet service providers must treat all information and users equally).
  • Promote freedom of information.
  • Guarantee freedom of expression.
  • Prohibit “on by default” filters. It should be up to parents to organise filtering if they don’t want their children to be able to access certain websites, not the government or ISPs.
  • Ensure data protection. Data should not be collected without users’ consent, and they should be able to request its deletion at any time.
  • Encourage the usage of open standards and open source technology. Publicly-funded organisations should use open source instead of proprietary technology and this should also be taught in schools.

Members of the public would be encouraged to contribute ideas for how the constitution should function and what should be included. People would be able to vote for ideas they like and to improve upon other citizens’ ideas, to ensure the process is truly collaborative and democratic.

A constitution very similar to this was introduced in Brazil earlier this year. The inventor of the world wide web, Tim Berners-Lee also supports the idea of an online “Magna Carta”. So there could be scope for other countries to introduce a similar constitution.

As for problems, I think the main issue would be convincing politicians to pass a bill which is designed to limit their power.


My most visited sites for Wednesday 8th October 2014

I’m currently doing the Web Science online course at  I’m in the first week, and one of the tasks asks us to analyse our recent browser history to find out what sites we visit most frequently.  I often delete my browsing history and cache, so I only have the data for today, but it’s still interesting nevertheless.

So here’s my top 11 most visited sites for today:


This demonstrates that at the moment I’m regularly visiting a mixture of MOOC (online course) sites, search engines, social networking sites, bus timetable sites, techie sites and local news sites.  This is on my home computer – the sites I visit on my work computer will be very different (mostly related to web development and the sites I’m currently building).

The History Visualiser website provided via the Future Learn course also enabled you to generate pie charts showing your most frequently visited sites. Below is mine – it’s interesting that I visit more .com sites than .uk ones:

My most visited sites - 8th October 2014

My most visited sites – 8th October 2014