Personal Website Review… Not Good News

I thought I take the time to talk about something that I have been considering for a few years. Shutting down my website and e-mail under my my domain name. This came about because of a general sense of feeling that for the past couple of years the cost of running the website has increased massively and more recently unexpected costs from the web host provider has made me decide to review the website as a whole.

In general, I enjoy having a website, but more and more recently I haven’t actually used the website to keep in touch with the world as well as tell. Originally setup to help prospective employers get a sense of who I am to the aviation and aerospace industry, today, the focus has been to be more general.

Sadly unexpected costs as well as a lack of time and effort to maintain both my website and e-mail has been too much and until now has been heavily under-utilized. The decision to review it really came about after paying off the web host for my website to be stored but being stung with extra costs that I was truly unsure about.

The e-mail in particular has been more of a target for spammers and I get more spam mail than actual e-mail messages and more recently have been actively not using the domain e-mail to send or receive messages.

As I’ve said before, I have mainly used the website to be a shop front to employers to see who I am but frankly the time and costs associated with running a website has become increasingly clear that I wasn’t getting much value. My social network sites like LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube and Facebook Pages are perhaps more valuable than this website alone and there’s not much cost to it except for Flickr.

Until such time, I will continue with this website until I basically do an update to this blog post.

Happy Birthday HMS Belfast

HMS Belfast launched on St Patrick’s Day on the 17th March 1938. Since then she served World War II helping to sink the Scharnhorst, taking part in the Arctic Convoys and even D-Day itself. She later also took part in the Korean War and after a spell in reserve ended up being a museum ship to this day.

As a volunteer, I take great pride and privilege to be a Warship Conservation Volunteer and was fortunate enough to be able to setup my cameras for her special 80th Anniversary 6-inch gun firing which you can see in the video above.

The Exciting World Of Learning To Drive

I’m very excited to be starting my first driving lesson on the road to getting a full driving licence. I’ve been however forced to do it as quickly as possible for a special reason that I hope to announce in the future, but suffice to say, I need a driving licence.

For years, I’ve never needed to have a driving licence. Living in the inner most part of London, the transport and cost options within London are second to none. So much so I haven’t had much of an incentive to get a driving licence. But more recently it became clear that at some point to further my career and job opportunities, I really need a driving licence at the very least.

So for years I have been slowly saving up for a driving licence and now I am at the stage where I will need to just spend that money. In fact as it turns out, I’ve over saved dramatically and looking at my options, I could in theory get a driving licence with all the training materials, test costs and schooling costs and have left over money for the potential for a car.

I mainly would want to have a licence for a job, but I would highly consider the idea of getting a car just for volunteering at either Brooklands Museum or more probably at the Imperial War Museum: Duxford site. The advantage of this approach is that after a driving test pass, I could get a car and use the volunteering to further diversify my time away from work but also gain more driving experience. In other words, its a win-win situation.

I hope that I can get a licence relatively soon as possible, but I know it will take time and hard work to just get that massive achievement, but also it would be fantastic to say to an employer that I have taken the time, money and effort to make it work.

Flickr Pro Subscription

Last year I lamented the problem with Flickr and the impending restrictions for the future. Today I reluctantly resolved it by buying a Flickr Pro subscription.

For me it’s a heavy heart to do such a thing, given there are other sites in which I can either subscribe and upload my photos, but considering I do have a large number of photos on the site there are a few reasons why I have chosen to continue using Flickr even at a cost.

The first reason is that Flickr already contains my current collection of photos including aircraft photo archives and also some important volunteering photos in which I want to keep it active for many who view my volunteering activities.

The second reason is that since I had updated my computer some 18 months ago, I had also upgraded my photo editing software and had a fresh install of the catalog which doesn’t include my previous photo edit settings.

The third reason is that if I chose (for example) 500px, I would still have to pay for what I want and I would have to start from scratch, also the other alternative is Facebook Pages, but given how much trust I place in that site, I wasn’t overly happy about it.

So even though I have complained, I have for the better part of about two months, I have decided ultimately to use Flickr, much to my better judgement. I will however review this again in about 10 – 11 months time before I have to renew the Flickr Pro subscription.

How To Work With The Unknown

It’s interesting when you watch YouTube videos and one that you have added to a YouTube bot in Discord is one who neatly explains not just the nerdy world of technology but also how solving a problem through coding and the thought processes resonate with me personally.

One of my volunteering projects is to create and build an Access Database at the RAF Museum for the Vehicle Team. The aim of this project is to help collect, disseminate and use information about vehicle exhibits to help conserve and restore where possible exhibits in need.

One of the problems with building such a database project is that you have to at some point need to use code in such a way to make it function. For that, the process of getting code and transplant it into a database can be a challenge. But the video from Tom Scott helps to illustrate exactly some of the problems I face with working on a project that is for the better part a complete unknown.

To put into perspective, when my Vehicle Team Leader asks me if it’s possible to add a certain feature or develop a way to use the database more usable or efficient, I look at the problem by breaking down the options available and then deciding what type of feature or solution that best fits this particular problem.

One of the best places to get some ready made solutions is to actually use the internet; a vast database collection of information that goes on for decades and interestingly enough can still be just as relevant today as it was first posted back then.

Then there’s the iterative process into looking at the code specifically and making it more efficient, removing or replacing aspects of the code so that it will run more efficiently. For example, when a user starts the database and logs in successfully, the coding sequence is to verify and then accept the correct password to the username then it actively target’s the next form designated to the username and then close the login page immediately.

The reason for closing the login page immediately is primarily to help the user use all of the available memory in the computer to run further operations.

For me, it’s standard policy to close any pages when not in use and only keep open pages where necessary, this is because while many computers have spare available memory, the practice of using up all of the available memory is bad practice and it reduces the ability for the computer to compute further calculations or operations. This results in the user sitting around waiting for the computer to finish it’s operation, this would be just frustrating.

An online friend who is into coding and pretty much into computer system programming showed me this video which outlined a way to program a game using less memory than a 1.44Mb floppy disk.

In this video the programmer outlined some of the techniques in cheating the system into having more content for little memory usage and ultimately using code to make the system just as stable and just as efficient compare to say the latest Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 game which as I shockingly found out was a 50Gb base game install and then there is a 50Gb update patch.

So when I work on my volunteering project, I do more than just have a functioning database, I make sure that the database is usable, stable and as efficient as possible and with that, the skill and experience in this respect is highly useful to any employer.

How I Learned To Build A Computer

Let’s go back to 1997. I’d pretty much started secondary school, I was awkward and I started to have a passion for computers. More precisely, just how do they work and operate.

The best thing about school is that it’s a learning place for not just the education curriculum, its also a place to develop personally things that would eventually define me in the future. One such activity was computers.

In 1997, the school I was in was using a 486 processor using Microsoft 3.1 and eventually 3.11 operating system and to say the least one of the very first things you had to do at the time was to hand type the operating software command to start the operating system itself.

But there was one room which curiously had a large metal re-enforced door. Behind that was computers from the early 80s and it ran on 8-bit programs. This was heaven on earth, because the software on those computers were often games based and being a school was all rather educational.

Moving over the years, I eventually grew a reputation at school for being a computer nerd, given that I don’t own a computer nor do I use one at home at that time. So much so as a computer geek, I was eventually given a special seat during school Sports Day. You see the school I went to for Sports Day I would go to Crystal Palace Sports Centre.

What I would do was work the electronic scoreboard using a computer that was from the late 1970s to 1980s. And I would control the information about the sports event on that day. My IT teacher would be fascinated in the athletics information before I erased it because my IT teacher is an amateur athletics runner.

The great thing about school for me is watching the development of the schools computer systems, from the constant upgrade of the operating systems moving from Windows 3.1, Windows 3.11 then Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 98SE and finally getting to Windows 2000. But it wasn’t just the operating system upgrades. The computers themselves were interesting in that I would sometimes be given the task to upgrade the computers themselves by increasing the RAM.

In one case, my IT teacher was also supplying as a PE teacher and he knew I didn’t have much interest in sport, so he would send me to the IT room next door to the library and would get instructions from the IT technician there. It was great because I get to do something no pupil at that time was able to do. Fix a computer.

From here I was learning outside of my main education curriculum and spending time after school in the IT room to learn basic MS-DOS coding to learning how a computer physically worked meant that in the end when I was about to leave school, my IT teachers and the IT technicians decided that I deserved to have a computer.

So I was given a computer that was actually found in a dumpster. In fact many of the computers at that time were old trashed computers that offices and in this case banks didn’t want. And so because I had grown up working on those computers, it as natural for me to work on those type of computers.

I did however had a few technical problems. I once managed to short out a computer because of a loose wire and completely wiped out the hard drive and the main BIOS. It was so bad that when you switched the computer on the computer simply gave a command that basically said, I’ve given up being a computer.

But having said that, I did own a fully working computer after that. And throughout college and university I continually upgraded and newly built computers. All that results today with my latest computer which I have great pride as well as testament to my skill and knowledge because I ended up being much like a technician and helped my friend sort out many faults in his computer system.

To think that 20 years ago, I never had a computer, never knew how a PC worked and now today know so much about computers and technology in general it hasn’t left me.

Tinkering To My Heart’s Content

One of the more satisfying things to do on your own website is the endless tinkering to a design and for me that’s no exception. In this case I’m not tinkering to a custom made design, instead I’m actually tinkering a ready made design.

The fact is that I’m using WordPress and the great thing about it is that I can modify many elements of the design using the custom CSS editor which effectively allows me to override the existing CSS built into the page.

So from here on in, you may see subtle changes to the website as I continually modify it until I’m happy… The nice thing about this. I like this approach and want to use this experience to great personal effect, in other words, by making incremental changes to one’s life, hopefully I would be happier and also improve my future career prospects… Not bad for just tinkering for fun!

So What Have I Been Doing?

For quite a while my website has been down and that’s because of various reasons including GDPR, HTTPS and generally not having much time to maintain it.

Needless to say the biggest problem is time itself. I’ve been very busy trying to look at my career future and also dealing with a volunteering project (more will be blogged about in the future).

In the meantime, I’ve been looking at my social network and media sites and is trying to combine all of my sites into one comprehensive username to keep consistency.

Meanwhile, I will leave you with an exciting simulated gunfire from HMS Belfast’s 6-inch guns.